Thursday, May 02, 2002

Oprah's Last Bookclub

So sorry she's ended her bookclubs. I was on her show and it was so much fun.

In early 2000, I was knee-deep in business books, white papers, technology mags, Harvard Business Reviews and other biz media since I work as an editorial consultant to high-tech and internet folks. I wasn't reading any fiction then and missing it a lot. I took a little time off one afternoon to watch Oprah and find out about the next novel they were reading — Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune.

I read the book and loved it so wrote in to tell them how much I enjoyed it. I didn't know anybody there. I didn't even know much about the book club, but just did it on a lark.

A few weeks later, someone from the show called me. I thought it my sister goofing around. I called them back. They asked me a ton of questions about the book — nearly 45 minutes worth. They don't tell you you're being considered as a guest on the program. It's more like chatting with some colleague about a book you both just read. Finally I said to the young guy producer, "Listen, it's been great to talk about the book, but I've gotta go and surely you can find someone else — try going to Starbuck's — to talk to about this book." Then he fessed up that I was being considered for the show. They said they'd call back in a few days. They did. Now I had a new person to talk to about the book. It was getting to be like oral exams for a Ph.d in literature. They were very nice, but I figured it wouldn't amount to anything.

Finally they called me a week or two later on a Friday afternoon to tell me that out of all the letters they got (anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 each book), they'd picked me as one of four people to be on the show. When was the taping? Well, it being Friday afternoon, they wanted me to fly to Chicago from LA on Monday morning!

How many people would say, "Sorry, Oprah, I just can't miss work." Very few. So I flew there Monday, they taped Tuesday and I was back in LA Wednesday.

It was so much fun. Oprah is totally cool and girlfriendy and after spending tons of time in hair and makeup, we finally got to meet her. We were on the big faux library/diningroom set waiting for her and everyone's bustling around and then suddenly, you could feel a real change in the air, a veritable "Elvis has entered the building" discrete group gasp, and there she was.

During the taping, I look over at her and I see her staring at Isabel Allende and all of a sudden I get the feeling that this richest, most famous woman in the world would give her right arm to just be a writer. Funny how life works.

Of course, all of us were terrified we'd say something stupid with spinach on our teeth. (We had to eat dinner while talking.) At the end of the taping, she gave us each a leatherbound copy of the book, which was autographed. Also, she had a gift for us -- a totally cool bag of bubble bath and other great cosmetics. What a fun trip.