Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Oprah's long goodbye

    I'll admit a guilty secret, even knowing that some readers will tuck it away, like villagers collecting cobblestones, to hurl back at me later on: but I secretly hope that these columns have staying power, an interest beyond the next day. I don't imagine that people are going to be studying them, like British schoolboys learning Horace. But I fancy they aren't yogurt-level ephemeral either, which is probably just crazy, given the inky obscurity awaiting all journalists.
      So  I was pleased, when the paper dug up this "Don't let the door hit you in the ass Oprah" column from two years ago, and gave it a bit of ballyhoo on Wednesday, to mark her shutting down Harpo Studios this week. Not that it's the Gettysburg Address or anything, and it'll have to become meaningless someday, because Oprah Winfrey will become another musty chestnut of television history, along with Jack Paar and John Cameron Swayze. 
     Which puts a whole new spin on this obscurity business. If  oblivion can dislocate its jaw wide enough to swallow an Oprah Winfrey, it'll of course gobble up the rest of us minnows as well and, frankly, vanishing utterly ourselves is a small price to pay if it means Oprah goes away too, eventually, thank God.
     Oprah, Oprah, Oprah . . .
     How can we miss you if you never go away? It seems only minutes after your painfully protracted, celebrity-spattered farewell to when your talk show shut down Michigan
     Avenue for days – OK, it was in 2011, but it feels like yesterday – and now we’re being called upon to bid you goodbye yet again, this time as you put your West Side studio complex on the market, and maybe your swank Gold Coast duplex, too.
     Well, ta-ta. It’s been fun. Don’t let the door hit you in your . . .
     No, no – positive thoughts. The high road.
     Well, ta-ta. Don’t be a stranger . . .
     Oh, right, you were a stranger. As much as you liked to float your Chicago street cred when basking in the endless celebrity limelight that trailed you like your own personal sun, it wasn’t as if you were ever really here beyond the confines of your 15,000-square-foot Water Tower Place duplex. Not a lot of Oprahsightings in all those years you did that hall-of-mirrors show of yours. No river of Oprah bucks watering thirsty Chicago charities. More like a trickle.
     Eighty years after Al Capone went to prison, he’s still associated with Chicago, too much. Two years after you left, well, as much as you must think of the city as one vast cargo cult, sitting in the lotus position learned from one of the endless chain of sham gurus you ballyhooed, scanning the skies for your return, well, we’re not....

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  1. You consider *that* a guilty secret? That you "secretly hope" your columns aren't forgotten within 24 hours? This reminds me of that advice they give job seekers: if asked in an interview "what's your greatest weakness" respond with a positive like "I work too hard."

  2. Oprah was about as "Chicago" as ketchup on a hot dog. Or winning baseball. Or mild winters. Or integrated neighborhoods. Good riddance!

  3. She always spoke highly of you Neil. The column was nicely done as always, but the saying about "breaking a butterfly on a wheel" does come to mind.

    Tom Evans

  4. Anon, there was / is winning baseball, on the south side. Neil you are so right about the sham gurus, and as a woman myself, I detest the blind following she had with some women. Read a science book, I would tell them.

    What galls me is how someone who barely made it out of high school, can rise to that level.

    (Anyhow, please stop being so depressing about journalism and papers ending. You 've said it enough. I-m sure the SunTimes will be around a good while longer.)

    Lady anon

    1. "What galls me is how someone who barely made it out of high school can rise to that level." Yes, life can be so unfair can't it?.

    2. You beat me to it. The smartest man I know dropped out of school at 16. As for "stop being so depressing about journalism" is just denial. I call 'em as I see 'em. Define "a good while longer." If you mean six months, I can maybe agree. Beyond that, here be dragons.

    3. I should rephrase that- getting to that level of wealth and fame serving drivel

  5. Neil, might you ever be doing a story in conjuction with Mark Brown , or assiting your colleaque on the plight of the homeless or the residencies for the poor closing down?

  6. The Romans said it best a few thousand years ago...sic transit Gloria mundi.

  7. I hate Oprah. When she came out on stage on her last show with her outstretched arms like a messiah,I wanted to throw up!


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