Oprah’s Visit to Hartford and Other “O” Moments

 

“Hi, is Gayle there?” the caller to the Eyewitness newsroom asked me.     “I’m sorry, ma’am, could you please take me off speaker, it is difficult to hear you,” I responded.   Truth is, I could understand the caller, but it wasn’t very clear, and I found speakerphone calls annoying, especially when a viewer would call in to complain about something on “The Guiding Light,” which I figured this call was.   “I’m sorry,” the caller politely said.  “Thank you. Who’s calling,” I asked, feeling somewhat powerful at that moment.  That power trip was short-lived, and as soon as the caller identified herself, I felt awful about the way I’d spoken to one of the most admired women in the world.  “Oprah Winfrey,” the caller declared.   

That was my first dealing with Oprah Winfrey, and I still feel terrible about it.    She would call Broadcast House countless times after that, looking for her best friend.   This was before voicemail and cell phones, and the direct newsroom line was the link between Gayle and the queen of talk. 

I went on to  meet Oprah a handful of times.   The first was a brief introduction when she came to Hartford in the fall of 1992.    She arrived at Broadcast House in a limo, then appeared on Eyewitness News at 5 with Gayle, and later did the weather with Hilton Kaderli.   During her interview, Oprah dropped a bombshell that made headlines around the world:  she was engaged to longtime boyfriend Stedman Graham.    The tabloids and media organizations flooded WFSB with calls looking to get that coveted clip.

While here in the capital city, Oprah also visited a school in Hartford’s North End, then delivered an inspirational speech at the Bushnell.  

Several years later, I met Oprah again when I was invited on her show for a taping of an episode on most eligible newscasters (Chris Wragge, former of the CBS Early Show) was also on that edition.)

oprahden

There was another time when I went to sit in the audience and watch the show, and another time when I interviewed Oprah about her movie “Beloved.”   As I sat across from the ultimate interviewer, I remarked how much Gayle talked just like her, right down to the mannerisms.   Later Gayle corrected me:  “Oprah talks like me.”

Most recently, I saw Oprah when Kara and I traveled to Chicago last year to see the show.   My wife is a huge Oprah fan (she DVRs it every day) and as soon as she learned the show was ending, she was buying airline tickets to the Windy City.    After the taping was over, the audience remained seated while Oprah took care of taping a few quick things, and during some down time, she said “Where’s Dennis House?”  After a quick chat, she asked for a Gayle story, and I of course obliged. 

My brief interactions with Oprah all left me the same impression:  what you see on television, is the real deal.   She truly is very interested in people, and the stories they have to tell.    

When I became Gayle’s co-anchor in 1995, I began to learn a little more about Oprah.  On Mondays, Gayle and I would swap stories about our weekends.   I would mention how I went to happy hour  or washed my car, and almost always, Gayle’s story was way more interesting!    Usually she would talk about her children, but if the weekend involved an adventure with Oprah, then she usually had me beat in the excitement department.   

One thing I learned from  Oprah, indirectly through the Gayle, was the importance of listening very carefully while conducting an interview.   In order to be a good interviewer, you have to listen to every word the subject says, and Oprah is a master of the art.   

For a quarter century the Oprah Winfrey Show has been our lead-in to Eyewitness News here on Channel 3.   She’s been a big part of our station’s history and success and she will be missed.

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8 Responses

  1. Dennis, I totally remember answering the phone on the newsdesk as an intern and as an assignment editor and hearing Oprah’s voice….my heart would drop! It was the coolest thing. And Gayle was just the best. She would talk to anyone that called:) Seems like a lifetime ago!

  2. Jen, I remember those days well. I agree, Gayle was the best. Those were fun times.

  3. DENNIS, IT SEEMS JUST LIKE YESTERDAY WHEN OPRAH BECAME A POPULAR ITEM ON CH 3 W/GAYLE KING. MORE THAT ANYTHING, ALL OF CT. LOVED SEEING HER OUT & ABOUT. WHAT I’D LIKE TO KNOW IS,”DIDN’T GAYLE DO AN INTERVIEW W/OPRAH FROM OPRAH’S APT IN CHICAGO WAY, WAY BACK?” IF I RECALL, IT WAS SHOWN IN MORE THAN 1 PART.IF IT WAS CH 3. THAT AIRED IT, IS THAT TAPE STILL AVAILABLE TO BE RESHOWN ON OUR COMPUTERS? I’D LOVE TO SEE IT AGAIN. HAVE A GOOD ONE.

  4. [...] is Gayle there.’ the caller to the Eyewitness newsroom asked me. ‘I’m sorry, ma’am, could you please take me off speaker, it is [...]

  5. You know: I only watched Oprah occasional­ly, but when I did, I came away with just a little tilt of the way I looked at things. Not a life changer, but I was enriched. Especially compared to any of the other TV fare I’ve been offered. She is one of the most positive people on TV or anywhere. But I’ve been scrolling down through the comments and I can’t believe how snarky some of them are. I’m am not her biggest, devoted viewer by far. Usually I watched because someone I was with was watching, but I always felt she had integrity. She made many mistakes, but she TRIED. Scholarshi­ps, schools, gifts . . . she always gave back. I never thought it was an ego trip, but a trueness of her faith and compassion­. I guess people can’t stand her popularity and feel it builds them up by trying to bring her down. They would have been better served by watching a couple of her shows. I’ve been watching the last couple of episodes because it’s kind of a big deal.

  6. When I worked at Ch3 back in 1993, I always had a disposable camera hoping she would show up one day, I was there 4 years and nothing! LOL!!

  7. [...] You can read about the other times I met Oprah right here: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/oprahs-visit-to-hartford-and-other-o-moments/ [...]

  8. […] You can read about the other times I met Oprah right here: http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/oprahs-visit-to-hartford-and-other-o-moments/ […]

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