In the early 1980’s Rob Weller hosted “AM Chicago.” This show would later be hosted by Oprah. The show was more of a host and guest venue. There was no audience of any kind. At that time I appeared on one of their Christmas show. The producers had asked viewers to come to the show and present the audience with their best Christmas decorating ideas. At that time it was easy to be on or visit a show.
To get on the show as a guest or audience you just call had to call the show. The producers liked my idea for including children in the holiday decorating. I remember being very nervous. There really wasn’t much preparation once I arrived. There was no green room or make-up preparation. It was a fun time.
From there the show is just like you see it on the TV. Rob Weller was a very personable young man. When he left “Am Chicago” he went on to produce various shows on HGTV a cable network show.
Several years later Oprah came to Chicago. The show at that time remained “Am Chicago.” A live audience was added and viewers were able to call in. I was able to get though and asked a question about allergies. It was interesting. Several days later I was in a local store with my children. A person stopped me after hearing me talk to my daughter and asked if I had called into “Am Chicago” several days earlier. Surprised, I told her I had. She said she recognized my voice. It was funny. I have never been told I have an unusual voice.
In 1985 “Am Chicago” became “The Oprah Show.” The show continued with a live audience and with viewers calling in. To attend the show as an audience member all you had to do was call the show. At that time it wasn’t too difficult to get through to the show. When you talked to the shows representatives they asked what day you wanted to attend and that was all there was to it. The staff added you to a list and gave you instructions on how to get to the studio. The studio was at the Channel Seven headquarters on State Street. Harpo Studio did not open until the late 1980’s.
I appeared in the audience twice. Once in Oprah’s early career when the show was still “AM Chicago,” and later when it became “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Both shows I attended with my friend Linda. Once we arrived at the show our names we checked against a list. After that we were ushered into a large room with the other audience members until just before the show was to air. We all talked among ourselves till time to go into the studio. Just before air time we went into the studio and filed into random seats.
One show I attended was on education and the other relationships. I don’t remember much about the guests on the shows. What I remember is how respectful Oprah was to her audience and the guest. Other talk shows at the time chose topics that were sensational to get ratings. Oprah chose not to do that. If an audience member wanted to ask a question you were directed to a line off camera where there was a microphone. It was interesting to have a discussion that included Oprah, the guest, audience members and viewers. No topic was ever one-sided or planned.
Oprah of course, is Oprah. On the set between commercials is the same person you see on camera. Has she changed? In some ways, yes, but success on her level has to change you, but she still is the warm, caring person that I watched as an audience member so many years ago. Chicago is sad to be losing someone who has been part of the very fiber of our city. No matter where she goes she will always be Chicago’s sweetheart.
My memories of Oprah are when she first came to Chicago. It was before she gave away cars and had a favorite things show. I admire her for sharing her good fortune with her audience. It has been a pleasure watching her grow into a woman who has truly touched many lives.
If you want to know more about Oprah, and her achievments here are several sites for you to visit.