They’ve stood by each other through thick and thin, kids and cocker spaniels, haircuts and headlines. They’ve seen the world change and they’ve seen themselves change. And today Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King are sitting down to talk about what, for Oprah, is the biggest change in 25 years: the end—after more than 4,500 episodes—of The Oprah Winfrey Show. To understand how that will feel, you have to understand how it all began…
Gayle: I have a very clear memory of the moment, I guess it was about 16 or 17 years ago, when it hit me that you weren’t just hosting a talk show—that this thing you were creating was so much more. We were caught in a traffic jam in Racine, Wisconsin, because everyone was headed to the concert hall where you were speaking.
Oprah: Oh, I remember that. We pull up to the place, the cops are lined up in double rows, and you go, “What’s happening here? Who’s here? Who’s here?” And I go, “I am, you nitwit!” [Laughter]
Gayle: I just could not wrap my head around it. So, I’m wondering, was there a moment like that for you, where you just went, “Whoa, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”?
Oprah: You know, the philosophy in television is that you visit the cities where you’re not doing so well in the ratings, to try to prop yourself up there. But I’ve always believed you should applaud the people who are already applauding you. So pretty early on we went to this little town in Texas, where you’d go down the street and every household that had a TV was watching the Oprah show. And we actually filled a stadium. There were people of all ages, races, every single possible demographic. People with their children on their shoulders. I think that’s when I first got it. And one of the most revelatory moments recently, where I really “got” got it, was in Australia. Doing the show there and getting the welcome we got was eye-opening, because I’m normally just here in my little Harpo village. I go from home to work to home to work to Los Angeles to Santa Barbara. And that’s my world.