Oprah Buries the Hatchet
Samuels, Allison, Newsweek
Byline: Allison Samuels
In her frantic final hours on network TV, the talk queen is mending fences with ex-friends (Whoopi, Roseanne). It's great television. But is it genuine?
When author Iyanla Vanzant picked up her phone one afternoon earlier this year, she was stunned to find the Queen of Daytime on the line. Vanzant had good reason to be surprised. She'd once been a regular guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, doling out spiritual wisdom and practical advice on love, life, and personal growth. But when Vanzant accepted an offer from Barbara Walters to host her own show in 1999, the friendship blew apart, with bitter feelings, unspoken words, and a call from a lawyer making it official.
Now, after 11 years, the feud has ended, with Vanzant and Oprah airing their differences last month in front of a rapt audience of millions. "We were deeply connected spiritual sisters and then things fell apart. That needed to be fixed," says Vanzant, who since leaving Oprah's universe suffered her third divorce, foreclosure on her home, and the death of her only child (all of it detailed in her new book, Peace From Broken Pieces).
Oprah is burying a lot of hatchets these days. With her show set to end May 25, she has attempted to mend fences with such famous former friends as Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne Barr, and Rosie O'Donnell. Of course, these tearful makeup sessions are all being conducted on Oprah's stage, in front of a live studio audience. But that's part of being Oprah's friend, and besides, it makes for some great TV and even greater ratings.
Still, you can't help wondering why Oprah is even bothering to air her dirty laundry. Is it really just for the ratings? Is it because she now has a cable network, OWN, and needs a lot of chatty, familiar faces to fill the endless hours of programming? (It's worth noting that O'Donnell is already producingdocumentaries for OWN.) Or is Winfrey really hoping to teach her audience a lesson about friendship?
"We can't forget Oprah remains, in many ways, America's chief therapist, and she knows that," says Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, host of his own show on NPR. "In her last season on television, Oprah wants to model for her audience of millions the art of coming to grips with the uneasy business of repairing torn relations." Fans are lapping it up. "I really thought someone like Oprah, with all her money and fame, wouldn't care if people were mad at her or didn't like her. I mean, she's Oprah,'' says Audrey Mason, 33, a private nurse from Cleveland, Ohio.
With the clock ticking, who will she pass the peace pipe to next? Will be it rappers like Ludacris or Ice Cube, who lashed out at her for regularly refusing to have them on, even when they had big movies or TV roles to hawk? …