The Quick 10: Happy Birthday, Oprah!

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Yes "“ the world's most powerful woman (according to some reports, anyway) is celebrating the big 5-6 today. Even if you're not a big fan, you have to admit, the woman's done pretty well herself. Oprah hasn't kept too many secrets about herself over the years, so I'm avoiding the big shockers that she has revealed on air "“ the child she had at 14, the sex abuse she suffered at the hands of relatives. These are just a few fun facts about O.

oprah and ebert1. If things had been just a little bit different, she could have been Oprah Ebert. Doesn't have a great ring to it, does it? The talk show host and the film critic went on a few dates in the "˜80s before deciding they worked better as friends. It's Ebert who convinced Oprah she should syndicate her talk show, though. During a date at the Hamburger Hamlet ("My treat," Ebert said) she asked his advice. He told her what he was making to do his syndicated show, then told her to double it, since she wouldn't be using a co-host, then told her to double it again, because her show would be an hour instead of 30 minutes, then told her to multiply that by five since she would be on all week, then told her to double everything because her ratings would be better than his. That's when Oprah decided to syndicate.

2. You've probably heard the story that Oprah's name was supposed to be "Orpah" after a character in the Book of Ruth, but it was spelled wrong on her birth certificate, and so she became Oprah. Well, that's not entirely true. According to Oprah herself, her birth certificate really does say "Orpah," but no one could pronounce it. Somehow the "R" and the "P" always got switched, and eventually "Oprah" was just easier.

3. Even Oprah's theme song boasts a rich history. Musical heavyweights who have composed lyrics or music for her opening tune include Paul Simon, Quincy Jones and Patti LaBelle. In 1999, Oprah took voice lessons so she could sing her own theme song, "Run On." She made a music video for the song as well.

4. Only one author has ever turned down the opportunity for his book to be featured as one of Oprah's Book Club books "“ Jonathan Franzen. Oprah chose Franzen's novel The Corrections to be featured in 2001, and initially he accepted. Then he decided that having Oprah's logo on his cover might alienate him from a male audience and rather insulted the intelligence of the people who read the books featured in her club by saying, "It's a hard book for that audience." Ouch.

pageant5. She won the Miss Fire Prevention Contest when she was 17. She claims she was the only African-American in a pageant full of fair-skinned girls with auburn hair, so she wasn't really banking on winning. When they got to the Q&A portion of the contest, she wasn't really concerned about giving the cliché "world peace" answer. She responded to the question, "What would you do with a million dollars?" by saying, "I would be a spendin' fool. I'm not quite sure what I would spend it on, but I would spend, spend, spend. Spendin' fool." Apparently the judges liked her humor and candor, because Oprah won. And now she has a million dollars many times over.

6. But not all critically-acclaimed authors shun the power of Oprah: in 2007, she was granted the first-ever onscreen interview with the notoriously private Cormac McCarthy when she chose The Road as one of her Book Club books.

7. Oprah's idea of heaven? "A great big baked potato and someone to share it with."

8. When Oprah opened her own studio, she was only the third woman in history to do so. The two before were Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball, so it had been quite a while since a woman had the pull and capital to do so.

regiment9. The Oprah studio might be haunted. In the early 1900s, the land her studio complex in Chicago occupies today obviously wasn't a television studio "“ it was Chicago's Second Regiment Armory. When the SS Eastland overturned in the Chicago River in 1915, nearly 850 people died. The Armory was turned into a makeshift morgue where the hundreds of recovered bodies were brought for identification. These days, employees of Harpo Studios report seeing an apparition they call "The Gray Lady" and hearing phantom laughter at night.

10. The first-ever "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was called "How to Marry the Man or Woman of Your Choice." Ironic, considering the fact that she says she and longtime boyfriend Stedman Graham will never marry, despite dating since 1986. Although they were once engaged, they later decided that they would rather have a "spiritual union" and that a traditional marriage would never work with the craziness of their lives.

Will you be devastated when Oprah goes off the air next year? Or will you not even notice? I'm in the latter category "“ although I'm very impressed with Miss O as a businesswoman and a person, I've never really gotten into her show.

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January 29, 2010 - 12:55pm
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