Oprah's block party

OprahStage.jpgAs a reporter, much of my job yesterday consisted of coming up with Oprah-related puns to begin this story. “Oprah-palooza.” Maybe something about “Chicag-O.” After seeing the final product Tuesday, anyone who was in downtown Chicago knows that this is truly the Winfrey City.

Get it? Anybody?

Oprah and fans packed onto Michigan Avenue rock-and-rolled all night (OK, part of the night) and partied all day for the premiere of the Chicago icon’s 24th season, probably the biggest block party this side of Obama’s election-night speech. Thousands turned out for the taping, held directly in front of the Magazine’s office at 401 N. Michigan. I swam out into the O-zone as far as I could yesterday afternoon, though by noon it was clear that I was about nine hours late to watch from the front row.

Mother Nature must TiVo The Oprah Winfrey Show, as the skies were sunny and the weather warm. I joined the crowd just in time for a sing-along with James Taylor, who played “How Sweet It Is” while the lyrics flashed across large video screens in the crowd.

OprahScreen.jpgToward Ohio Street, I saw several small groups of people practicing some kind of dance. I could tell these weren’t professional dancers, as their pants weren’t quite baggy enough, and their shoes weren’t quite fresh enough. No, these were just Oprah fans who knew people who knew people in the professional dance group that performed at the front of the crowd.

One woman said that there had been a small rehearsal on Monday but that she—and presumably hundreds of others—had just been recruited to dance to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” the night before. Those who had attended the rehearsal taught all of the newcomers the dance, and eventually it became the massive production that will air today.

Once Oprah actually made her way onstage a little after 5 p.m. and introduced the Black Eyed Peas for their performance, the dance worked perfectly. Watching from the corner office of the tenth floor, a number of my coworkers and I laughed at the lone dancer going crazy at the front of the crowd while everybody else stood still. Then the dance moved out to a few dozen people, then a few hundred more, and finally the entire group was moving in unison. I read this morning that the dance was supposed to be a surprise for Oprah, but who are we kidding? She probably choreographed it herself.

Afterward, Oprah called it “the coolest thing ever,” though I only had it in my top five for the coolest things ever. The entire event was one of the coolest Chicago has seen, if only for its magnitude: thousands of people crowded onto the city’s most famous street for a day of partying with Oprah and the Black Eyed Peas. Not bad for a daytime talk show.

Jake Grubman, '11

Photos by Dan Dry.

September 10, 2009