We at the Sun-Times have been overawed by our colleague Roger Ebert's persistence and determination amid his struggle with cancer-related health setbacks. As writers and editors, we've been inspired by the fact that -- following a battle with thyroid cancer that took his lower jaw -- he has lost his voice but not his voice. He keeps writing, he keeps thumbing up and down, he keeps on.
On March 2, Ebert will speak for the first time in four years on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Using a remarkable new computer technology, Ebert will chat with Oprah about his Oscar picks for this year. Oprah and her cameras will also follow Ebert and his wife, Chaz, for a day, exploring his life and wining up with a chat in Oprah's studio. Other Oscar-related segments are planned for the "Pre-Oscar Special," including visits with Morgan Freeman and Colin Firth.
A recent Esquire story chronicles Ebert's recent journey, and Ebert himself discusses it here.
Visit Ebert's site for the latest movie reviews and his active, eloquent and wide-ranging blog.
Plus, here's an interview with Dr. Matthew Aylett, chief technical Officer of CereProc, who developed the technology that now allows Ebert to speak ...
Paula Abdul walked away from her judging duties on "American Idol" (to be replaced by Ellen DeGeneres, who got into it last night with ol' Simon Cowell), and everyone asked what the heck she'd do next? What could she do?
A rumor was floated this week in the National Enquirer that Abdul had received the personal "go-ahead" from Oprah Winfrey to assemble a pilot chat show of her own on OWN, Oprah's forthcoming cable network. She was allegedly going to have celebs on the show "telling inspirational stories."
But that's not true, according to Harpo reps, who told "Access Hollywood" that there is "no truth to the rumor." Even Abdul's own PR person couldn't confirm it.
So we're back to the original rumors: that she'll follow Simon as a judge to his new U.S. talent show, "The X Factor," set to launch in fall 2011.
When pressed about the rumors on a radio show, she said, "Drop a clue? Oh, I'm gonna be going back to my roots and doing a TV show that has something to do with my roots."
No confirmation yet of when Simpson will be on the show -- though you can bet it'll be prior to the March 14 premiere of her new reality show on VH1, "The Price of Beauty" -- but there's already scuttlebutt that she'll be addressing Mayer's remarks, several of which were about her (he said she's "sexual napalm"; she later upbraided him).
"I have no idea what questions [Oprah] will ask," a Harpo rep told MSNBC.
"Knowing Oprah, I'm sure she'll ask Jessica her thoughts about John or her response to him," an insider told Life and Style. "It's up to Jessica how she'll respond. She's remaining tight-lipped on it at the moment."
Oprah next week will be auctioning off items from her closet. But forget that -- I wanna see the auction of pieces from today's set!
The entire set of her talk show today was edible -- and made of chocolate. Chocolate seats, chocolate tables, a chocolate chess set, a chocolate grandfather clock, chocolate wall coverings, chocolate flowers in a chocolate vase ... on and on. The set, created by Larry Abel, even includes a chocolate fireplace. (Warning: Do not light a real fire in there.)
Part promotion, part wow factor, the set was created with nearly 7,000 Godiva chocolate bars and 2,400 Godiva truffles. There's a chandelier made from 1,500 pieces of chocolate.
It's probably an entire chapter in public relations textbooks now: when the damage control is really big and really bad, get your client on Oprah. In the celebrity world, it's secular baptism: Through her, all will be redeemed. The most recent example: Jay Leno.
But maybe not. Oprah allegedly denied the beleaguered pop star access to her couch.
An unidentified source told Popeater.com this week: "Oprah is the smartest person on TV and will not let John use her or her show to ask for forgiveness. If John really wants to apologize for his racist and sexist comments, he should find somewhere else. The only way Oprah, who is a dear friend of Jennifer Aniston, would ever book him is if John were interested in having a much deeper conversation about race, women and fame."
Mayer's been on Oprah's show before, back in '06, discussing how he admires singers who possess "a sense of control" and then adding that "success validates any of the stupid decisions you make in your life" ...
Oprah is parting with everything from a Barry Kiesselstein-Cord handbag to a jacket she wore as part of the Chicago delegation for the 2016 Olympic bid in Copenhagen. Through the cleaning, Oprah developed a new perspective on her own style. "In the past, I've gotten talked into a lot of trends," she says. "But I don't have to be on anyone's best-dressed list. I'm really just trying to become more of myself."
The closet cleanout caused some anxiety for Oprah, who reflects on a time when things weren't so easy. "There was a time when I had to budget for clothes, and I still do so subconsciously," she says. "Early in my career, when I was an anchor-woman, I had a beige suit, a navy suit, and a black suit. Period. And I would just interchange them. Even now, wasting money on clothes makes me crazy."
A sneak preview of the items included in the Great Closet Cleanout is in the March issue of O magazine on newsstands now:
The New York Post reports the auction begins March 1 and will include some red suede peep-toe Prada heels (she's a size 9), Jimmy Choo pumps, Prada boots (she wore once btu says they "killed" her feet), a purple Carolina Herrera dress (size 14), a Bottega Veneta bag, a quilted Chanel bag and more.
The auction begins online March 1. Proceeds benefit the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa.
Oprah wants people to hang up and drive -- you, me, and all of her employees.
And her staff is miffed about it.
Sources told Radar Online today that the Chicago talk-show queen made Harpo Productions employees sign a pledge not to talk on cell phones -- even with hands-free devices -- in their cars.
"Some were complaining that they had just purchased hands-free devices and now they can't use them," one source told Radar. "They're worried this will hurt them from doing their jobs. Some employees talk on the phone while drive because they are under deadlines and their jobs are not 9-to-5."
The pledge was not mandatory, but like any office politics the employees felt pressured. "It was pretty clear to everyone that it would not be good to resist signing it," one insider said. "You don't mess with Oprah."
Oprah's pledge, which she's encouraged the public to apply, reads like this: "I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone. Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by not texting or using my phone while I am driving. I will ask other drivers I know to do the same. I pledge to make a difference."
As many people have pointed out, including in comments on this blog, it's likely easier for a very rich, often limo-driven celebrity to bark about the dangers of this problem.
What do you think? Have dictates of your boss ever crossed over into your personal life?
Oprah had her pal Jay Leno on her show recently to discuss the NBC late-night TV fiasco. During Sunday's Super Bowl, she attempted to settle matters between Leno and his once-again talk-show rival, David Letterman:
Oprah Winfrey announced on her show Thursday that Walgreens will offer free blood-glucose screenings today for Type 2 diabetes at all of its 24-hour pharmacies and at its Take Care Clinics from 11 a.m. to 7 tonight.
Anyone 18 or older can get the finger-stick screenings. No appointment is needed.
The Walgreens clinics will also offer free glucose testing through the end of February from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. on weekends.
Winfrey devoted her show Thursday to diabetes. Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes, which is caused by the body's inability to adequately break down sugar in the blood. Blacks and Hispanics have especially high rates of the disease.
Leave it to the synergy genius of Oprah & Co. to find a way for the daytime talk queen to be in two places at once.
Oprah's new cable network debuts next January. But her daytime talk show will run through September 2011, and her talk show contract forbids her to appear in another talk show on the cable network until the original gig ends. So does that mean we won't see Oprah on the Oprah Winfrey Network for its first nine months?
Of course not. In fact, not only will she be the promotional face of OWN as it launches, but the New York Times reports today that one of OWN's first shows will be a reality show ... about the end of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
"Behind the Scenes: Oprah's 25th Season" will begin airing on OWN when the network starts in January.
Says the NYT:
Christina Norman, the chief executive of OWN, said in a telephone interview that "Behind the Scenes" was, "the thing that everybody wants to see, in some ways: How does it get made? What happens when it goes wrong and what happens when it goes right?"
She said the producers would compile the weekly episodes as quickly as possible. Ms. Winfrey will share her memories about her talk show in "Behind the Scenes."
Four other OWN shows are being announced today:
"Kid-napped," in which children rescue allegedly workaholic parents
"Miracle Detectives," in which spiritual skeptics investigate such matters with believers
"Sentenced," which chronicles a women's prison in Indiana
"Search," in which a woman finds long-lost family members