Mark Bieganski: November 2008 Archives

The show that sparks a frenzy each holiday fizzled this year, not by fault of Oprah Winfrey, but thanks to a Grinch of struggling economy.

The lavish gifts. The screaming fans. The satisfaction of knowing what brand of slippers Winfrey lounges around wearing at her California estate -- all gone.

"The holidays are upon us and I know a lot of people are feeling the pinch and are trying to scale back this year," Winfrey said Wednesday during a toned-down version of her yearly gift fest. "We felt that this is not the time to be introducing you to a lot of things that cost money."

But that doesn't mean viewers and audience members didn't walk away with a gift.

For 48 hours after the airing of this year's show, viewers can download a mix of Winfrey's favorite holiday hits -- from Tony Bennett to Faith Hill -- free from (you can even print out an "O" Holiday Hits label, too).

While Winfrey and her producers were right in theming this year's show around gifts from the heart and those that cost next to nothing, it still took away from the very reasons people tune in each November to see the show.

That said, this year's show did take viewers back to what the true meaning of the holidays should be, done in typical Winfrey fashion.

Viewers from across the country shared their ideas of low-cost gifts -- from hot cocoa cones to homemade gifts from your garden.

"It has been the gifts that cost the least amount of money that mean the most to me," Winfrey said, offering two gift ideas from the heart.

The first -- a gratitude box -- similar to the gratitude journal mentioned in her DVD set. Construct a box (can be holiday-themed) to give to a person that contains notes on why you're thankful for that person. For the holiday party twist, leave an empty box at each person's place setting on the table and hand out blank notes for guest to fill each person's box.

Second, make a treasure box to remember special moments in life and fill it with keepsakes.

Want to eat the holiday dinner Winfrey will be eating this year? You can also download Chef Cristina Ferrare's picks for Winfrey's holiday meal at

Still looking for a cheap gift to give for the holidays? Winfrey touted her last book club pick The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski as a perfect pick about the "magical bond that this mute boy shares with his dog. But it's so much more than a dog story."

Images: Harpo


Blame it on the struggling economy if you want, but don't expect gifts like a $3,800 HDTV refrigerator or a $900 DVD collection to be on Oprah Winfrey's list of favorite things this year.

A Harpo source confirmed today that Winfrey's annual gift-fest would be toned down this year, but still have a twist.

The show, airing next Wednesday, will showcase some of Winfrey's things that cost next to nothing, including a special gift that won't cost a thing.

Viewers will meet a family who talks about their tradition that doesn't cost a penny, and get ideas to make holiday festivities memorable and affordable.

Last year, Winfrey showered fans from the town of Macon, Ga., with gifts from her list. Macon had consistently given the talk show its highest ratings.


President-elect Barack Obama's biggest fan -- Oprah Winfrey -- is rumored to be planning an inauguration bash all her own.

Sources tell the Washington Post's Reliable Source that Winfrey -- who said Election Day she'd already picked out her inauguration dress -- is hoping to broadcast three of her shows from the nation's capitol that week, potentially from the historic Kennedy Center.

Event planners also working for Winfrey apparently are combing D.C. to find a site for a big inauguration bash.

Hopefully, our invitation is in the mail.

Neither the Kennedy Center or reps from Harpo would comment to the Post.

Can Oprah Winfrey save newspapers?

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Who knows. But it was sure nice reading the NY Observer's piece on Oprah Winfrey saving newspapers -- specifically writing about this blog and her endorsement of the Sun-Times:

"Since at least the mid-90s, Oprah Winfrey has been credited with reigniting the publishing industry with her Oprah's Book Club. More recently, she's done her best to boost sales of Amazon's Kindle. But can the most powerful woman in media save daily newspapers? (Please.)

The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Bieganski sure hopes so. In a blog post on his paper's Oprah blog, Mr. Bieganski does a little victory dance over Ms. Winfrey's endorsement of... The Chicago Sun-Times. "

Click here to continue reading ...

Is Oprah Winfrey losing her golden touch?

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Is the long-time talk show queen losing her Midas Touch?

A spread in today's RedEye seems to hint at that idea to readers.

Citing drops in TV show ratings, the folding of her "O At Home" magazine announced earlier this month and her lingering in popularity polls, Leonor Vivanco writes that interest in Oprah Winfrey's empire is down in almost every category.

TV ratings. Magazine circulation. Popularity polls. They've all shown decreases. But is Winfrey off her game, or just vulnerable to the same declines other TV shows and publications are seeing?

The truth lies in the latter and at the end of the article.

"... it's not like Winfrey's empire is crumbling," says Vivanco.

Winfrey's still ahead of the pack -- ranked the top-rated talk show for nearly 500 weeks, boasting a magazine circulation that outsells Martha Stewart, Glamour and Redbook and still is raking in strong numbers in Forbes' power lists.

The article does a good job playing devil's advocate, but as one person interviewed says, "It's important to remember the size of this empire. She has a long way to fall until we start going 'Poor Oprah."

Click here to read the entire article >>

The Material Girl is taking a cue from the Queen of Daytime and wants to open a school for underprivileged girls.

In a new video on her Web site, Madonna is seeking donations from her fans to open a school in Malawi, where she adopted her youngest child, David.

"There are very few girls in Africa in general who are encouraged or allowed to go to secondary school so after spending a lot of time there I realized that one of the ways I could help was to build a girls' school," she said. "I would really be grateful if you would get involved and help me in any way that you can with donations, spreading the word, visiting my website, reading about the progress that we've made so far.... I would appreciate any help you could give us."

Winfrey opened a school for girls in South Africa in 2007.

Beyonce live on Thursday's Oprah: Video

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Note: Clips of this episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" were found on YouTube and not uploaded by the Sun-Times.

Note: Clips of this episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" were found on YouTube and not uploaded by the Sun-Times.

A new Chicago Magazine article due out next month reveals details about author Kitty Kelley's new book about Oprah Winfrey.

While it won't be a hacket job, Kelley eventually gets around to questions about sex, drugs and Winfrey's boyfriends, according to a column by Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker today.

Click here to read Zwecker's entire column >>

A wildfire that's injured at least 13 people and destroyed 100 homes in the upscale Montecito community has not damaged Oprah's Winfrey's "Promised Land" -- the term she uses to describe her California estate.

"A lot of them are friends and neighbors of mine," Winfrey said today on her show. "Some of my friends left their homes with only their dogs last night."

Winfrey said her first concern if she were there would have been to get her dogs to safety.

"I don't have kids, so the most important thing for me is my dogs," Winfrey said. "And so we already had a plan for getting the dogs out and going to the Four Seasons in Westlake because they take dogs."

Winfrey spoke today with actor Rob Lowe, who had to evacuate his house.

"We just left with the kids," Lowe said. "We just got everybody out. This thing came on so fast, you just can't believe it."



During today's episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" aired live in Chicago, Oprah addressed the wildfire in Montecito, California. She opened the show by saying, "The first thing I wanted to talk about is the raging fire burning right now in my neighborhood of Montecito, California...This fire is about two miles from my house."

Oprah also mentioned her friends and neighbors, saying "All our prayers are with all the folks and neighbors in Santa Barbara. Hope you're well today. And those of you who lost your homes, our hearts go out to you."

Our statement remains:
"At this point, Oprah Winfrey's property has not been affected by the fire."
-Harpo spokesperson


Transcript after the jump ...

Oprah Winfrey: 'You're rockin', Sun-Times'

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For the third time in two weeks, Oprah Winfrey showed a little love for the Sun-Times.

On today's "Friday's Live!" show from Harpo Studios, Winfrey held up a cover of this week's Sun-Times featuring a historic meeting of the Obamas and the Bushes at the White House.

"You're rockin', Sun-Times," she said to America.

Winfrey paraded on stage last week the day after Barack Obama's election win with a copy of the "Mr. President" election front by Sun-Times' James Smith, also mentioning it in an interview last week with Will Smith.

"It was the best paper of all the papers in the world," Winfrey told actor Will Smith.

The Trib's Kevin Pang does a play-by-play with Oprah Winfrey's "Mr. Man" today on that historic night when his shoulder was thrust into the national spotlight.

"Mr. Man's incredible, improbable week began on a Monday, 24 hours before his left shoulder would ascend into fame.

At that point, before he was dubbed "Mr. Man" by Oprah Winfrey in front of millions of TV viewers, he was (and still is) Sam Perry from Menlo Park, Calif., a venture capitalist and early supporter of Barack Obama's campaign for president."

Sun-Times' Kara Spak tracked Perry down last week and was the first to reveal his identity before he showed up on Friday's episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Click here to read Pang's article

Pregnant man who was on Oprah -- is pregnant again

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Thomas Beatie -- the "pregnant man" who made headlines and gave his first exclusive interview to Oprah Winfrey and People magazine -- is pregnant again.

Barbara Walters -- who's profiling Beatie and his wife in a one-hour special tomorrow night on ABC called "Journey of a Pregnant Man" -- revealed today on The View that during their interview, the couple said they'll give birth again in June.

"I said I'm speechless," Walters said during the morning gab fest.

Beatie -- legally a man -- gave birth to his first child, a baby girl, back in June. His story made world headlines and sparked a rush of comments on this blog months ago.

Walters' interview with Beatie
and his baby daughter airs tomorrow on "20/20" at 9 p.m. on ABC.



On the heels of a new Vogue article where Jennifer Aniston says "what Angelina [Jolie] did was very uncool", the actress sat down with Oprah Winfrey emphasizing there's no hard feelings between her and ex-Brad Pitt.

"He [the Vogue journalist] asked me a question and I, basically, just answered it as honestly as I could," Aniston said in a taped interview Thursday. "I don't go there. It's a 100 years old."

Aniston was appreciative to have such a fan following interested in her life and said she's been "unbelievably lucky with love."

Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker wrote today in his column that Pitt complained to Aniston about publicly reopening old wounds from breakup and romance with Jolie.

"[Brad has] done some amazing things in the last couple years," Aniston said.

The former Friends actress also denied rumors that she's pregnant.

Now you can get your Oprah merchandise fix online

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Short of a coveted ticket for a taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," an easier way to surround yourself with the presence of the queen of talk is to go to her official store across from Harpo studios in what was once a Chicago warehouse district.

With its dim lighting, hardwood floors and urban-loft feel, The Oprah Store is a hybrid souvenir shop and trendy boutique. It's been open since January -- almost a year -- and has hosted an average 250 post-Oprah show shoppers and curious Winfrey fans a day.

Even Oprah Winfrey is feeling the economic pinch

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Hearst announced today it will stop publishing O at Home and fold its content into O: The Oprah Magazine, according to word from the publisher.

"Hearst will consolidate the content of O at Home back into its flagship, O, The Oprah Magazine, under the direction of editor-in-chief Susan Reed," the statement reads.

The last standalone issue of O at Home will be Winter 2008, on newsstands November 25.

The closure, according to reports, is part of an aggressive cost-cutting strategy by Hearst President Cathie Black, which also saw the closure of Cosmo Girl in early October.

The campaign has also resulted in job cuts at Harper's Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Esquire.

Oprah Winfrey to Sarah Palin: Come on my show

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Months after Oprah Winfrey took heat for not bowing to pressure to have then Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin on her show, an invitation has been extended.

A show spokeswoman confirmed Friday that Palin has been invited to appear on the show now that the election is over.

Conservative groups and bloggers took issue with Winfrey after a series of articles -- first appearing on the Drudge Report -- chastised her and called her "bias" for not inviting Palin on her show.

"I declared back in May I was not going to use my show as a platform," Winfrey said.

I spoke out as a private citizen for the candidate of my choice, she added, echoing comments she said in a statement at the time.


Oprah Winfrey might be disappearing from local TV sets come 2011 if she doesn't extend her contract, but don't expect her to gone for good if she doesn't.

Winfrey -- who's set to launch her own cable network next year called "OWN" -- could shift her show there once its syndication deal ends in 2011.

"The expectation is that after that, her show will go off of ABC in syndication and she will come to OWN," Discovery CEO David Zaslav said on the company's first earnings call as a public company. "We're talking now about what the presence will be and what kind of programming she would be involved in directly. But this is her Chapter 2, and building the OWN brand online and on air is ... a core mission for her."

Representatives from Harpo Productions issued a statement following Zaslav's comments, reiterating that Winfrey has not made a decision on whether to end her show's syndication in 2011.

"While David Zaslav's comments are true that Oprah's current contract to produce 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' will expire in 2011, she has not made a final decision as to whether she will continue her show in syndication beyond that," said Lisa Halliday, Chief Spokesperson for Harpo Productions, Inc.

Zaslav went on to say Winfrey is "very involved with us and focusing on what the channel is going to be, as well as developing"


Barack Obama wasn't the only election winner this week.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" took in its highest ratings in almost nine months the day after Obama's monumental win with a 6.5 preliminary household rating in 56 metered markets, a season high.

Wedneday's show featured a roundup of political insiders, including David Gergen, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Gloria Steinem, Peggy Noonan and Henry Louis Gates.

That day, Winfrey paraded onto the stage wearing a "Hope Won" T-shirt and carrying an American flag in one hand, a historic copy of the Chicago Sun-Times in the other.

Oprah Winfrey, human hankie reunited on show

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The man known around the world as Oprah Winfrey's human hankie during the election night rally for Barack Obama got five more minutes of fame Friday, appearing at a live taping of her show in Chicago.

Winfrey gave thanks to Sam Perry, who up until yesterday was known only as the mystery man Winfrey leaned on, crying, during the victory bash in Grant Park.

Today, Winfrey and Perry shared a brief hug as she apologized for not asking his name during the rally.

"What a night to share. This is the jacket, and you'll see there's no mascara [on it]." Perry said. "My cell phone right from the very beginning was vibrating from calls. People were staked out at my house yesterday as well."

A former reporter with Reuters and UPI, Perry is a Harvard graduate with a passion for hockey, photography and soccer. He is also fluent in Swedish and has studied Russian and Latin.

"I get home [Tuesday] and there are all these e-mails saying to me saying, 'Who's the guy whose shoulder you were leaning on?' " Winfrey said. "We were packed so closely you couldn't move. If I had had my hands down, I would have been in this guy's butt."

Winfrey said she saw the picture of the two in the newspaper the next day, but at the time hadn't even see his face.

"If I had to identify him in a lineup I couldn't," Winfrey said. "At first I did say to him if I could lean into his shoulder."

Winfrey went on TV on Wednesday thanking Perry, who she dubbed "Mr. Man" for giving her a shoulder to cry on. That sent the media into a frenzied search -- with CNN, the Associated Press and the Chicago Sun-Times looking to find the mystery man's identity. broke the news Thursday that Perry, a consultant living in northern California, was the guy grooving to Stevie Wonder with the TV superstar before Winfrey broke down in tears on his shoulder.

A panel of co-hosts on today's show poked fun at the moment, saying Winfrey wasn't just leaning on Perry but was draped all over him.

"Can you image this guy? He's watching Obama and all of a sudden he turns around and it's Oprah," joked actor Mark Consuelos.


Sam Perry, first publicly identified by the Chicago Sun-Times as the mystery man who lent his shoulder to a weepy Oprah Winfrey Tuesday, will appear on the TV superstar's show Friday.

A Harpo representative declined to give further details about Perry's appearance. broke the news today that Perry, of Menlo Park, Calif., is the man in a widely circulated image with Oprah.

A neighbor of Perry said Perry and his wife were Obama supporters, at one point hanging a large Obama banner off a storage unit that was holding construction equipment in their driveway during a recent remodeling project.

Perry is apparently an Obama volunteer, listed as the communications director for Silicon Valley for Obama.

Giselle Schmitz, regional field director for the Obama campaign, described Perry as "a great guy" and "tremendous asset to the organization."

"He's a great, great supporter," she said. "He did a ton of work on the campaign."

Schmitz said she and other Obama supporters watching the results Tuesday night saw Perry and instantly recognized him.

"We all saw him right away," she said. "It was great."

Oprah dubbed Perry "Mr. Man" on Wednesday's show, thanking him for the support.

"Friends called me around the country and said, 'Who was with you?' I said, 'I don't know him, but he was very nice to me,'" Oprah says. "At one point I was just sobbing on his shoulder, mascara everywhere."

"Thank you, Mr. Man, for letting me cry on your shoulder."

A day after parading on stage with a historic copy of the Chicago Sun-Times' cover of Barack Obama's presidential win, Oprah Winfrey summed up the front page as the best of the best.

"It was the best paper of all the papers in the world," Winfrey told actor Will Smith during today's live show in Chicago.

Typically, about 250,000 Chicago Sun-Times hit the sidewalk boxes and store racks on any given Wednesday. Anticipating the election issue would be a hot seller, 335,000 were printed Tuesday night, Tammy Chase, Sun-Times spokeswoman told reporter Kara Spak in a story today.

By Wednesday morning, 30,000 more copies were printed. Another 40,000 were printed mid-day, followed by 20,000 more Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday evening, 50,000 more were printed, destined for Chicago retail outlets like Walgreens, gas stations and 7-Elevens. Another 25,000 papers were going to suburban stores, where they would be sold along with Thursday's paper, Chase said.

The grand total? 500,000 Chicago Sun-Times for the nation's most discerning readers, a figure that doesn't include those receiving home-delivery of the tabloid.

Back copies can be ordered through or by calling (312) 321-3000 and pressing 7. The cost is $10, including shipping.

Appearing via satellite on today's "The Oprah Winfrey" show, comedian actress Tina Fey said she's "packing up her wig" and retiring her portrayal of Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

"I'm going to retire. ... I am really happy I did it," Fey said. "It was this wonderful chance to go home again and be with my friends at 'Saturday Night Live.'"

Fey, who crossed paths with Palin when she appeared on the show last month, said Palin was a good sport about the impersonation.

Fey appeared today on Winfrey's show -- the same day the talk show host will make her debut on the popular NBC hit "30 Rock," which stars Fey.

"I was in Denver -- I had just attended the big speech Barack Obama gave -- and the next day was when Sen. John McCain announced Sarah Palin," Winfrey recalled, and then said, "Oh my god, she's Tina Fey!"

Fey and Winfrey taped the "30 Rock" episode, set to air tonight on NBC, the same Saturday that Fey debuted her Palin character on "SNL."

Read Sun-Times Darel Jevens' piece today on Fey here.

Oprah Winfrey, meet Liz Lemon.


Oprah Winfrey might have been surrounded by some of her favorite people during Barack Obama's victory speech in Grant Park on Tuesday night, but it was a complete stranger she wept on during the rally for the new president-elect.

Do you know the man who let Oprah cry on his shoulder? If so, e-mail us and tell us who it is.

"Friends called me around the country and said, 'Who was with you?' I said, 'I don't know him, but he was very nice to me,'" Oprah says. "At one point I was just sobbing on his shoulder, mascara everywhere."

"Thank you, Mr. Man, for letting me cry on your shoulder."

Oprah 'unleashed' after history Obama victory

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Mum before the election on her TV show about who she was backing for president, Oprah Winfrey was "unleashed" Wednesday after Barack Obama's monumental win as the first black American president.

"Today the election is over and I'm unleashed!" Winfrey rejoiced on her post-election show.


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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Mark Bieganski in November 2008.

Mark Bieganski: October 2008 is the previous archive.

Mark Bieganski: December 2008 is the next archive.

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