Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bev's 15 minutes of fame/my Oprah adventure.

September 8, 2009

I could walk to the train which takes me to downtown Chicago.  I was feeling the familiar butterflies in my stomach, the ones I got when I would think of something exciting I could do, an adventure!!!   Yes, I decided, that' it, I was going to go on an adventure today!!!

Yes, I was going alone.
And no, I didn't care.

I was going to pack a lunch, walk around downtown, have a mini picnic with myself in Grant Park, walk along Michigan Ave. or the lakefront, etc. Just be a part of Chicago, be out, feel free and alive!

Then I remembered Oprah was doing a show, OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, on Michigan Avenue.  I thought,   thats an even better idea!  I've watched Oprah for 23 years.  I got a lot of great advice from her when I was raising my kids.  Marriage advice.  Stranger danger advice.  Safety advice.  Stories of people who have made it through the most horrific events and are here to share their stories as inspiration for all of us.  Oprah is awesome in my book.

But I thought I'd never get to see an Oprah show in person.   I searched my house and found enough money for train fare there and back and so I knew, this is it, I'm actually going!

My friend Janet called me to see what I was doing, she was thinking of calling in sick to work, she really was feeling under the weather.  I said, "I'm going to the Oprah show on Michigan Avenue, yes, I'm going alone, no, I don't care.  This will be the highlight of my summer.  The memories I make today will last a lifetime.  This is a once in a lifetime day, and its a spur of the moment secret adventure, my favorite kind, I'm going!"

Well, to my surprise she said, "I'm coming with you!" and she called in sick to work and met me on the train.

When we got downtown, we ran with others to try and get the best position on Michigan Ave.  We ended up about 2 blocks back from the main stage but right in the front row of our block that was sectioned off.

Downtown businesses were giving away stuff, seeing what a marketing jackpot this was becoming.  Vitiamin Water passed out bottles of cold water ALL DAY AND NIGHT.  Oprah's producers came into the crowd and passed out freebe's also.  I was already having a great time.

My friend asked me to try and keep a low profile 
and stay off camera so her work wouldn't find out she was here.

ME?  Keep a low profile?

I had brought a folding chair, PB&J sandwiches, treats, granola bars, fruit and water and started passing them out to others in our section that didn't have money, didn't bring food or didn't realize it was going to be this hot out here.  I'm a wife, mom and a former Girl Scout so I was prepared.    Thats why many people hated this event and many others, like me, LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.  Because some of us were prepared to sit in the middle of Michigan Avenue for hours and some of us were not.

I told everyone, "Isn't this great, look at us, we're in the middle of Michigan Avenue in one of the greatest cities on earth."  I made a big deal about every handout we got that day, no matter how small.
Some negative lady said when Vitamin Water handed out thousands of bottles of water, "so what, its just free water, big deal".  I said, "Its flavored Vitamin Water I usually pay $1 a bottle for.  And today, I've already had 4!  Cheers to you, cheers to Oprah!!!"   I was glad to have this chance and I appreciated it.

Then they told us they had a surprise for Oprah and the Black Eyed Peas.  The biggest flash dance in the history of the world to date, would be performed today, BY ALL OF US!
We practiced the dance moves for HOURS.  The picture above is of us practicing.  The girl on stage behind me was one of the dancers showing us the moves.

When people started complaining (because many of us were over weight housewives that weren't use to dancing in the middle of Michigan Avenue in 85 degrees for hours), I offered them something to eat or drink.  I told jokes.  We told stories of our favorite Oprah moments.
This was becoming a great adventure, like the ones I use to make for myself when I was a kid.  I would explore Chicago on my own and make my own happiness through my own adventures (see my story: http://bev-benyamin.blogspot.com/2011/04/bev-11-year-old-secret-chicago-explorer.html).

Then I saw the cameras, newsmen, reporters.
The butterflies started inside of me.
I thought, I'm just a housewife from Chicago,
and I'll never have this chance again.
I had to get on TV.
I had to.
I needed to be on TV.
I became unstoppable.
Me to Marcus LeShok of WGN TV: "Hey, Mr. LeShok, over here, I love you, you're the best, WGN, whoot whoot!!!"  I said "OMG, Mr. LeShok, I'm the number one Oprah fan in the world!!!! Please come over here, talk to me".  The people in our section I had been talking with all day were like "Yeah, Mr. LeShok, come over here, shes Oprah's biggest fan!" So he walks right up to me and starts interviewing me on camera.

I'M THE ONE IN THE WGN CHICAGO NEWS CLIP BELOW (1:24) THAT SAYS (In a deep voice that I can't believe belongs to me, yuck.  It was sore from talking and cheering for about 5 hours.)  WHEN ASKED WHAT OPRAH MEANS TO ME:  "EVERYTHING! ONLY OPRAH CAN CLOSE DOWN MICHIGAN AVENUE.  UNLESS A CAB HIT ME I WOULD NOT BE IN THE MIDDLE OF MICHIGAN AVENUE IF IT WASN'T FOR OPRAH WINFREY!  Then later in the video (2:14) I also said "She built the schools in Africa.  Oprah does everything."
My friend is the one to my right, in the Harley hat, 
trying to hide from the camera.

Then there were photographers from the Tribune and Sun Times taking pictures.  I saw them snapping pictures of our section but I was behind some people.  I felt I HAD to get in the pictures, so, naturally (for me),  I jumped into the air and screamed YES, fists pumping in the air.  So in the picture below, I appear to be some giant Amazon woman, great.  My friend Janet is sitting down waving in the Harley hat.

Then, another reporter from WGN radio saw all this attention I was getting and was probably thinking what a NUT I WAS and he started interviewing me.  Then he asked if I would sign an agreement to be on WGN radio tomorrow morning to talk about today.  I said ABSOLUTELY!!!

This was all before the Oprah Show even started.

Then the show started, she introduced the Black Eyed Peas.  This was it, I was so excited!  When the dance started, I kinda felt bad for Oprah and the Black Eyed Peas.  I felt embarrassed for them because they weren't in on what was happening.  They must have thought we were a boring crowd, just standing there, not moving, to play this trick on them.

Oprah put her hand over her head, swaying it back and forth, trying to get us to move, or to make sure we were still alive.

The Black Eyed Peas were clapping their hands above their heads, trying to get us to move, smile, anything.

Then, just as planned, the 1 lady in the front row starts dancing, then some more rows up front joined in, then we ALL started dancing, like 15,000 of us, many overweight housewives just like me!  We even did wave moves, it was incredible.  The Black Eyed Peas said it was the best surprise of their career.  Oprah said, "THAT WAS THE COOLEST THING EVER!"

The show was also incredible.  HERE I WAS, BROKE ASS BEV, dancing in a record breaking flash dance, meeting great people, getting freebie's, at this incredible event and concert, with Oprah, the Black Eyed Peas, James Taylor, Rascal Flats Chris Angel and Jennifer Hudson, ALL FOR THE PRICE OF TRAIN FARE!

It's one of my best adventures so far.  

When it ended at sunset, Nate, Oprah's designer friend, was leaving, I ran right up to him saying, "OMG Nate, I love you!".  He looked at me and said "Ok?" (like, why is this lady so excited? I'm not a rock star.) but he shook my hand! So, I even got to shake the hand of a famous person!
We took a water Taxi along the beautiful Chicago River.  There was a cool breeze, perfect after this hot, sweaty, tiring, awesome day.  We got off the water taxi at  Union Station and rode the train home.
My friend said, "God Bev, you were on a roll today, I hope we're not on the news."  As we're on the train discussing it, someone we both knew from her work called her cell phone and said, "Hey, you were on the news just now, you and Bev, clear as day."

That's when Bev's adventure lost some of its luster for her.
Utt Oh,  Lucyyyy, what have you done!!!

I tried to say I was sorry, I told her that damn magnetic personality of mine just couldn't be stopped.   She didn't think that was funny.

At 6am the next morning, WGN radio called me for the debate over yesterdays event.  I was someone that said she had the best time ever.  There was also a lady that said the day was a disaster.  I made my case stronger.  I put a positive spin on everything.  After, he said I was being awarded a $50.00 gift card to a downtown pizza place.  I gave it to my daughter, her and her friends took the train downtown for their own adventure and used it.  So I got to spread happiness again, thanks to Oprah.

I told my friend, "Maybe your boss missed the news last night and my radio interview this morning."

Then I went to the store and got the newspaper,
the Chicago Sun-Times,
the date was even funny,
I opened it and was like, UTT OHH, the gig is up, 
my friend is definitely in trouble now.  

Because there was that picture of me and her
as part of a 2 page spread titled:
 "Oprah's Magnificent Smile" 
with Oprah on one page and on the page next to her,
there was ME, jumping in the air (to make sure I was in the pic), 
so I look a foot taller than everyone else,
and my friend is sitting down, in the Harley hat, waving. 
When she went into work, she was called into her bosses office.  
He had the Chicago Sun-Times on his desk,
opened to this picture, our picture.  


I felt really bad.  Its been almost 2 years now,
hopefully she's forgiven me.

But it was one of my favorite adventures..... so far.
My 15 minutes of fame.  TV, Radio & Newspaper.
All for the price of train fare & water taxi fare.
Once again I had a great time even though I'm poor.
And my theory once again proved true,
that money & material possessions don't always bring happiness.