Melbourne worships at the altar of Oprah

It’s been a non-stop week for Oprah Winfrey and excited media, but it’s already generating press overseas.

The idea of the big O in the big outback is the stuff editors love as a colour story, and Tourism Australia loves even more.

On Friday Winfrey met PM Julia Gillard and they were filmed by Oprah show cameras as they walked along the banks of the Yarra River. Winfrey asked Gillard about being Australia’s first female Prime Minister. They discussed the choices they have made in their careers and their lives and Gillard’s dream for Australia.

It’s always about the dream for Oprah, but she has marketed optimism to perfection.

Winfrey then made her only official public appearance in Australia at a free two-hour public event at Federation Square and appeared on stage with Gillard and newly-installed Victorian Premier Ted (Didn’t I time this win right?) Baillieu in front of an estimated crowd of 10,000 people.

“Hello Melbourne! I’ve never had a welcome like this in my life,” Winfrey said. “In. My. Life!” While she did check notes before mentioning ‘Federation Square’ her enthusiasm seemed genuine and the crow ate it up.

Winfrey said that when deciding where to bring her audience for the final season of her show, she chose Australia – where she had always wanted to visit – because this was the place outside the US that had supported her the most.

She also made a commitment to return to Australia.

The event featured performances by Jessica Mauboy and Human Nature, with some of Oprah’s Ultimate Viewers dancing on stage with Human Nature. Oprah even led the crowd in an impromptu mini-sing-along of “Hey Jude”. The event was hosted by Network TEN’s Carrie Bickmore, sans McCafe coffee.

Winfrey then visited Bebe baby and children’s shop in Toorak to deliver a big surprise. There she met expectant mum Catherine Schrank who had hoped to attend the Oprah show tapings in Sydney, but couldn’t travel because her due date is next Wednesday.

Winfrey gave her a surprise baby shower surrounded by Schrank’s sisters and friends, saying: “You couldn’t travel to us, so I’m coming to you for your own baby shower.”

A surprised Schrank – who described the situation as “surreal” – exclaimed: “But you’re supposed to be at Federation Square!”

Then Winfrey made her way to the home of Megan Castran, her husband, a local real estate boss, and two children, to surprise her and approximately 20 guests during their weekly “Taco Night.” Castran had visited Harpo Studios in Chicago in 2008 for a taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show and at the time extended an invitation to Oprah to come visit Australia, an invite she didn’t forget.

Over tacos and margaritas, Winfrey and Castran talked about family life in Australia. Guests included Stuart Appleby and Ross Wilson, with the latter singing “Eagle Rock.” Singer Paris Zachariou then serenaded Winfrey with his own special rendition of the hit song “Billionaire”. Was that Aussie irony?

Surrounded by a pool and tennis court in Toorak, Winfrey is said to have been stoked for meeting a real Aussie family.

Oprah then did her thang and shocked the party guests by inviting all of them to attend her Tuesday shows at the Sydney Opera House.

It’s believed nobody said ‘No.’

Winfrey has since touched down in Sydney with a function at the Botanic Gardens hosted by Premier Keneally.

photos: harpo productions


  1. David, you’ve got a typo…

    “Hello Melbourne! I’ve never had a welcome like this in my life,” Winfrey said.

    should actually be:

    “Hello Melbuuuuuuurn! I’ve never had a welcome like this in my life,” Winfrey said.

    …wow she has a set of lungs!

  2. I live in a small duplex in a regular suburb. The people who live directly across the road from me have a pool and a tennis court. Their kids go to the local state high school and they’re a great family. It amazes me how so many people bag Oprah, yet find it necessary to read the articles written about her by David and other journalists/commentators. By your own admission, don’t you have “better” things to do/worry about? Australians love to drag a celebrity down and Oprah is one of the tallest poppies in the world. If you don’t care, don’t read the articles or take the time to comment. It’s that simple :-).

  3. And briefly to the nay-sayers who have commented here – our tax dollars are paying for this visit as a tourism promotion, so I’d be getting behind it one hundred per cent. I care.

    As for the ‘adoration’ and similar comments – if it wasn’t Oprah it would be Bono, if not him then Katy Perry; or Trinny and Susanah; or (insert name of touring celebrity here) who did public appearances. Get over yourselves.

  4. Australian tourism went downhill ever since Ruby Wax left for New Zealand, only to rubbish Australia on New Zealand TV. It’s merely a salvage of Australian tourism after so much maltreatment of tourists. The whole thing was probably encouraged & organised by the likes of Nicole Kidman, John Travolta (hired by Qantas) etc. Oprah had no problem visiting letter-writers in upper-class Toorak, but a major Oprah fan anywhere else wouldn’t have ever stood a chance.

  5. The problem with Oprah is, no one ever questions her credibility based on the amount of crap and nonsense she promotes.

    With her power of influence she has a responsibility to not let people promote worthless products, harmful products and agendas.

    Hell she even has just started promoting a faith healer who conducts, “psychic surgery”. Those kind of people are the worst of the worst who praying on the weak and vulnerable.

    Yet Oprah doesn’t care, doesn’t do due diligence and it actually causes harm to society. From those spending money on products and treatments that do nothing. Often ones that do harm. Such as Oprahs endorsement of the anti-vaccination movement which has directly lead to an increase in preventable infant death.

    Yet Oprah just keeps steaming on, with light entertainment and as a vehicle for people to make ridiculous amounts of money promoting any old flim flam or agenda, not a care of if it’s dangerous or not.

    With great power comes great responsibility. Oprah doesn’t treat it at all with responsibility.

    As a result she deserves no respect and it’s a disgrace that just because she’s a popular entertainer that the government bends of backwards for her. She’s just a successful light entertainer and snake oil salesmen.

  6. @Max,

    A “colour story” is a term used in print journalism, for an article which conveys atmosphere and emotion or a ‘slice-of-life’ of an event. It answers the question, what was it like to be there?

    Hope this helps.

  7. David you are hilarious. It was very difficult not to vote ‘Yes I’m about to head to a McCafe to celebrate.’ in your poll.

    My other favourite coverage is Carbone’s reporting in The Age on the Toorak dinner: “…Oprah departed with her Uluru cake, pausing on the tennis court to reflect ‘I got to meet real people in a real family setting…'”

    Ah, us real Aussies and our everyday tennis courts.

  8. Of course all Aussies have tennis courts and pools in our back yards.
    If you are lucky you have a heliport and a kangaroo stable, so you can jump in its pouch and hop to work…

  9. To the people who have worshipped ‘at the altar of Oprah’ during her visit – you are all sheep !

    Jeez, the adoration of this woman is about as mindless as it gets. There are far more important things happening in Australia and the world at the moment.

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