Wednesday, December 12, 2007
So this past weekend I watched the 3 day Oprah/Obama-Bonanza....It was truly stunning and amazing. Crowds of people showed up in three seperate states, braving horrendous weather. What amazed me was how powerful Michelle, Barack and Oprah all were each in their own way, and that they spoke of Matters of the Heart and things that really mattered. I was stunned at how many people showed up, the crowds were so diverse full of so many different ages and backgrounds, and that moved me.....
The other thing that moved me was Oprah, I have linked her amazing speech to the Title, as her speech was one of the best I have ever seen.Watching that speech gave me more than Hope, it gave me Courage. It made me cry....partly because I knew her when she was a Local Baltimore Celebrity on her way to bigger things, and when her life was not so wonderful. I knew her before she had a Real Voice, I knew her before everyone admired her. I knew her when her Life was Shifting. And to this day I wonder if she would remember someone like me.....( this is a longer post, but a inspiring story, so have some tea...and a good read, consider this a gift).
Oprah got much of her start in Baltimore.Many don't realize this, but she really was always meant to do Daytime Talk, it was more than a niche...it was her Fate. In Baltimore she worked on a show with another commentator named Richard Sher, it was an odd collaboration, and did not fully allow her skills to show or shine. I suspect that it was heavily scripted and over produced.
And I know that when Oprah worked on that show, she might not have happy or fulfilled. I think it was difficult for her, and painful at times.
Now How do I know this?
In the early 1980's as I saved for Nursing School I waited alot of tables and lifeguarded. ( I have worked since I was 15 many many jobs, some stranger than other, but waitressing was just one skill). At that time I was working at Cross Keys Inn, and there was a little resturante that served all meals at the Inn, called the Roost. I worked as part of the Service Staff, so I did room service, banquets, and parties, waitressing and bartending. I liked the Roost the best, because it was a nice cozy little cafe with alot of Regulars. The Roost would be the first place that I would silently tend to the queen of Daytime, the Second Location is where I did something for her that would change a part of her life.
At the Roost, I wore my little hideous Bright Overly Cheerful Orange Uniform. I worked hard to like that horrible uniform. ( Any redhead will tell you that Redheads should not ever wear Bright Orange). I worked alot of breakfast and lunches, and alot of weekend eves. I took good care of my regulars, many consistently sat in my section over and over.Oprah and her TV friends and co workers sat in my section over and over. I used to save a booth for Oprah certain days of the week, so that she could get in and out without disrupting her work schedule, she only had to ask one time. I used to do little things for my tables, like pick flowers on the way to work, or leave peppermints in a bowl. I had this theory that if I gave some ominance that my tips would improve and that people would have a nicer meal.
Oprah would come 2-3 days a week for a late lunch, and she would get the same meal everytime. She really did struggle with her weight. I admired how hard she worked on this issue, she would order a Salad Niscoise,light dressing,tuna with rye crisp melba toast, and iced tea with extra lemon wedge and 2 Sweet& Low packets. I would give her extra tuna sometimes, and always fresh cut lemons. She was always impecaably dressed, so I always made sure that there were extra napkins. She was very ladylike, with perfect makeup, and beautiful nails and hands. ( When you are a tomboy like me, these ladylike qualities always impress me).And sometimes on Fridays she would come and get a Chocolate Sunday. And there were times I noticed that even behind the bright smile, there was sadness in her eyes. And I have to say, that of all my Regulars, she was one that inspired me to take good care of her. I am not even sure why, but I felt that not enough people had appreciated or been kind to her.
I worked there at the Roost and The Inn for a couple of years, and then moved on to other jobs that paid better, and my Regulars became a thing of the past, slipping into my grey matter folds.
During Nursing School, I ended up working at a Trendy Fashion Store. I was a starving nursing student, and during those years I also did some modeling. The Trendy store partly hired me because I could model clothes for Special Clients. The Gig was that I would model Potential Clothes and then the managers would order the Clothes directly from Stores and Designers in New York City.The Special Clients included Baltimore Celebrity Women of different jobs and backgrounds. There were atleast three local Baltimore TV anchors and TV personalities.The Management would meet with the Client, and then order preliminary clothes ever season, and when they arrived, the Model would model them for the Client, and the Client would pick what they did and did not like. And then orders were placed. I was encouraged to be postive and encouraging, and for orders placed I did not get a commission, but I did get a discount if I wanted to purchase Irregulars Designer Clothes.
So this would be the Second Location that my path would cross Oprah. She was still in TV, but I did notice that she was not really happy, and to be honest I dreaded her visits, because to be honest these clothes ordering sessions made her miserable. She was polite and very quiet, but her eyes looked sad. Then during one ordering season I came to work and the Manager took me aside and showed me a collection that she had chosen with Oprah and had just arrived that they wanted me to model some of it, and also pieces of it for her to try on.I was told to be very postive , as Oprah was a facing a life changing job Interview in Chicago. That these clothes were part of her potential Daytime Hostess Audition. I was very moved by that and slightly worried.
In the early 1980's there was not much for women, especially during the daytime. There was an abundance of cooking shows, and Phil Donahue, but really not any Women Shows, and NO women of Color on during the day. I will be honest I was rooting for Oprah as soon as I heard that this Challenge was on her Path. And yes, in my gut I did , a skinny little shop girl KNOW how important that was. So I stood in the back and put the clothes together, adding accessories ( scarves and jewelery). And I was more than worried, the Colors were Horrendous. I tried to talk to the Manager, but she was all swept up in the Moment and convinced that the Collection was "dramatic" and "exciting". I tried tactfully to explain to her, my Boss, that the Colors were Terrible, that it needed to be changed,evaluated and re-examined. I was told to be quiet, and not "Cause Trouble" .
So Oprah arrived, nervous, and tense. So I modeled some and she modeled some. And there was much hemming and hauling about WHAT to order, what to wear. And What Accesories would look best or "highlight" each outfit. Inside I was so devastated, and sickened. Finally at the end of this grueling afternoon, I could hold it no longer, I had to say Something. So I explained as best as I could that the Electric Melon Colors in Silk were NOT flattering to her, they were dramatic, but not in a good way, I explained that it made her look well, "Clownlike, You want to be remembered, but not like this." She stared at me stunned. Probally wondering why this skinny little thing was being Soooo critical. And then she burst out laughing, and she has has great laugh. " Oh My, you're that skinny little tuna girl from that resturante aren't you??" I could have died of embarrassment, but I nodded shyly and said yes. And then I explained, " I really want you to get this job, you deserve it, they need to see how elegant you are, how strong. I don't want anyone to laugh at you. I am sorry, I am trying to help". I had brought some soft elegant scarves to the Dressing Room, for her to see the soft chenilles of pale champagne,soft elegant mauve, and soft sunset blue. She nodded quietly, said she would think on it.
I obviously caught holy hell from my Boss for being "impertinent", and within weeks I quit the Trendy Dress Shop as my school load increased and when my great Aunt Elizabeth became sick and died.....And I did not give a second thought to Oprah, but over the years I have wondered did she hear what I said to her, did it help her Big Moment. I like to think that it did.
The Rest they say is History, Oprah went on to become so famous and so loved, as was always her due. I always knew that she was meant to shine....she made a deep impression on me as a young woman in my early 20's....She was more than Memorable, she was inspiring. And I am proud to say that I crossed her path......
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