TV’s Queen of Talk, says Margo Howard, has finally managed to terrify her media peers
Alas, NBC seems to be suffering from a congenital defect. No balls. I cannot figure out if celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley is snakebit, or Oprah has somehow managed to terrify her media peers, if not her betters. Apparently, once again, Big O strong-armed … I mean, “requested” that the media bow to her wishes. No one would reveal her “secret” – even when they had it in advance of her show. Interestingly, once the revelation was known, people didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass – making it only a matter of import to Oprah, and perhaps the Nielsen people. There were jokes all over Twitter, and the late night comics went to town. Conan, for one, deadpanned that “Everyone in the audience gets their own half sister … under their seat.”
When last we visited the Oprah & Kitty Show, Kelley’s major biography of the big star was essentially blackballed by most major media because, as they all told Kelley’s publisher: “We don’t want to offend Oprah.” At that time, only NBC, of the majors, had Kelley on the “Today” show to discuss the book. (Kelley’s history with NBC is long and deep. She did three days on “Today” for her Bush, Reagan, and Oprah books, and four on her Sinatra book.) Fast forward to Oprah’s “big surprise,” which had been reefered, as we say in the biz, for days: OPRAH WILL ANNOUNCE A SECRET.
Well, given that Kelley had talked to many people inside the Winfrey family for her book (some later denying, from fear, that they had, in fact, talked to her) one of them told her what the “secret” was. No media outlet was interested in scooping O’s “secret,” so that being the case, I tweeted it, with Kelley’s permission, a day or two before her show. And you know what? No one cared. There was a big ho-hum in Tweetland. Anyway, Kelley’s publisher knew she had advance word, so they contacted the “Today” show to arrange an appearance to announce the secret on Monday morning’s show – broadcast earlier, of course, than Oprah’s afternoon show. NBC accepted. All the arrangements were made. They did a phone pre-interview with her, and arranged for a crew to set up at 3:00 a.m. (!) Monday morning from California, so she could be live on the show. (As someone who has done the morning shows — and who is a late sleeper – I can vouch for the fact that it’s a big pain in the fanny. This Friday, as it happens, I will be on “Good Morning America,” but compared to 3 in the morning, my timetable seems positively luxurious.)
OK, so Kelley agrees to the middle of the night deal, and on Saturday a “Today” show crew comes to her house to pre-tape “an introductory package.” Then they return to set up for the live interview at dawn. Minutes before they’re ready to roll, word comes from New York that it’s no go. (Kelley is so pissed off about being called a liar that she asked that I mention that the cameraman was Tom Tanquary and the sound man was Bill Schenker.)
Nobody’s really talking, but it’s clear Oprah got word of the doings and leaned on someone who caved. Making NBC look even more yellow-bellied, Lawrence O’Donnell also cancelled Kelley after booking her for “the secret,” saying they couldn’t get a crew to her in time … forgetting, I guess, that an NBC crew was already in place. One starts to wish there were a Wikileaks monitoring our networks … or maybe an underground resistance movement to try to fend off Oprah. And now I’m wondering if all this meant so much to Oprah because Kelley’s book about her is coming out in paperback any minute – and it has additions.