Madonna, Aretha & More Discuss Oprah’s Lasting Impact At ‘Farewell Spectacular’ Taping
First Published: May 18, 2011 4:13 PM EDT Credit: WireImage
CHICAGO, Ill. -- On Thursday night, some of Hollywood’s elite gathered in Chicago to pay tribute to daytime’s exiting talk show queen – Oprah Winfrey — all of them remarking on her lasting impact.
“She has set a tremendous example for women, professional women and certainly, [she’s] a leader, a humanitarian,” Aretha Franklin, one of the superstars who performed at “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular,” told Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson on Tuesday night. “More than anything else, I think she’s taught people how to give and how to be giving and that it really is better to give and be in the position of giving than the receiver.”
Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, Jamie Foxx, Usher, Patti LaBelle, Jerry Seinfeld, Josh Groban, Rosie O’Donnell, Maria Shriver, Halle Berry, Diane Sawyer, best friend Gayle King, Oprah’s boyfriend Stedman Graham, Stevie Wonder and even some of Oprah’s own success stories – Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and designer Nate Berkus, were also on hand.
The star power just added to the already-momentous occasion held inside Chicago’s United Center, and backstage, another surprise guest, Simon Cowell, explained that everyone left their attitudes at the door.
“What was amazing was, being at the backstage area… you’ve got all these big stars; everyone’s happy to hang around; no one’s complaining; no one’s jostling for a better position; no one’s asking for bigger changing rooms or whatever,” Simon explained. “They’ve all given up some time for her because they want to show her how much they’ve appreciated what she’s done for them, for TV, for this country. Special, special lady, this girl.”
Another superstar to make the trip to the venue was Madonna and she confirmed it was just one phone call that got her to head to the Midwest for the event.
“It’s nothing; it’s an hour-and-a-half flight and it’s to pay tribute to a woman who I truly do admire and look up to,” Madonna said.
“Just her unflagging spirit, her strength, the fact that she’s earned everything that she has, her compassion,” Madonna said when asked what she admires about Oprah. “She has a lot of tenacity, she’s courageous; she makes people think; she’s provocative, but in a nice way.”
Nate said the evening was a real moment in time and had an overwhelmingly positive collect spirit.
“Everybody’s heart is beating at the same drum,” he said. “You see Halle Berry walk in and Diane Sawyer and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith… [It] doesn’t matter who it is. Everybody knows exactly why they’re here. [It’s like] everybody is poised with a pen, waiting to write a love letter, and that’s what it feels like.”
One of the biggest moments of the night was a performance by Kristin Chenoweth, who hit the stage to sing the “Wicked” number, “For Good,” with the men of Morehouse College. The performance brought Oprah to tears, something Kristin was proud of.
“She cried the ugly cry,” Kristin said, referring to Oprah’s own words – “ugly cry” — about how she felt when she burst into real tears. “I’m glad we got her, but amazingly enough her makeup does not move.”
Alicia Keys’ time on stage was also poignant as she backed up a special poem from Oprah’s favorite, Dr. Maya Angelou, and the Grammy winner said she’ll remember it forever.
”[This was] so historic for me,” Alicia told Shaun. “This was like one of the all-time moments of my life and I just felt so honored to be there… I just enjoyed the entire thing.”
Copyright 2013 by NBC Universal, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.