On March 19, 2005 I was wrapping up a three hour book signing at Barnes and Noble in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Managers of book stores looked forward to my appearances because I was gregarious, sweet and was a marvel at hand selling to walk-in customers. I had my own little speech for my customers including a gigantic smile, and they loved me. On this particular night, as I packed my things to leave the signing, a woman walked up to me. She was Caucasian, short with gray hair. "Hello. I really liked your first book. I'm getting the sequel today," she said.
I immediately autographed her book. "Thank you so much," I said with a gleaming smile.
"You're welcome. Listen, I only have one complaint about you." Her face tightened.
I was startled, taken aback and I stood there frozen. I couldn't imagine what kind of complaint she would have because I always put so much into my signings and was used to my public loving me. I was always friendly and made a fuss over everyone. I chit chatted with my customers and fans and I hugged them. They knew I was grateful and gracious. I could captivate a crowd. I also always took the time to answer their questions about publishing and encouraged them to write. I loved playing with their children and letting them know they had special talents.
Unable to figure it out, I finally spoke "I'm sorry," I said to the woman. Have I done something to offend you?"
"No, you haven't offended me. Well, the thing is-I'm not satisfied with you because I don't feel you try hard enough," she said.
At this point I was completely baffled and asked, "Try hard enough at what?"
"You don't try with Oprah. You need to try harder to get to her. She would love you. You are so sweet like she is. Why can't you try to get on her show? Why can't you send her your books?"
I thought this woman was sweet. "Ma'am, I did send Oprah my books. My publisher also sent them to her. She never responded. I imagine she is really busy and simply hasn't had time to read my novels. She gets a lot of books, you know. I don't want to worry her to death."
As her face tightened for the second time, I knew she was not happy with my answer. "You see, that's what I'm talking about! You just won't keep trying."
"Well, I don't want to be a nuisance. You know what I mean?"
"No, I don't know what you mean. I want you to try harder. I want you to promise me
that you will write Oprah a letter or send her an E-mail. That's it-a letter or an E-mail. Just E-mail her and tell her who you are and get on that show. Can you do that?"
I looked at her and shook my head and gave in.
"Well, I guess I can. I'll do it." I answered thinking she could be a little loony or crazy.
"So, you are promising me you'll send her an E-mail. Right?" "Yes, Ma'am-I'll send it."
"Okay. Try harder. See you. I loved your first book. Can't wait to start this one."
The little old lady who appeared to be in her mid eighties walked out of Barnes and Noble. I was dead tired from all the talking and running around that day and had a book club discussion that started in half an hour.
On Monday night, March 21, 2005, I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep. As I lay there I remembered the little old lady and my promise. I've always been one to get a guilty conscience if I don't keep my word. I always try to keep my word. I was so tired, but got up and went to my computer. I booted it up and found Oprah's website. I am not totally computer savvy and sometimes have a hard time. I couldn't find a way to simply send a message to Oprah. The more I tried, the more lost I became. As I scrolled down I saw the words "Be on the Show." There were topics listed that you could click onto. I saw five topics that I qualified for. One that particularly interested me was called "Have you Spoiled Your Daughter?" I knew I had definitely done that. God knows Alia had taken me for a financial ride-limos and all.
I clicked on and typed my story. I wrote about how I delivered hot lunches to her at school from kindergarten through fourth grade each school day. I let them know about her receiving a baby grand piano for her 11th birthday. And, of course, the limousines I hired to cart her and her friends around on her birthdays. I told of all the clothes purchased from Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdales all her life. I couldn't leave out the expensive vacations including cruises. She'd been in private school all of her life and just loved going to Manhattan to see all those Broadway shows. She was the restaurant and hotel queen and to boot-Miss Alia went on a shopping spree with $29,000.00. Yep-she was definitely spoiled. I then answered a few more topics, did an E-mail telling Oprah about my books and called it a night. I hit the sack.
On Tuesday morning, March 22, 2005, I decided I could not make a scheduled doctor's appointment. I was too tired. I wanted to spend the day relaxing. I usually showed up for my therapist, Dr. Anne Highland-but this particular day I called to tell her I couldn't make it. I was supposed to be there at 11:00 a.m. but instead I got back into bed and turned on the television. Around eleven twenty my phone rang. The person on the phone asked for me. "I'm a producer from the Oprah Show,"
"This is Adrienne," I calmly answered.
"I'm calling regarding the E-mail you sent to the Oprah Show."
I never flinched or showed any emotion. I was completely calm. The only thing running
though my mind was my psychic. Yep. My psychic. I love that stuff and had my cards read about a year and a half prior to this phone call. The Psychic-Mr. Dee had said in the reading that I would get a call-not directly from Oprah-but from her "people." He said it would be regarding an interview. That was all that was registering in my brain-that Mr. Dee had been right again about something else. I'd been going to him off and on since 1991 and many things he predicted have come true. He'd even forecasted the success of my novels. He also told me some details of the affairs that my no good cheating husband had during our marriage. I regained control of my thoughts and answered Oprah's producer's question. "I actually sent five E-mails. Which one are you referring to?" I asked.
"Well, do you have a spoiled daughter?"
"Yes, I do-Alia."
"Well, I'd like to talk to you about her?"
Miranda Creighton and I talked nearly an hour. She grilled me. She had many questions and also asked me if I had pictures of Alia in limos and did I really have a baby grand piano. She wanted to know what I did for a living, if I received child support from my husband and wanted more details about things I did for Alia. I told her how every Christmas I had a budget for Alia-that I'd spend about $1500.00 on her gifts. I explained how one Christmas Alia gave me a list in November of all the things she wanted. I purchased all the stuff. She was about 8 years old at that time. I hid all the stuff and the second week in December Alia presented me with another list. She had changed her mind. I kept all the previous gifts and then went shopping again spending about $1200.00. I explained to her that when Alia began losing her baby teeth, she would put the teeth under her pillow. I would put $10.00 under the pillow for each tooth. I would also alert all my friends and family she lost a tooth. I would have them mail five dollars for each tooth missing from "Tooth Fairy Land." I told her how Alia got a lot of mail for the teeth. I told Miranda about all the giant sleepovers Alia had for her birthdays and the Miss America Pageants we had at the house.
Miranda questioned me about Alia's clothing. I answered all her questions and then she wanted to know where Alia was. I explained that Alia was a student at Temple University in Philadelphia on honors and was at school. I let her know that Alia also worked for the President of Temple University part time as she was a full time student. She then wanted to know where Alia got $29,000 to go shopping. I explained it had been an insurance settlement she received from an automobile accident which occurred in January of 2001. I told her Alia was eighteen and away at college at the University of Maryland when that case settled. Even though I begged our attorney not to send the money directly to her, the law was that it was her money and she was an adult. He had to send it to her. I also explained that I'd done everything I could to persuade Alia to let me put the money away for her, but she refused. I told her Alia spent the entire sum of money between October of 2002 and July of 2003. The producer then wanted to talk to Alia. I gave her the main number to the college as well as Alia's cell phone number. She said she would call me back.
I hung up the phone, turned over, got comfortable and watched TV. I then called a couple of friends to let them know what had happened. I started to think about that little old lady in Barnes and Noble who approached me three days prior to Miranda's telephone call. Many things were going through my mind about the events that transpired between Saturday and Tuesday. I thought about all the sessions I'd had with my Psychic, Mr. Dee over the last few years and how in his office after many meetings he talked to me about Oprah, telling me I'd indeed come in contact with her. My thoughts were interrupted when I received another call from Miranda Creighton, Oprah's producer. She said she could not locate Alia and needed to talk to her. Miranda said Alia's cell phone was turned off. She gave me a number to give Alia to call her. I called straight through to the President's office and got Alia. I explained what was going on and told her to call Miranda. In about thirty five minutes I received another call from Miranda. She went over a few more things with me regarding how I had raised Alia and then said "I've talked to Alia. She'll be home early today at 5:00 p.m. We want to set you guys up for an interview."
"Okay-that's fine. We'll talk when she comes home."
Another call came in twenty minutes from Miranda. "Listen, we're preparing for the interview."
"Okay," I said
"Well, we'll need a few things from you for the interview. We need pictures of all the stuff you bought Alia-you know, get those things out. Also, we need pictures of the limousines. Do you have them? If you have videos of the Christmases, we need that stuff, too."I told her I had many pictures and I offered to send them in.
"Well, you don't have to send them. You see, we're sending a television film crew to your house. You can give the things to them."
"Okay, what day will they come?" I asked.
"Well, they will be there about four o'clock today. They are coming to your house
today. They will be there a long time filming you and Alia and her things."
I was stunned. "What?" I screeched. "Today? You mean this interview is not on the phone?" I was dumb struck.
She tried to calm me down. "Listen, you can do this. Just start getting it together. I'll call you back later. The crew will call you. Everything will be fine."
"Oh my God! I look like hell. I don't have any clothes on. I have to wash my hair! I have to find all the stuff! Jesus Christ! Oh shit!" I was screaming and jumping out of the bed.
"Okay, Adrienne. You calm down and get things together. The people coming will have a lot of equipment, too. I'll talk to you soon." She hung up.
I stared around the room. I didn't know what to do first. I'm not normally a neat person, but over the last three weeks I had cleaned and organized my house really well because I was having a party to launch my new novel Connecting on April 3rd, 2005. Today was March 22nd. I had put so many things away in the garage and basement because I expected company from out of town for this event. I had cleaned my screened-in porch and washed all the covers for the furniture. The covers were laid out in the living room waiting to be put back on the furniture. I didn't know where a damn thing was as far as all those pictures! Where in the world had I put all those old pictures? What the hell was I going to put on to look pretty? Lord have Mercy!
I walked into my own bedroom. For the last three weeks I'd been lying around in another bedroom so I wouldn't wreck my cleaned up room before the party on April 3rd. I started looking for a nice outfit to wear for the videotaping. My hair was all over my head. I had panties and a tee shirt on. It was 3:15 p.m. Shit.
I ran into the bathroom and plugged the curling irons on to heat up. Then I began making the bed I had been in all morning. I ran to the basement looking for pictures and old videos I had taken of Alia opening her Christmas presents. I started tearing the house up. I ran to the closets hunting for all those expensive dresses that I had bought for Alia. I couldn't find the pictures albums. Shit! I started cursing Oprah and Miranda out as I ran around. I was hysterical!
I went into the living room and grabbed all those sofa and chair covers that belonged on the porch and took them to the basement. I looked in my closet and found some picture albums-none had the limos in them. I was still running around in panties and tee shirt. The doorbell rang. I ran to the door and peeped out. It was a White guy. I knew it had to be the TV man. I yelled through the door asking who he was and that was him alright. I ran up my stairs and grabbed a robe. I was tying the belt as I came down. I completed the tie and let him in. I know I looked like a maniac and I was in a frenzy.
I let him in, he introduced himself and I immediately began apologizing for looking so scary and I was trying to hold the bottom of the robe shut. I was pissing and moaning about not being able to locate all the pictures. I began showing him what I had dug out to see if they would do. He then said "There are two more people coming. We have equipment to install and work to do. You just calm down and get your stuff
I went back to my huge basement and began ripping open boxes searching for pictures and videos. Then I ran to the garage and found some photo albums. I threw them in the living room and headed up the stairs. The two other guys arrived and the crew began setting up poles for lighting, undoing smoke alarms and my burglar alarm system to insure that no beeping from those devices could interfere with the taping of the interview. The phone rang and it was Miranda. "What now?" I thought."
"I'm E-mailing something for the crew. When it comes up, do not read it. Don't even look at it. Just print it out and hand it to them."
"Okay," I said and we hung up. I wanted that call to end quickly because I thought she may ask me to hunt down some more stuff and I didn't want that job.
I jumped into the shower. After I got out I went for the curling irons which were heating up in the other bathroom. I started trying to curl my hair and they broke. They just broke! I moaned in the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and tried to fix them. I was unsuccessful because the piece couldn't be put back on. I looked around for the Crazy Glue and couldn't find that. I was naked. I couldn't go down the steps because the guys were down there.
I started crying and running around looking for a wig. I tore the closet up in my bedroom looking for it. Luckily I found it. I put it on and it didn't look right. Perhaps it was because I had no make-up on-I didn't know. I looked atrocious! I snatched the wig off my head and headed for my other clothes closet for something to wear. Thank God I had gotten all my suits cleaned because of my book signings and the upcoming party. I grabbed a black and red pantsuit that I always received compliments on whenever I wore it. I found some pantyhose and was trying to work my now fat size sixteen butt into them. Now I had to find my black suede pumps. Unfortunately my shoe tree carousels had had collapsed a week ago and I hadn't had time to order new ones. Therefore, I had thrown all of my shoes into two trash bags and placed the bags in the corner of my bedroom. I was now frantically rooting through sixty four shoes trying to come up those pumps. I finally found them. Then I started on my makeup.
Just as I began that, I heard Alia come in the door. I raced down the stairs to greet her. She looked like the average college student, exactly like a refugee-beat up jeans and a sweater. Her hair was all over her head. I growled at her "Get upstairs in your room. You'd better be looking like a million dollars in twenty minutes! I can't find the pictures of you in the limo when you were eight years old!"
"I know where they are. I have them on the third floor."
"Well, we need them. My curlers are broken, too. I need help." I then pointed at the crew. "These guys are interviewing us. These are TV people-from Oprah! This place is a wreck because I tore it up! Get up the steps and please-get the curling irons fixed. I'm gonna kill Oprah and Miranda. You know I love Oprah but I'm gonna kill her!
Alia, usually rebellious to taking orders from anyone, knew I was not up for any lip or any mess. "Okay Mom, I'm outta here. Where are the curlers?"
I was relieved she was being cooperative and blurted out "Second floor Frog bathroom. Grab 'em. I have to get my make up on. I'll be in the blue bathroom." Alia and I live in a house with five bathrooms, one of which is decorated with all kinds of frogs-versions of stuffed animals and glass knick knacks.
She repaired the curlers and as soon as I got my make-up and hair done, the crew wanted me. I grabbed the document Miranda sent through the computer and headed down the stairs. The crew and I went outside to film and talk. I showed them Alia's beat up Mitsubishi Mirage. She had purchased that bomb which had only one headlight for $1900 with her insurance money. Then the crew wanted me back in the house after they filmed that. Lights were erected inside my home and they interviewed me privately while we waited for Alia to get ready.
They asked me a zillion questions about my life, Alia and the purchases I had made, spoiling her to death. We talked about her adventures in life, our fights over the way she handled that insurance money and basically how I raised and cared for her. I admitted the mistakes I felt I made in rearing Alia which were the fact that I probably gave her too many things, didn't require her to have chores inside the house. I'd basically spoiled the child rotten. I admitted if I had slowed up on the giving, she would have appreciated the things I had done. We discussed my work and her disease. She was on the third floor getting ready and could not hear our discussion. They had told her to stay upstairs until my interview was over. Then it would be her turn.
Alia finally got down the stairs. She looked pretty. They wanted us to go outside and walk on the grounds of our house. They filmed this and then we returned to the house. I was told to go upstairs and stay in my bedroom until Alia's interview was over. While I was waiting, Miranda called back. "Adrienne, how is it going?" she asked
"Well, I gave your E-mail to the crew and I did not look at it. They are downstairs with Alia and I was told to stay in the bedroom. I guess it is going okay. I found the pictures."
I figured the film crew would turn the tape in to Miranda and it would be viewed along with hundreds of tapes they were probably going to get from across the country. Then I assumed there would be a process of elimination and we'd know in a few weeks if they were using our tape. My thoughts were interrupted. "You sound calmer. This will be okay. You're doing great," Miranda said.
"Well, I hope it comes out okay. I'll tell them you called."
"Well, Adrienne, listen, I have something else to tell you. You have to do something else."
I froze. I wondered what the hell else I had to do. I wondered if I was about to go crazy looking for other things. I was scared of what was going to come out of her mouth. I sat silent-waiting.
"Adrienne, you need to pack a bag. We are flying you and Alia out here to Chicago tomorrow."
I was stunned! My mouth flew open and I began rambling on. "What! What! You are kidding. You mean pack bags? Alia can't get packed. She's doing the interview! What the hell will she wear? I may need to go shopping. I can't get to the mall! Oh my God! This is getting real crazy. Come out there for what? The guys-don't they bring you the video and pictures? The house is torn up?"
"You and Alia will be on the Oprah Show and the taping is early Thursday morning. Someone from our staff will call you to go over flight times with you. Make sure you pack before you go to bed. Stay calm, you can do it." We hung up.
I screamed. I was grateful, happy, scared to death, and blown away-all at the same time. I lay down on the bed. I wanted to cry again.
I was trying to think straight. Things were moving entirely too fast for me. I grabbed my schedule book. I had an important book signing in Washington, D.C. for Thursday. It has to be cancelled. I immediately called my publisher. I told them what was going on and told them to cancel B. Dalton Book Store at Union Square and tell them I had a good excuse for not coming-Oprah. Believe me, my publisher was happy to make that call. They were thrilled about this news of Oprah. I cancelled my meeting for the next day with the caterer for the launch party. I called my buddy Nigel to be on standby to take me to the airport the next day. I took a few minutes to think about Mr. Dee and ran to grab all my past readings to go over them. There it was in black and white. I take notes at every reading. I was floored and I thought again about the little old lady in Barnes and Noble-the Angel.
In an hour the TV crew had finished their private interview with Alia and I was allowed to come down. Alia's clothes and fur jackets were all over the living room. There were shoes and dresses everywhere. The crew then announced we were "breaking for dinner." It was about seven o'clock in the evening. We had been going for three hours.
A gentleman from the crew went to Wawa's for sandwiches and retuned with dinner for all. As the five of us enjoyed the meal in my breakfast room, we swapped stories and talked about their relationships with their own children as well as the wild things I had done when Alia was sixteen and wanted to date. We discussed my struggle to raise a sick kid with an incurable disease. We laughed about a lot of things regarding parenting. We talked about how I always fought with and for my child. We chatted about my work and the fights Alia and I have had. I showed the crew a journal entry I had from 1996 when I took my then eleven year old Alia to Manhattan to see some Broadway shows. While on that trip I took her to have pancakes at the Four Seasons Hotel and we also had dinner there to sampling the crab cakes that Oprah suggested on TV so long ago. I later found out eight years later in 2004 that one of Oprah's favorite restaurants in New York City is Serendipity's. Alia and I discovered that place in 1998 and love it there.
After dinner was over, we resumed taping and acting out things that Alia and I had fought about in the past. She then played the piano for the crew. Alia plays classical piano, taught by a Russian instructor that I hired to come to our home when she was thirteen.
My phone rang again and it was someone from Oprah's staff. This young lady was in charge of booking flight and hotel reservations. Alia and I were booked to leave on American Airlines the next day around noon and we were staying at a familiar place that I loved-The Omni Hotel. Mommy had been to Chicago many times, but this would be Alia's first trip to the windy city. We were thrilled!
I returned to my basement I spotted my luggage in a corner. I grabbed two suitcases and dumped my summer clothes out of them. Then I began hunting around scanning clothing racks for an outfit Alia could wear on TV. I considered things, wondering what would be appropriate for her. I'd received no instructions on attire. Alia and I had both been on television before but those broadcasts were not nationwide TV. Those shows were a far cry from the Oprah Show. I'd heard rumors many times that Oprah was a perfectionist and also, I didn't want her to be embarrassed by us in any way. I wanted her to be proud of us-the suburban BAPS. I'd appeared on a local talk show in Philadelphia for my books in December of 2004 and Alia, because of the severity of her Crohn's Disease had been selected to do medical documentaries twice since her diagnosis. So, we were not strangers to the camera and media. We'd also made the newspapers on several occasions due to my books and Alia's disease. We'd both had some exposure to the spotlights so I knew we'd have no problems along those lines.
At the time this was all going on, I was very focused on my books. I knew that my being on the Oprah Show could be an opportunity for the world to know about my work. I was extremely excited about that. I imagined Oprah mentioning my work and I was so grateful for that. Friends of ours were going crazy as I had taken an opportunity to call a few people to let them know the good news about us going on the show.
We did a little more taping and shortly after 11:00 p.m., the crew packed up and left our house.
I had decided on wearing my navy blue Jones New York pant suit, navy suede shoes. I knew my hair would be fine as long as those curling irons kept working. I had no time to purchase new ones. I'd just had my hair cut and frosted by my magician, Frank, owner of Panache Hair Design in Philadelphia, three days before the Oprah Show made their first call to me. My hair was in great shape. By 3 a.m. we were packed and I hit the sack. The plan was that Alia would go to school for a couple of hours and then meet me at the airport. Before I went to bed, she and I had fought about what she would wear on the show. I suggested a nice pantsuit or some sort of suit. She had great clothes. She fought me on that saying she was wearing jeans. I had a fit! She would not give in. I packed her a suit anyway. I said to her "Don't you piss Oprah off. She may not want you in jeans. I have packed you a nice suit-the one from Cache. What you will do is appear at her studio in jeans. If she gives you a look or tells you she didn't want you in jeans-the suit will be with me and you'll change your clothes. That's the deal."
"Okay Mom-just leave me alone. I'm tired."
The next day was Wednesday, April 23, 2005. I had a lot to do. I put the final touches on the packing, ran some errands, picked up two hundred dollars from the bank and returned home to get dressed to leave. I was worried about what we would eat on the plane. Since Alia had been born and whenever my family traveled, I packed our food. I had no time for this today.
Nigel, a good friend of mine took me to Philly International to catch my flight. As we were leaving my house, I glanced around taking one last look at the living room, dining room and hall. Shit was everywhere. I wondered how I would put the place back together in time for the launch party which was less than two weeks away.
Everything regarding our trip to Chicago had been taken care of by the Oprah Show. My ticket was waiting. The plan was that we would be in Chicago Wednesday and Thursday, then fly back to Philly Thursday afternoon after the taping. A limo would greet us at the airport taking us to the Omni. When Nigel dropped me off, I got in line to check in for my flight. Everything was in order. I received my ticket and boarding pass. I walked to the gate and sat waiting for Alia who shortly showed up. It sure felt good bragging in the airport restaurant about where we were going and my cell phone was going off like crazy with friends being so proud of us.
We had a wonderful flight until we started arguing about something. Alia always manages to tick me off about something when we are traveling. By the time we landed in Chicago we weren't speaking. I was threatening to get on a plane and go directly back home. We made up in the limo and finally got checked in to the Omni-as proud as we could be being Oprah's guests.
I had packed my tarot card reading to show her-proving this trip was definitely in the works long ago. I also took her autographed copies of my books and another favorite book of mine-"The Million Dollar Divorce" by R.M. Johnson-a Chicago native. That book was hot and a page turner. It was given to me as a Christmas Gift in December of 2004. I was not only impressed with it, but it had held me hostage the entire Christmas day.
When we arrived in our suite, and unpacked, we noticed some meal vouchers on a table. Oprah was certainly making sure we ate well at the Omni. We decided to go out for dinner and found a place nearby. It didn't matter-we didn't mind paying for dinner. We'd use the vouchers at the hotel before we went home.
Later that evening Alia decided she was ordering from room service at the hotel. She grabbed the meal vouchers and began looking through the menu. She made a selection, called room service, placed the order and informed the clerk that she had meal vouchers compliments of the Oprah Show. Once they told her the total of the bill, Alia began going through the vouchers in preparation for payment. What she ordered came to $17 or so and, she'd of course add on the tip. Alia is really into tipping and gives at least a minimal straight 20%. She and the clerk got into a discussion because she had pulled out a $25 voucher. During this conversation she was informed that no matter what the bill was, there would be no change and no credit voucher issued. So, if her meal cost $9 and the smallest voucher Alia had was for $25-no change. Alia's question was "Do you credit Oprah back for what's left over?" The answer was "no." Alia hung up, declining to order.
As I listened to that conversation, I was surprised because in twenty years of Alia's life she had never watched money and certainly never tried to save me a dime. She'd been in some of the finest hotels and restaurants in and out of the United States. This was truly a Black American Princess. She was used to things. We'd even nicknamed Alia"The BAP"
After Alia hung up-she wanted to talk to me about the situation. "Mom, this is not fair. Look at all these vouchers," she said holding them up. There were vouchers for $50 and $75-a bunch of vouchers. "Mom, I don't like the fact that they are keeping Oprah's money. That's what they're doing-they are keeping her money if I order and tip for less than the voucher amount."
I knew trouble was brewing. One reason everyone in our family insisted Alia become an attorney is because she can usually out talk people. Opponents get tired and give up-just to shut her up. I know I've done it countless times. I'd surrender to her point of view for mere peace and quiet. "Alia, maybe something has been worked out with Oprah and the hotel that you don't know about. Can't you simply order what you want and pay the people or go out again and eat? I'm tired. I feel like I've been up for two days. Come on, don't start with those vouchers."
"It's not fair, and I'm hungry," Alia protested.
I was so tired I turned over and pretended I was falling asleep. That didn't work and she wouldn't shut up so I hit the shower. Fifteen minutes later, here comes a bunch of food. I cannot remember what she ordered but there was a lot of it. The girl made sure she spent $25 and she also tried to eat every morsel of it. She was making damn sure the Omni didn't take a dime of Oprah's money. Alia conked out from eating. Now keep in mind she has Crohn's Disease. The digestive track gets screwed up. These patients get diarrhea and their condition flares if they break the rules. Eating small meals is better for them.
I went to sleep and woke up about two thirty in the morning. I started walking around the room with a lot on my mind. I was restless. I kept thinking about the events of the past two days. There were things on my mind. I wanted to chat with Oprah about my loving to write. I grabbed a pen and some hotel stationary. I threw on some jeans and a top and headed to the hotel bar, which I knew would be closed. Housekeeping was cleaning the beautiful room. "Hi, I couldn't sleep and I have a letter to write. Do you mind if I sit here at the bar and write it? I won't be any trouble and I don't want anything to drink."
March 24, 2005
It is now 3:37 a.m. and I am sitting in the Omni Hotel bar. I just woke up, the bar is closed to patrons but that's okay-I don't need a drink. I need quiet to write this letter. First of all-thank you to you and your staff for choosing Alia and I to come on your show. We deserve it-I have truly spoiled my daughter. I am a writer and convinced I could write a hilarious novel telling of the events that landed me on your show. For three years, people have been not only suggested I try in same way to meet you-but many were about to write to you themselves or start a petition to get me on your show.
It's now 4:48 a.m., Thursday morning, March 24, 2005-almost time to get ready to meet you. You've turned my world upside down in two days and I still have to put that house of mine back together since your crew did the home taping. But-I am gratefulfor wonderful memories.
* * *
At approximately five o'clock in the morning I returned to my room. I found my daughter on the toilet crapping her brains out. Yep-all that food she ordered and ate had indeed caught up with her. She was scared to death she'd crap all over Oprah's studio.
I smiled at her and said, "Well, it's a good thing I brought a change of clothing for you, you know-with your having diarrhea and all." I shook my head and laughed as I walked out of the bathroom.
"Where've you been?" she asked.
"Down at the bar writing a letter to Oprah telling her how crazy she's made me. I'm plugging the curlers in and when you're done I'll get my shower. We have to be down in the lobby for the limo at 6:45. I assume you aren't ordering breakfast." I sarcastically said. She never answered.
WHAT A DIFFRENCE A DAY MAKES
We boarded the hotel elevator at 6:40 a.m. We rode down with two women from an automobile company who were very excited about going to the show. They were thrilled to have received tickets to be part of the studio audience. We proudly let them know that we were guests on the show. When we reached the lobby concierge, we were advised we were on the list for a limo and it should arrive soon. The clerk also informed us that we would be sharing the limo with another family being featured on the show. I wondered what they had done to impress Oprah to make the show. The clerk and I got into a conversation and I mentioned I was from Philadelphia. His eyes lit up and he boasted a gleaming smile. "This is something," he said. I have relatives in Philly, lived there for a spell and I also met and helped another guest of the Oprah Show a while back. She was from Philly, too. She made the best macaroni and cheese in the nation-so Oprah thought."
"Oh, you mean Delilah. She's my friend. We go way back. She has a few restaurants in Philly and my daughter started eating her food when she was three years old. Alia is 20 now. I love Delilah. I'll have to tell her I met you." We then exchanged business cards.
In ten minutes a pretty and well dressed African American woman arrived. We chatted a bit and she explained her daughter was still getting ready for the show and would be down shortly. While waiting, we laughed about the hustle and bustle of the prior day. Her attractive seventeen year-old daughter then appeared and we were whisked into the limo. During the drive, we continued to share stories about our daughters and our lives. This family was from Ohio. The girls began telling each other the events of their lives and schooling and laughing about their neurotic mothers. Her mother and I began explaining our occupations. She worked at a television station. I was impressed. I did notice one thing that made me a little uneasy-her daughter was chewing gum. I have this thing in my life-no chewing gum. I just hate it and since Alia was born she was never allowed to do that. Of course with my good manners I never said a word in that limo but I was praying to God that when we arrived at the studio, the gum would go. Not only did I hate it, but I knew from seeing some of Oprah's prior broadcasts, she absolutely detested gum chewing, too. I looked at the girls and thought "Oprah's gonna have a bird," but I didn't want to start bossing these people around or running things-so I kept my mouth shut and prayed the young lady was planning to chew it temporarily, and get rid of it when the sugar was gone.
We finally pulled up at the studio and were led in. The lobby was beautiful and boasted a giant staircase. After we were checked in, we were escorted by a member of her Oprah's staff up the stairs to the second floor. We were given a little tour and shown a great cafeteria area with loads of goodies, pastries, coffees and juices which were offered free of charge to us. Next we were introduced to a makeup artist and a hair stylist. It was their job to determine if we needed any work done to ourselves. I was surprised and impressed with the scenery. I loved the beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers. We were standing around checking everything out when a pretty blond woman approached me. "Adrienne and Alia-right?" she asked.
Alia and I both smiled at the same time. I blurted out "Miranda-you're Miranda, aren't you?" She answered, "Yes."
I hugged her. Because of everything I had gone through the day before, and having so many conversations with her, I felt I had known her for a hundred years. Alia was grinning and gave her a hug. "You guys look great!" she said. "Look, you're going to be situated in this room," she said pointing behind her. "Just go in a take a seat and I'll be back. There will be some other families in there. We'll do some more talking soon."
Alia and I took our seats. This room resembled a tiny intimate movie theater. When we got situated we realized there were a total of four families participating in this taping-much to my surprise. I'd really thought the day before that it would only be Alia, me and Oprah doing this show. The particulars had never been explained to me. We had fun listening to the other families' reasons for being selected. Every family had a different set of problems in a mother/daughter relationship. The families were all from different parts of the country. Each mother was a single parent and all the daughters had different issues which caused problems in their relationships. It was interesting to be hearing the stories and meeting the other daughters. We had a pleasant time together and one family and I had a similar thought-we had determined our situations with our daughters were so bad that Oprah was going to send us to Dr. Phil for counseling. Also that same mother/daughter duo had a huge fight on the plane and the mother threatened to go back home before the taping. Our two families had a lot in common.
We were interrupted when members of Oprah's staff came in to have us fill out forms, address cards and give us instructions on the taping. It was explained that we would stick to the questions during the interview and then there would be an opportunity during breaks and the after show where we could really hash things out. We would have a chance to speak a bit more freely at that time. Then it was explained that we would be leaving the area soon to have our hair and makeup checked and eventually be taken into the studio taping room.
The hair stylist let me know that I didn't need a thing done to my hair. That made me feel good-like I had done a good job. Alia needed some curls and plopped down in the chair. My make-up artist decided I needed deeper eyebrows and that my wine colored lips should actually be more of an orange, so she fixed those things. I found her quiet unless I asked questions or made small talk. I'm more relaxed talking so we ended up having a nice conversation about cosmetology training and my being a writer. When Alia was done, her makeup was touched up. We were wondering where Oprah and Miranda were. I was a bit nervous about Alia in those jeans, boots and sweater and wondered if Oprah would disagree with the
After hair and makeup was over, I checked the cafeteria out. I really was not hungry-I usually ate my first meal around one in the afternoon. I wanted to skip the coffee, knowing that would send me to the bathroom. Alia hadn't had any more episodes of diarrhea and wasn't going near anything to eat.
* * *
"Okay everybody. I need the forms I asked you to fill out. I hope you didn't forget to fill the address card out, too so we can keep up with you when you return home." A member of the staff announced when we were all back in the theater room. After Alia and I completed our paperwork, Miranda appeared. "Come on with me," she said to Alia and me.
We followed her into the hall and we all sat at a table. I immediately told her what kind of night I had and what that psychic had told me over a year and a half ago. Then Alia chimed in with some conversation and the three of us were laughing. I showed her the letter I had written in the bar and told her I needed to give it to Oprah. I then showed her my two treasures which were the novels I had written and my own favorite book by R.M. Johnson. Miranda looked at my gifts and then decided to look over the letter. She began laughing and said. "This letter is something-and wonderful. You should definitely have a copy of it for your memories. Give this to me later, before you leave and I'll copy it for you. I'll give Oprah the original. I can take the books now."
"Take a look at this. This is from a year and a half ago. My psychic told me I'd end up here. Look, read it."
Alia and Miranda were looking at me and cracking up. Miranda glanced at the text about the psychic and gave me a weird look. "Don't you tell Oprah anything about any physic stuff. You hear me?" she said.
"Okay. Where's Oprah?" I asked.
"She's not ready yet. Listen, this is the plan. Maria Shriver is going to be on the show today. She has a new book out about parenting. Maria and Oprah are really good friends. Best buddies. Time-wise because they are so happy to see each other when they get together, we may run out of time. There are four families here and some people will not be on the main show. They won't make it because there may be a lot of conversation between Maria and Oprah. Oprah can choose what family is going on first. The families who don't make it on will be seen on a program called Oxygen which comes on at night."
"Okay-no problem. I understand that." I said.
"Well, it looks like you and Alia may make it on the regular daytime show. You see, you're scheduled midway through the show. So, that may get you on. We'll see."
"Okay, Miranda." Alia said.
We then returned to the theater room and conversed with the families. In about ten minutes security came for all four families. They first checked to see if we needed a bathroom break. Some did. When they returned all eight of us were hooked up with microphones at our waist around our butts and marched in a line through the studio.
There was a packed audience and a staff member on stage to entertain and prep everyone for the show. She was certainly good at her job. I sat on the front row next to my daughter. I was having a good time. I had been part of a studio audience twenty seven years ago-but that was "Good Times."
I was in a good mood-the entire audience was. We had been warmed up well by Oprah's Host Before the Real Host Comes On. Forgive me my readers, I have forgotten her name. Anyway, I sat front row, a little to the right. I was right in front of the couch and I thought "That couch sure looks little. It seems so big when I watch the show from home." Alia was beside me, a mom and daughter guest was beside her and the two other families just behind us. There we were-all eight of us waiting to meet Oprah. I really was surprised we hadn't met her before we were brought in. I hope Alia having those jeans and sweater and boots on was going to be okay. The girl from the other family still had that chewing gum in her mouth and I was thinking "Oprah's not going to like that." I sat and waited. I figured Oprah would be out in a minute, look us all over, say hello and then we'd tape the show. There were TV cameras and gadgets all over the place. I sat patiently. I wasn't very excited or overwhelmed. To be a guest, I was pretty laid back. Alia was looking around, checking things out. It sure was early in the morning. It must have been a little before 9:00 a.m. I had to pee. Damn. Well, it wasn't going to happen because I would have to get security to take me to the ladies room and I had my mike on my butt. You know, it would just be my luck that the mike fell in the toilet. I didn't want to have to say "excuse me" and make it out of my seat-so-I had to hold it until after the show was taped.
The announcement came that Oprah was getting ready to come out. We all stood, applauded and screamed. She was wearing a skirt and sweater and a pair of gold pumps. She had no stockings on. Her hair with all those curls was absolutely beautiful. She was a hell of a lot thinner than I anticipated and her make-up was divine. She was beautiful-and it seemed a natural beauty. She wore a giant smile boasting gorgeous white teeth. She calmed the audience down and we were seated. She then began to explain the days' agenda for the taping. It had begun for me. This was it for me.
I could not take my eyes off her. I sat in that seat and for some reason I was totally mesmerized. It was her presence. It was something I did not understand-something I was totally unfamiliar with. There is something about Oprah that allows something-vibes or rays or something to radiate off her. They hit me like a ton of bricks. This is my take on it. I don't quite understand it myself so I'm giving you this the best I can. I began listening to her every word as she explained that her dear friend Maria Shriver would soon be joining us. I sat and waited and once Maria came out, she and Oprah shared many delightful stories. They also discussed Maria's newly released book titled "And One More Thing Before You Go." This book was written as a tribute to Maria's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and also touched upon mother daughter relationships and parenting. Mrs. Kennedy Shriver would be joining Oprah and Maria on the couch later in the taping.
After I returned home from Chicago, I tried to calm down from all the hoopla and excitement of being on the show. I dove into the arrangements of my launch party for Connecting, getting head counts for the restaurants, going over the menus and designating places in my home for out of town guests to sleep. The party would take place in nine days on April 3, 2005. Life was a whirlwind.
The Oprah Show taping would be aired on April 8, 2005. A week before the scheduled air time, Alia and I began getting calls from people across the country. They were friends, classmates from her prior university, The University of Maryland at College Park and family who had seen Alia on a "commercial for the Oprah show." People were asking if she really spent 29K. Alia and I were so busy we hadn't caught the commercial. All who telephoned were excited. I'd had a lot to do around the house, so I would leave the TV's on throughout the house trying to catch this commercial that everyone was laughing about. It took a while-a few days-but I finally saw it pop up on the TV one evening. I stood and shook my head. It was a welcome treat and unbelievable seeing the Black American Princess on TV again-this time having fun and not being sick and not talking about the debilitating symptoms of having Crohn's Disease. The BAP was instead talking about spending cold cash and purchasing pretty things-including picturesque settings-on her vacations. That's a Leo for you-when they show off they show off big time-on The Oprah Show.
The launch party went off without a hitch to a full house. My books sold well and it was announced that Alia and I had made the Oprah Show and everyone was informed of the date it would air. People were so excited to have an opportunity to see it in five days. Our local TV news station was coming to our house to view it with us, as well as a couple of Barnes and Noble executives, my neighbors and Carolyn Perry, a close friend who had watched Alia grow up. Some friends were planning Oprah parties the day the tape would be aired. Temple University, Alia's college was as proud as could be. Alia and I were quite the buzz of Philly and our suburban town of Elkins Park, and Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. We were loving it.
Alia sat on the end of my bed. For the past three days since we had been back home from the taping in Chicago, she had been on the computer a lot more than usual. This particular night as she sat on the bed, she said to me softly, "She's been through a lot. Did you know all that she has been through?" I knew she was talking about Oprah. Everything had been Oprah since we got home. Alia was getting her hair done like Oprah's. She was going to work for her. She was going to call her before April 24, 2005. She was crossing days off the calendar until she got to April 24th-yep, that's when Oprah told her to call her-one month to the day. She was going to watch her money. She was going to do better. You name it-Alia was going to do it for Oprah. Alia was absolutely Oprah drunk.
I looked over at my daughter and I knew she was genuinely concerned. I didn't want to baby Alia about this subject. If I given her too much sympathy, she'd find some money somehow and show up at Oprah's studio to comfort her. I approached the problem by saying to this twenty year old strong willed Leo the Lion, King of the Jungle who had fought a lot of battles herself at an early age by saying "Yep, sweetie. I realize she has been through a lot. I know. I have some pain regarding what she's gone through, too. Alia-she's strong-she's gonna make it through it all. Care-but don't stress too much about it. Remember-what does not kill us-will make us stronger. Oprah's holding her own. You just remember the things she said to you. She had very little time with you but she tried to use it wisely by directing you."
I sat in the audience, front row, so very close to Maria Shriver, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Oprah Winfrey, watching and listening to these three female powerhouses counsel my child. I was grateful and honored. Plugging Departures and Connecting, those novels I'd written, loved, and was so proud of and the possible notoriety I'd receive and the inevitable advancement of my career because of the mere mention of my books became totally irrelevant to me. It was much more important for me to listen to these women as they tried to redirect my daughter. I've always had a gregarious personality, had excellent marketing and promotional skills. A boost from Oprah would indeed be wonderful-but I could sell my own books. I have a lot of self confidence. I'd always have the arena of places like Barnes and Noble, Karibu Book Stores, Borders and B. Dalton to get my book thing off. But on this day, I knew that the chances were extremely slim that I'd ever be able to sit and watch these three smart and influential women, two of whom having children of their own, and the other the role model of the century, give good, sound advice toward the development of the most important person in my life. Even if this counseling would only be available for a fraction of a mere hour, it was of the utmost importance to me and far more valuable to me than letting the world know I had written a couple of books. I wanted to capitalize on this moment. This was what it was all about. This, in my opinion was huge conquest as well as an enormous accomplishment for Adrienne and Alia Bellamy. This was a tremendous blessing and my saying that I was thankful and grateful is the understatement of the year. That taping was one of my quietest moments I had ever encountered in my life-and believe me-I can run my mouth a mile a minute. Everyone knows that about me. But I was thirsty-for knowledge and guidance and I was so appreciative for the vehicles God put on that stage, in front of me that day to assist me in my journey to deliver as a parent my daughter, Alia Bellamy, as a whole human being to society-hopefully-some time very soon in her life. She was twenty years old sitting there listening to these women. As I sat mesmerized, I prayed that perhaps Oprah, Maria and Eunice's words would help Alia to be free of an ego, selfishness, and greed. I've always prayed for my daughter to be fit and sound spiritually, mentally, intellectually and financially. God gave me a tall order as a parent and on March 24, 2005 and he handed me some assistance and I had the opportunity to watch Oprah and Maria spoon feed the real facts of life to Alia. To a single parent who wants the best for her child-it doesn't come any better than that.