May 18th, 2011
10:00 AM ET
More than 150,000 "Oprah Winfrey Show" fans wanted to get in to the talk show host's star-studded spectacular last night, but just 20,000 fans made it.
The lucky ticket holders for tapings of two of Oprah Winfrey’s final shows lined up outside Chicago’s United Center Tuesday afternoon - anxious to escape a strong spring wind and eager to see what had been billed as an all-star farewell to the Queen of Talk.
Cousins Alisia Brown and Nicole Bailey told CNN they scored last minute tickets to the spectacular from none other than Winfrey's best friend, Gayle King.
The Chicago residents and lifelong "Oprah" fans turned up at the United Center in the hopes of finding tickets and bumped into King. The two jumped up and down in excitement from the gift. Bailey told CNN, "I went to a show 20 years ago and haven't been able to get tickets since."
As the tapings started, Winfrey walked on stage to thunderous applause from her most fired up fans. Winfrey has frequently stated she's not fond of surprises, but she allowed her production team to make an exception for this party. The first surprise guest? Tom Hanks.
The Oscar winning actor and frequent "Oprah" show guest played the role of Winfrey's guide through the night’s events. Winfrey had tears in her eyes as she took in the scene - an arena lined with giant photographs of memorable "Oprah Winfrey Show" moments through the years, and thousands of adoring admirers on their feet.
Backstage, "Oprah" producers and publicists juggled teams of journalists and A-list guests. Celebrities from music, movies and TV - ranging from Beyonce and Madonna to Tom Cruise and Diane Sawyer - all came out to send Winfrey off in spectacular style.
Patti LaBelle told CNN she spoke with Winfrey just last week and managed to keep her scheduled performance a secret. The R&B legend says, "There is nothing Oprah has left to do. She's done it all!"
Madonna recalled to CNN that Winfrey taught her to fight for her beliefs and says her favorite "Oprah" moment was teaching the host how to dance.
TV host and "Oprah" regular Nate Berkus credits Winfrey for launching his television career, but says he appreciates her most for her friendship and empathy.
"I think the one moment I won't forget is when I came back from Asia after the tsunami and lost my partner. I sat on the show on a stage that was so comfortable to me. It'd be like [someone] sitting on their own sofa in their home. That's how comfortable it was for me to be back on the stage of the 'Oprah Winfrey Show.'"
One by one, dozens of Winfrey's most famous friends took to the stage in tribute. Maria Shriver has been friends with Winfrey for 30 years and received a strong show of support from the audience when she took to the stage. Dressed in a navy sequin gown, Shriver thanked Winfrey for her friendship through the years and for teaching her truth. Though no mention was made of Shriver's current personal crisis, her smile spoke volumes on how she's weathering the storm.
Winfrey turned the night's praise back to the audience and thanked her fans for all the love and for making 25 years of the "Oprah Winfrey Show" possible.
Winfrey's surprise spectacular will air in two parts on Monday, May 23 and Tuesday, May 24. The final "Oprah Winfrey Show" will broadcast May 25. Winfrey is reportedly producing the goodbye show herself and is keeping her plans secret for now – leaving her fans with one last surprise.
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