Oprah told the world she wanted to do her last episode at the Los Angeles Coliseum as a show of gratitude to her fans for all the happy and productive times they shared. She thought it would be wonderfully cathartic to do live TV, four hours of it, in front of 92,000 fans, good people, people who had grown because of her. It would be a fitting end to the Farewell Season. Oprah never deviated from this line. Not even with Gayle, her best friend forever.
Two days after the Sweden trip, which had not gone as smoothly as she'd hoped, Gayle stood across the street from Gate 5 of the Coliseum and eyed the winners. There were about a thousand of them vibrating out there in the sun. They had won an essay contest in which each was asked to explain the extent of the positive impact Oprah had had on their lives in 500 words or less, and then to name a single item that would "Make Your Life Complete." That last part was trademarked. Gayle took a long drag of her cigarette, dropped it, and let it burn on the sidewalk. Her nerves were shot. Of course the essay contest was bullshit. Oprah had far more sophisticated ways of finding out what she needed to find out.
The gate opened, and the clang it made animated the winners. Mostly women, with a few shapeless alabaster eunuchs in sweater vests thrown in for good measure, they practically hopped inside and then down into a tunnel leading to the floor. Several could not stop clapping. One woman in a shiny green O magazine tracksuit kissed a security guard right on the mouth and then raised her arms and shimmied for the benefit of her husband, who dutifully took a photo with her phone. Gayle wished for sleep.
Gayle followed them inside, nodding to the guards, who stiffened when they saw her. She took a right and walked over to the private elevator that would take her up to her box. There would be a lavish buffet up there, as well as her sugar babies, kept warm in a special incubator. As she waited for the elevator doors to close, she heard them. Ninety-one thousand people, pre-seated in the boxes and balconies encircling the floor, cheering for the winners as they took their seats in a large enclosure by the stage. What the people up in the cheap seats wouldn't give to be down there with them. They were happy for the winners, perhaps, but also very angry with themselves for coming up short, or maybe even angry with Oprah, though they'd be loath to admit it. Like Oprah stressed, it was important to forgive if one was to live one's Best Life. It was important to let go.
Gayle was four vodka tonics in when the red lights went on. The show was one of Oprah's best. Four straight hours of gold without commercial interruptions, featuring some of her most memorable guests. Tom Cruise jumped on the sofa for old times' sake. Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz made appearances to discuss trust issues and colon health. Jonathan Franzen and James Frey stopped by to laugh at long-forgotten misunderstandings. They seemed so insignificant now. The show had laughter, it had tears, it had videos of Michael Jackson and Liberace. It was Lady O at her finest. The sheer pleasure of the show nearly made Gayle forget she had spent the last year trying to stop Dr. Phil from drowning birds on camera and putting the videos on YouTube. He had a mania, he told her, and it was unstoppable.