For Oprah Winfrey, the beginning of the end was announcing in November 2009 that her long-running "The Oprah Winfrey Show" would be calling it quits after 25 years on the air. Following a supersized final season and trickling, teary-celeb tributes, the end is almost here.
Maria Shriver, Madonna, Tyler Perry, Usher and famous couch-jumper Tom Cruise all graced the stage in front of thousands of fans at Chi-town's United Center. It was an event worth getting out of jury duty to witness.
"You have given me love, support, wisdom and, most of all, the truth," Shriver told Winfrey. "And I know I’m not alone in receiving those gifts from you."
A rather fitting performance came from Beyonce, clad in a tuxedo unitard, belting out her new tune "Run the World (Girls)." Atop a glowing podium fit for a female president, Beyonce flipped her hair and sang out, "My persuasion can build a nation."
Oprah can relate. Another female music tribute came from pint-sized Broadway vet Kristin Chenoweth, who performed with scores of formally dressed Morehouse College grads.
Power couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith came by, as did Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Katie Holmes, Queen Latifah, Diane Sawyer and Michael Jordan (click the pics to see more photos from the star-studded event).
We were surprised and delighted to see Winfrey's longtime beau Stedman Graham trot out on stage; we imagine he has an insight or two after so many years with the mogul.
So might Maya Angelou, who appeared with Alicia Keys. As did Dakota Fanning, Jerry Seinfeld, Jamie Foxx, Rosie O'Donnell and John Legend via satellite.
Other performers included Patti LaBelle, featuring Josh Groban, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin.
— Matt Donnelly
Photos: Oprah Winfrey with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, top, and Tom Cruise, right, during the taping of "Oprah's Surprise Spectacular" in Chicago. Credits: John Gress / Reuters.