HipTravelMama friend, Jo Wilson, was one of the lucky Aussies given a golden ticket to Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure taping at the Sydney Oprah House. As it turned out, it was Jo’s ultimate experience too.
You see I knew about those women. I mean, I had grown up with Oprah. Through her fat phase, her super skinny phase, then the next fat phase, then her health kick, and lately her Goddess-like form. We all watched Oprah. We loved Oprah, but we laughed at those women. The weeping, screaming, head-shaking, hand-waving women in her audience. “Haw haw,” we would smugly say. “We would never be like THAT.”
So when the Oprah ballot for her “Ultimate Australian Adventure” shows opened it was a thing to do. “I’m in the Oprah ballot,” I said to my friends. Almost like I would say, “I’m booked in for a haircut.” Then late one Sunday night I received the email from the Oprah Audience Team: “Great news! Your ticket reservation request has been selected …”
OH. MY. GOD.
There were to be two shows, one morning taping, and one evening taping. Apparently 350,000 people applied to be in the audience for these shows. 6000 were successful, and each could bring one guest. I felt like I’d won the golden ticket to see the chocolate factory, only this was better. THIS WAS OPRAH.
We arrived in Sydney for our date with Oprah on a sunny Monday morning. It was like we had touched down in a giant Oprah theme park. There was a buzz in the air. Flags bearing Oprah’s beaming smile were on every street corner. There was a giant “O” emblazoned across the Harbour Bridge. And of course, the Forecourt of the Opera House had been transformed into a giant outdoor auditorium. It was now the OPRAH HOUSE.
The morning of the actual shows arrived. You could hear the crowd even before you got out of bed. We were in the evening taping, the “Finale” show, so we didn’t need to get moving until about lunch time. I ventured out onto the balcony and saw the line for the morning taping snaking its way along Macquarie Street and past our hotel. Film crews were randomly interviewing people in the line. The buzz of helicopters overhead was deafening. Police and security cars were constantly driving up and down the street.
We took a walk to kill time before it was our turn to line up. Upon returning to our hotel we saw the stream of people coming out of the morning taping. We picked our target and grabbed a sassy-looking couple and grilled them. “What did you get?” we asked. “Pearls,” the girl replied. “It was amazing,” said the guy. “You should go and line up now,” he recommended.
After a quick change we went and joined the line. By the time arrived there were 1000 people ahead of us. The excitement among the crowd was palpable. We chatted about where we came from, who got the tickets, who was the lucky guest. As we were waiting, we saw members of Oprah’s American audience leaving the morning taping. “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” they would yell out. “Oi! Oi! Oi!” we would reply. This went on for hours. It was like a neat party trick the Americans had discovered.
After two hours of standing in line we started to move. It was a slow process getting 12,000 people through metal detectors and all their bags searched. Our tickets were for the steps of the Opera House, so we were taken in past the stage door. As we were waiting to go out, we saw a very tall dark haired man coming along the road. “Oh my god, it’s Hugh Jackman!” I heard people gasp. He came and shook hands with us. I nearly fainted.
Out we went on to the steps of the Opera House, and grabbed a spot recommended to us by the couple we’d seen earlier. And waited. It was another two hours before the O Lady was due. The mood was insane. We all knew something FANTASTIC was about to happen.
And it did. At 5pm, the taping commenced, and SHE graced the stage. SHE was here. She came out like Jesus on the mount and we were her disciples, ready to receive her word. We saw Bono, Olivia Newton-John, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. We laughed along with them. We watched Hugh Jackman come in on the flying fox, slam into the stage, and get patched up with a Band Aid. We ooh-ed and aah-ed. We were all given a diamond necklace. We jumped around like mad banshees. At the end of the show, all the guests, as well as Russell Crowe, came out on to the stage with the Qantas Children’s Choir singing “I Still Call Australia Home”. The entire audience of 6000 was on its feet swaying, singing and crying.
And there I was. A weeping, screaming, head-shaking, hand-waving woman.
Jo Wilson is a lawyer, writer and mother of three girls, living in Melbourne, Australia. She loves to travel with her family. And watch Oprah, on occasion.