Monday, September 18, 2006

Oprah & Gayle’s Totally Excellent Adventure

Oprah and BFF (but not lesbian lover) Gayle King hit the road this summer on an 11-day trek from Santa Barbara, Cal., to NYC for the Tony Awards. With a camera crew in tow. In other words, just your average road trip.

Here’s what I learned:

* Oprah’s home movies are no funnier than yours or mine, but then we don’t air ours on a nationally syndicated television program
* Ms. Winfrey hasn’t pumped gas in more than 20 years, because when she needs to get from Point A to Point B, somebody else drives her. Actually, I always have a driver, too. His name is Dave. He’s my husband. In exchange, I pack his lunch every day. I know Oprah disapproves of this sort of compromise, called marriage, but she probably doesn’t need Steadman’s health insurance coverage.

“Oprah and Gayle’s Big Adventure” ate up the entire hour of the talk show queen’s debut episode of the 2006 television season. And reminded me why it is that she annoys me so.

Martha Stewart, who plies her own slightly uncomfortable mix of cooking-and-craft-show-meets-celebrity-interview, does not purport to be one of her viewers. She is infinitely superior to us in so many ways, other than her limited arsenal of adjectives (beautiful, amazing), and doesn’t pretend for a second to be otherwise. I can respect that.

But Oprah. Oprah likes us to think that she still remembers her po’ roots. Oprah likes us to think that she’s a woman of the people who just happens to have a gazillion dollars. Oprah likes us to think that when she sits on the couch with Jennifer Aniston, she’s our stand-in, equally awestruck by the glitterati before her.

I think not.

Oprah and Gayle were stymied by the check-in process at their Las Vegas hotel. Because they’re usually ushered to their room by a private escort. Oprah and Gayle were unable to locate a grocery store to buy healthy snacks. Because someone usually does their shopping for them. (As they circle around Vegas, Oprah notes that they are looking for a “place called Albertson’s” as if it were Mars. OMG. Albertson’s is the parent company of Jewel-Osco, which is only like the biggest supermarket chain in Chicago, where Ms. Winfrey shoots her show.)

I know that I was supposed to be amused, that O & G thought their antics were worthy of Abbott & Costello or minimally Bill & Ted. Instead, they felt like a slap in the face to anyone who’s ever taken an honest-to-god road trip, sans film crew, sans luxury hotel, sans XM satellite radio. I mean, King’s idea of a car game was something called “Would You Rather…” (supplied by Oprah’s staff, natch), which had her asking O, “Would you rather urinate out of your nose or smell through your genitalia?” I am not making this up. Holy crap, who hasn’t heard of the License Plate Game or I Spy?

The road trip is the quintessential American vacation; Dave and I succumbed to its lure ourselves last summer. To have Oprah appropriate it and turn it into reality TV, as if Gayle King invented the maneuver of napping in the passenger seat, is insulting. (That’s my move—step off.)

For the rest of us, hitting the road is not some lark when we get bored with jetting to Hawaii in our private plane—it’s the way we travel. By minivan and motorcycle, RV and VW Bus. We know how to read a map, we’re geniuses at the pump, we bring along coolers full of snacks and when we run out of food, we fill our pockets with bagels and fruit swiped from the hotel’s continental breakfast. We pull up to motels without advanced reservations and hope for the best. Some of us camp. We get grouchy and tired of being in the car. We spend far too much time at places like the Corn Palace.

That’s what we plain, simple folk do. We do it better than Oprah, who is not plain, simple folk. And we know not to bore our friends with the details when we get home.


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