Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oprah-zation Of A Nation? Damn! Missed It

"Oprah, A Biography" by Kitty Kelley Crown Publishers 524 pages $30

What I gleaned...

Oprah is as much a brand name as IBM or Ford. She has cornered the market on all things Oprah. So much so, that all of her employees no matter how far removed from her physically are given a professional security firm's scrutiny before a 30-day test drive. Then they may be hired. She pays well, but forgets the creator of the idea's name. Harpo, her corporate identity is badly run; no one is in charge; everyone wants to please Oprah (and keep her ratings up.) The in-fighting is said to be vicious...

All employees sign a binding confidentiality agreement. Given her money (billions) and access to lawyers, no one wants to go up against her.

Oprah believes in branding. When her book club was up and running, publishers had to include her logo and "Oprah Book Selection" printed into the cover - not a decal. Her magazine "O" has 2.5 million subscribers. Every single month the cover photo is -- Oprah.

Those famous give-aways on her shows? Oprah bullies CEOs of major corporations into giving her 300 of whatever she wants for her audience that day. She bills the give away as "One of my favorite things!" knowing that those not present in the audience will rush right out and buy a whatever. This gives her tremendous leverage with the CEOs.

Kelley praised Winfrey for her generosity to charities as well as friends, but notes that Oprah always has to show the recipient the price tag. "Isn't this a great watch? I paid $26,300 for it!" Telling, isn't it?

Over the years a lot of speculation has been devoted to the trio of Oprah, fiance Stedman Graham and best friend and constant companion Gayle King. Several quoted in the book report that Stedman, while attractive, is basically a stupid, humorless man. Oprah loves to brag about her gifts to King (a house, nannies for her kids) exactly like "a husband brags about the things he buys for his trophy wife" remarked one observer. King is divorced.

Oprah's campaigning for Barack Obama made him President (or so she feels.) Probably the only reason she hasn't run for president is that she doesn't want it! Hey, coupla billions; the ability to buy virtually anything she wants -- including Secret Service-level guards, a $50 million estate near Santa Barbara, a Gulfstream jet -- mingling with such as Nelson Mandela, Bush the Elder -- the only person who won't take her calls is the Pope -- who needs it?

And if she follows through on plans for her own TV channel -- OWN or Oprah Winfrey Network -- in 2011, she will certainly feel more powerful than any mere president. Because if Oprah wants it, she gets it. She has worked hard; she deserves success, but when success turns you into a raving dictator it's time to thank God a little less (more or less as a co-conspirator) and get your head on straight.

I can't help wondering what her end will be. Absolute power corrupts absolutely we have been told...

No comments: