Oprah Down Under: Screaming Aussies, free loot, and one Hugh Jaccident!

hugh-jackman-oprahImage Credit: Don Arnold/WireImage.comJust how powerful is Oprah Winfrey? If you ask one of the 200 Harpo employees accompanying her on the big trip Down Under (specifically, the pre-show cheerleader tasked with keeping the audience peppy and shrieking for yesterday’s two 90-minute tapings at the Sydney Opera House) this is the answer you’ll get: “Our boss has a really good in with Mother Nature. We don’t do rain at The Oprah Winfrey Show!”

I think I actually believe her. After weeks of constant downpours in Sydney and devastating floods throughout the country (thanks, La Niña), the famously blazing Aussie sun came out for every one of Oprah’s eight days down under. Yesterday, her now world-famous walkabout reached its climax on the forecourt of the newly rechristened Oprah House. I was there in the morning, and I was there in the afternoon. It was, in a word, madness – an odd mix of talk show and tent revival that brought together 12,000 buoyant Australians, 302 lucky Americans, dozens of local journalists and one accident-prone actor. Hugh Jackman’s totally bodacious entrance on a zip-line for the afternoon show ended more like a total bummer when the actor – who’s made headlines for stunt troubles in the past – failed to brake quickly enough and bashed his right eye on a lighting rig. Despite trying to shake off the collision – he quickly downed a gulp of red wine that was waiting for him during his interview – Jackman was taken offstage for medical help before returning. “Ohhhh, we’re gonna hear about that,” said Oprah, clearly shaken. “Ohhhh, that’s gonna play on the news, over and over and over again.” The O knows – it was breaking news within minutes. (I told you he was drinking wine.)

The morning show was smoother, and more energetic. It kicked off when Oprah took the stage and bellowed, “I LOOOOOVE AUSTRAAAAALIA!” before leading the crowd in the famous sporting chant “Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!” First guest, Russell Crowe, who walked over from his nearby harborside apartment, arrived in good cheer (a.k.a., he didn’t throw anything and/or snarl at anybody). When asked the main difference between American and Australian men – strange question for Russell Crowe, by the way – he replied, “Probably dental care.” The scarily poised Bindi Irwin trotted out with her family to discuss her late father and, of course, show off the fact that she can hold snakes without being scared. Jay-Z discussed his new book Decoded, which one-time rap foe Oprah claims has changed how she views the art form. (Sadly, those of us hoping for a surprise Beyoncé drop-in were left wanting.) Then, because Oprah can only whip her crowds into a frenzy so many times before collapsing under the weight of her own awesome, Bon Jovi arrived to perform “It’s My Life” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

Free loot is a must when Oprah’s in the vicinity, so a Sydney man suffering from liver and bowel cancer was given $250,000 to “take a year off and get well” in the most touching segment of the day. A local boys’ high school was awarded $1 million for refurbishments, and every student given a free laptop. The boys, who were watching from inside the Opera House, leapt in glee, not unlike those caged animals who amuse the world with their conniptions at her annual Favorite Things tapings. And the 12,000 audience members outside nearly deafened me when told they’d be receiving commemorative final-season pearl-black diamond necklaces with an ‘O’ medallion. Because really, why should having the hottest ticket in all of Australia be enough?

As for the afternoon show, it never quite found its footing after first guest Bono’s surprise visit and the subsequent Hugh Jaccident (sorry). A lifeless Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban interview was plagued by sound glitches, though we did learn that Oprah is obsessed with the iTunes Scrabble app Words with Friends (me too!) and that her all-time highest score is 403 (uh, not me too!). Olivia Newton-John inexplicably trotted out her famous leather pants from Grease (“What size are these?” asked Oprah, mystified) and then DIDN’T EVEN SING “XANADU.” By the end of the hour, Oprah had resorted, strangely, to bragging about the gigantic red ‘O’ that has been lighting up the Sydney Harbour Bridge since her arrival. “Every evening, I go to my hotel room and wait for the O to come on,” she said, sounding less like the most influential woman on earth and more like Charlie Bucket standing outside the Wonka factory gates.

Things picked up with the announcement of a pink! Diamond! Necklace! For! All! and the rousing grand finale, in which all those big-name Aussies – Keith, Nicole, Russell, Olivia and a now-bandaged Hugh – joined to sing the Australian national anthem. She came, she saw, she most definitely conquered. “This country belongs on everybody’s bucket list!” “I know why you call it Oz — it truly is the end of the yellow brick road!” “This unforgettable adventure has stirred my soul!” Thus spake The Oprah, ringleader of the greatest tourism boost Australia has seen in years. It’s no wonder the country went berserk for the woman.

Oh, did I mention the Sydney weather forecast for Friday – our first full day sans Oprah – calls for cloudy skies and potentially even a few showers? Just saying.

Comments (77 total) Add your comment
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  • caryn

    Love the “Hugh Jaccident” wordplay – nice way to start my morning!

    • Vicki

      This! Totally laughed for a good five minutes at “Hugh Jaccident”–and brought a colleague into a fit of laughter along with me.

  • jess

    DISGRACEFUL! My friends and I went to this american and i should have already known what she is in real life. rude, disrespectful, rowdy! i will never watch oprah again in my live. i will make sure my future children will never have to watch her show!

    • MCS

      I literally can’t even understand what you have written.

      • Carolyn

        Then you should re-read it! They have clearly made the point that Oprah is a waste of space.

    • Cathy

      How was she rude and disrespectful?

    • Adam

      Bitter Much?

    • Casey

      Well obviously the tickets went to waste on you.

  • MCS

    How much was this the best thing to ever happen to Australian tourism? Compared to the $180 million Baz Luhrmann piece of rubbish that was a tie-in with ‘Australia’, the $5-10 million Australian taxpayers paid for Oprah is the best investment.

    • Carolyn

      Why would American’s visit Australia just because Oprah did? Are they mindless fools who do exactly the same as her? I think not. You seem exceptionally naive.

      Why would American’s visit Australia with the dollar at parity levels?

      The answer is this will do nothing for international tourism.

      • AJ

        Australia bought 5 hours of advertising on one of America’s most popular and influential shows and got a slew of press coverage on top of it. I’ve never tuned into the Oprah show, and yet I knew about her trip and now find myself reading this article because of the Hugh Jackman thing. Every business with $5m to spend would have killed to have gotten this much advertising value for it.

      • Jeff

        Totally agree. American’s would be fools to visit Australia just because Oprah did. The dollar is just the first reason. But I’d be more worried about the high crime rate and the rampant racism. I’d hate to be a black American visiting Australia without the security afforded to Oprah.

      • Don

        Not just Americans, the show is watched in many countries. And yes, it IS advertisement for Australia.
        Everyone doesn’t have to book a trip merely on account of having watched the show, but she will have probably raised interest for Australia quite a bit, in many people’s minds.
        She’s worth gold to advertisers.

      • Lori

        They visited with Oprah to your beautiful land down under because they WON it.

      • John B.

        Why do people add an apostrophe to a word that has only been pluralized? (“Why do American’s visit Australia…”?) If a word is a plural and isn’t followed by a possessive clause, you DO NOT NEED AN APOSTROPHE.

      • Grumpster

        John B…it’s the same people who say youze all and they is…we ain’t…and all that. Youze two there…cuts that out!

        Same people who say “AKS” instead of Ask…and MINES when it’s singular. Like “That’s Mines…leave it alone”….where the he11 do these people go to school to learn that?

      • MCS

        Carolyn, so ironic when you tell me I am naive, when you clearly don’t understand how attracting tourism works. Your comments made on this board have zero logic behind them and seem fuelled only by personal hate for Oprah.
        And Jeff, pull your head in mate.

      • Josh

        @ Jeff – That is the stupidest comment I’ve read in a long, long time. Every time I’ve been there the people have been amazing; and I’m black. You have absolutely no basis for those remarks. They actually have a national “Sorry Day” for the mistreatment of Aboriginals. So get your facts straight. Also do some research on the crime there.

  • Carolyn

    As an Australian I’m disgusted with the attention given to her. She is of absolutely no value. We should never have paid for her to come here.

    • TvTroz

      Yeah… it’s called business. Did you see the throngs of shriekers? All of them have purses that will be readily opened for all things Oprah. That is a lot of “value”. You know, “monetary value”. In case you haven’t realized it yet (in which case I pity you), in this planet that’s what the inhabitants are drawn to. Great play by the Australian government. They will get their 5 mil back tenfold easy. The fact that you don’t get that is the reason why you are still single, bitter and poor (come on, that wasn’t hard to guess).

      • Carolyn

        Such a low brow comment. Obviously your knuckles are dragging on the ground! Good luck to you and your fellow sycophants.

    • Justin

      It’s the truth- you dumb heifer.

      • Grumpster

        Nice call there Justin. :-)

    • Cathy

      I’m an American. I’ve visited Autralia and will do it again. MOST people I met were very friendly, unlike Carolyn. What is your problem with Oprah? She has done so much good for so many people. Sad that you are so bitter.

  • FreeBird

    Yep American Says it all and Oprah is just another 1.Taxpayer money wasted buy the rich and lavish and paranoid.So why is Julia Gillard not at Assange`s side considering he is AUSTRALIAN and is involved in a major INTERNATIONAL PROBLEM,well her brown-tongued friends in the U.S will deal with her citizen wont they Ms TuboLARD GILLARD.Get of your backside of Entertainment and help your citizens whom employ you to do a job fool.What a joke freedom has become in Australia you even need a permit to protest peacefully in a democracy lol rofl what a joke Ms Gillard oh sorry YOU ARE THE JOKE

    • TvTroz

      Like Carolyn above, you don’t get it either, but at least you’re funny. “Brown-tongued”!! :) I love it. Can I use it?

  • Ross

    OMG Great article! Jealous much – YES!

    • FreeBird

      Do you mean jealous of oprah,Ms Tubolard or my comment lol.Maybe Paul Hogan might be jealous he didnt stay in Australia to get the dollars flowing rofl.He was so much better at it and he WAS an Australian at least

  • Pookie

    The writing on EW keeps getting more and more tweenish…no wonder Time, Inc. is rumored to be thinking of pulling the plug. What was once an industry stronghold, is now a lame rip-off of numerous gossip entertainment mags/sites. I was an original 1989 subscriber (quit eight years ago).

    • sockigal

      Oh, I so agree. I am also an original subscriber. I have written into EW a few times about stories that have been written more to fit on the cover of Star or US magazines or on TMZ. I always have thought of EW as true entertainment news, real news. Some of the writing on the EW website has been catty, gosipy, and mean spirited. I hated the article “Nicole Kidman’s Face” a couple weeks ago in the magazine. Obviously a personal vendetta against the actress and true Star Magazine material. I had never heard or read an unkind word written about the actress, until I opened EW that week. I felt ashamed that EW, a magazine I had backed for so many years, would be so hateful. Mrs. Kidman has been nothing but a respectable, family orientated, and dignified actress. And she is only 43! I don’t think a little bit of Botox (if she has had any) would be a concern for a news article in EW. Oh, so disappointed. I have had to go to the BBC to get real unbiased news. Please EW don’t go any further down this route. Keep being the only reliable source for real entertainment news. Keep the trash where it belongs!

      • steph

        you’ve seriously never head an unkind word about Nicole Kidman?

      • sockigal

        No I really haven’t heard any negatives and I admit to being on the blogs way too much, as an unemployed school teacher. Wish I could get back to work so I can stay off these blog sites. But I really haven’t heard any negative talk about Nicole Kidman, and she has been in the middle of lots of media swarms (especially with Tom Cruz). I always thought she handled herself very well. And she was so great in Cold Mountain, Moulin Rouge and To Die For. A couple of years ago she was nominated for an oscar for The Hours. Anyway, the whether you like her or not the article “Nicole Kidman’s Face” did not belong in EW. It was really hateful and unproductive. There are so many other people more deserving of an article like that and in other publication!

      • Kate

        @sockigal,

        I’m sorry. Wait. You’ve actually never heard anyone make fun of Nicole Kidman’s face before? What rock have you been living under.

        Look, I completely understand what you arguing about in terms of EW’s tendency to indulge in low-brow material or write reports on things that are hardly news but you really can’t claim that you have never heard / seen / read anyone make fun of Nicole Kdiman. The woman looks like she is plastic.

        Jeez.

      • samantha

        I thought that article was in really poor taste as well. I was not happy to flip to that page in my magazine!

  • Greg

    If the comments listed here represent
    the attitudes of the average Australian, its no wonder Australian tourism is in decline. You also have no clue of the power of the OPRAH brand.

    • Carolyn

      I just don’t care about the power of the Oprah brand. Good luck to you if you want to be a low brow sycophant.

      • Cathy

        Who or what are you, anyway?

    • MCS

      Please dont think all Australians are at Carolyn’s level of bitterness and stupidity. Clearly she just missed out on a ticket to Oprah, or Oprah didnt look at her as she walked past, so now Oprah is a horrible woman.

  • FreeBird

    pffftt try the Hogan brand even the yanks bought him lol.

    • Grumpster

      How ’bout the Mel Gibson brand?! Funny how Mel ditches the Aussie accent when it suits him. The original Mad Max was dubbed because it was so heavy. Where’d that go (see “The Patriot”)?

  • FreeBird

    um thats why America is in such a great state in the midst of recession maybe they need Julia Gillard or even better Dame Edna

  • FreeBird

    i`m not a woman nor girleyman so i never feel the brand of OPRAH lol

  • AJ

    Not an Oprah fan, but seriously, if this amount of press (we are reading an article about it) cost a measly $5m for a week’s worth of hour long commercials on visiting Australia on one of America’s most popular shows, that’s a pretty massive value and a helll of a shrewd buy for the tourism industry.

    • Carolyn

      How naive you are. All publicity is NOT good publicity.
      I encourage all American’s NOT to visit Australia. You will not be met be people that are happy to see you.

      • Margie

        AmericaNS not AmericaN’S. We dropped the apostrophe after the civil war.

      • Cathy

        Other than having my camera stolen by a dishonest cabby, my visit to Australia was very enjoyable. I’m glad that I didn’t run into anyone like Carolyn.

      • the other Anne

        Margie, I heart you.

  • sockigal

    Anybody who gives so much of her time, money and self deserves our support and thanks. 1 million for a school, laptops for all the students, $250,000 to a sick man and diamonds for the audience…… crazy. How can a bad word be written about someone who is so giving. You would think all this kindness would be first and foremost in all articles and that as a society we would all be compelled to pay it forward! Thanks Oprah for all you give to the world. You are amazing!

    • Warren

      What rubbish. How is it grand of her to be so selective? It’s selfish behaviour. Why wouldn’t she give the money to an organised charity? By giving it to individuals she encourages sycophantism. She is a shrewd business woman indeed! $1 million dollars out of her billion dollar fortune. Smart play to build her media empire. You obviously aren’t aware that her new cable company intends to charge 3 times the price for subscription as the average cable channel. SMART BUSINESS WOMAN!

      • sockigal

        So you would refuse to accept a gift from Oprah if she was giving you a laptop or money for your neighborhood school? 1 million is only a very small percentage of what she has given to organizations and charities around the world in the last 25 years. Giving of yourself is always in some way selfish behavior, because you feel good about giving, therefore you are also giving to yourself. I felt so great last time I gave (cans of food & socks to a homeless shelter). Wish I had a million to give a school, food organization or homeless shelter, or give laptops to a students at a struggling school. We need more positives in this world instead of negatives.

      • Grumpster

        Oprah giving a million bucks is like us giving a penny into the red kettle every year. She does do good (no doubt), but don’t ask her to give up the farm for anyone. She’s practicing media-based giving…to the biggest bang for the buck she can get publicity-wise for what she does…and so we can all feel good about her generous nature and keep watching her show.

        She’s not stupid.

      • now voyager

        Oh, give me a break. If she didn’t give anything you’d be complaining about that. She might be, at times, insufferable and self obsessed, but I truly believe that she cares about others and loves giving. Maybe some can’t stand a black person having the money and giving charity to whites because bigots feel more comfortable when it’s the other way around.

  • JFWilder

    You call that a knife? This is a knife….Oprah style.

  • Grumpster

    I don’t watch anything Oprah…I’d rather watch HARPO…and Chico and Groucho and Zeppo.

    • J-Dawg

      Don’t forget Gummo — THE only talented one of Minnie’s Boys.

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