I met James Taylor Today! (and saw Oprah)

For the Oprah fans in the audience I’ll start from the beginning (I’m sure Molly will post her version of the day at some point too). It all began on Monday night. Apparently Oprah tickets are nearly impossible to get, but Molly has had a few friends get them by filling out the last minute ticket requests. Generally they go up a few days before a show and are looking for people who fit some particular criteria. Molly has filled out a few on her own, but hadn’t ever been chosen. This week’s eassay theme though, was something along the lines of “What James Taylor means to you”. Molly didn’t have any interest in JT, but was hoping that I would be willing to write the essay for her.

I obliged and cranked out an essay about how I grew up listening to him and that I was trying to introduce my kids to his music as well. After about 10-15 minutes I decided it was good enough and hit the submit button before Molly had a chance to read or critique it since it was already about 10:15 and past my bedtime.

Jumping forward to Wednesday afternoon when I got a call at school from Molly. “Hi Zak, Becky called for you, AND WE’RE GOING TO SEE OPRAH!!!!!!”. I have to admit from the start I was incredibly nervous about the prospect. I didn’t really get the whole Oprah crazy (although I really do appreciate her more after today). I had noticed on the form I had filled out that people who get tickets that way may be chosen to participate in the show or ask a question. Since I was pretty sure that I was going to be the only guy there I didn’t really want to have to stand out on national television any more than I had to.

I was excited to be going to see JT in such a small venue, but I figured it would only be a couple songs at the end of a show filled with talk about “va-ja-jas” (Much to my dismay there was talk of “va-ja-jas”). Molly was truly excited to be going to see Oprah though, so I figured that it would be a pretty cool once-in-a-lifetime kind of experiance.

This morning we woke up about 5:30, dropped the kids off at a babysitter and got to Harpo about 7:00. I was surprised to see so much free open parking so close to the loop, but that was a good thing (the lot across the street was chaging $30) but we found a spot just a couple blocks away. After parking we entered the audience tunnel outside the studio and were really the only people there except for a few waiting for standby slots. We were sent around the corner where there was a bit of a line of other people with confirmed seats, but within 5 minutes or so were actually in the building. After waiting another 5 or 10 minutes we gave them my name, and they couldn’t find it on the list, gave them Molly’s name, and they couldn’t find it I’m sure Molly was freaking out at this point. Then we spelled it for them and it miraculously appeared, so all was well.

We were handed two blue sheets of paper and sent further inside where we were briefly separated. I was sent upstairs to get seats in the waiting room for us (I was later glad they did that since there ended up being quite a few people who had to stand) while Molly had her purse searched (I’m surprised they didn’t confiscate the doughnuts).

Upstairs we filled out our paperwork: a release form granting them rights to our image and anything we said to use in anyway they want forever and a form to request a song from JT (I chose Copperline and had Molly pick Carolina in my Mind). We chatted a bit with the ladies around us who didn’t really know any of his songs but were thrilled to see Oprah.

About 8:15 they started seating people in the audience. That was when Molly and I realized that we must have been some of the last people to arrive since we were numbered 226 and 227 and there were only about 300 spots. When we finally were seated we were given seats in the very top corner to the left side of the stage. In fact they were so much in the corner that from my seat I couldn’t see the stage so I moved down a row and we ended up sitting apart, but could, at least, both see.

A warm up lady came out and told us it was going to be a live show and to have fun and act like it was a party. She took a couple stupid questions from the audience, and about 2 minutes before 9 Oprah and whoever the other 3 people she has on on Fridays are came out and sat down. The first half of the show was them talking about current shows (buying your teenage daughter a vibrator pro/con and the YFZ ranch), then there was an interview with a lady who had left the ranch. It was really cool to see the studio and the production. During the commercial break there was a whole team of people who came out to primp everyone.

Finally they got to the break before JT, and 2 minutes completely transformed the stage from the Oprah table to a performance stage, this was really impressive to see. They came back from break, Oprah introduced him, and JT walked out on stage. He went right into singing Carolina in my Mind, and it really was amazing to be 20 feet from him performing, in a room of 300 people. After that break he sang half each of “You’ve got a Friend” and “Fire and Rain”. During the final break Oprah was talking about how wonderful he was personally and joked that many of her guests weren’t (but that she wasn’t going to name names). He said that “When you ask people for their attention for 30 years you can’t be upset when they give it to you”. They came back from the final break and her sang most of “Shower the People”. Oprah thanked him and announced that the audience was all getting a copy of his newest album “Other Covers”, which had just come out on Tuesday.

He and Oprah taked on stage for a few moments with the mics off and then they were turned back on to her saying “We’re off the air now, you don’t have to” and him insisting that he play a few more songs. He played for about 20 more minutes, to the best of my recollection it was “Something in the Way She Moves”, “Sweet Baby James”, “Only One” (as requested by an audience member), “You Can Close Your Eyes (duet with his wife), and Mexico after which his wife seemed to signal him that she and the kids were ready to go. I got the impression he would have been content to sing all morning, it was really a great performance and experience.

After he, Oprah, and the other guests left they dismissed the audience by section, and we filtered out the door picking up our CD on the way. Mol and I went back to the car to make a call to see how the girls were doing and drop off the CD’s before heading to the Oprah store and lunch. The Oprah store was pretty much exactly what you’d think an Oprah store would be, lots of stuff with her name on it. When we were about 3/4 of the way through we noticed a bit of commotion at the exit and all of a sudden James Taylor walked in and it was announced that he would be signing autographs. We were bummed we’d dropped of the CD’s but decided to wait in line anyway to say hello and ask for a picture.


He was just as kind in person as he had been on stage, I thanked him for the show and all the music he’d written. Molly told him that he had been the first concert she’d been to, he asked where (Poplar Creek I think?) and he knew that the venue had been closed. He was more than happy to pose for a picture with me. After that Molly and I headed to Wishbone about a block East of Harpo for a Cajun lunch (Crawfish cakes, rice and beans, mac and cheese, biscuit, and coleslaw for me).

Like I said at the top I’d never really understood the whole Oprah thing before today, but now I guess I can understand it a bit better. Thank you Oprah for a wonderful day, and the chance to meet James Taylor and hear him perform in such an amazing place.

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