Hollywood stars turn out for farewell Oprah show

Wed May 18, 2011 12:42am EDT
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By Matthew Lewis

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Oprah Winfrey neared the end of her quarter-century reign on national television on Tuesday night with a star-studded send-off featuring Beyonce, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Tom Cruise, Michael Jordan and many others who honored the talk show queen's efforts to boost education and fight poverty.

"She's a self-made woman who's been at the top of her game for over 25 years -- and she's still kicking ass," Madonna told a delighted audience of about 13,000 in a Chicago arena.

Wearing a purple gown, the pony-tailed Winfrey basked in the night of tributes from A-list celebrities and friends. Billed as "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular" because Winfrey was kept in the dark about the guest list, the show will air in two parts on May 23 and 24.

Winfrey's final original "Oprah Winfrey Show", whose contents are still under wraps, will air on May 25, bringing to a close 25 years of the most-watched daytime talk show on U.S. television.

"Your show has turned surprise into an art form," actor Tom Hanks told Winfrey on Tuesday. "Oprah Winfrey, today you are surrounded by nothing but love. Your studio was not big enough to hold it all, so here we are," Hanks said, gesturing around the glittering basketball arena and concert venue.

Madonna praised Winfrey for her courage. "It's no secret that millions of people are inspired by Oprah," she said. "I am one of those people ... She fights for things she believes in, even if it makes her unpopular."

A slimmed-down Aretha Franklin, now recovered from major surgery six months ago, sang "Amazing Grace" to a stunned Winfrey. Beyonce, who performed her new single "Run the World (Girls), said that because of her "women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of what we are, who we are, and who we can be."

FEELING THE LOVE   Continued...

<p>Oprah Winfrey and Madonna embrace during the taping of "Oprah's Surprise Spectacular" in Chicago May 17, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress</p>