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December 15, 2008 2:20 PM

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In the Presence of Oprah

Oprah Winfrey in Maria Pinto. They say that seeing Oprah is like seeing God. So when she arrived at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 50th anniversary gala Dec. 3, I half expected a halo and glowing light emanating...


Oprah Winfrey in Maria Pinto.
They say that seeing Oprah is like seeing God.

So when she arrived at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 50th anniversary gala Dec. 3, I half expected a halo and glowing light emanating from her being. Neither manifested, but her presence was so that, throughout the evening, you were never not aware that Oprah was in the house. (Fortunately for gawkers, her curly hair made her easier to spot).

As honorary chair, Winfrey was introduced onstage by friend and Ailey artistic director Judith Jamison. But while Jamison entered from the wings, Winfrey was dramatically revealed center stage as the theater's heavy red curtains lifted. This woman knows she's a star.
After the performance, but before the lights went up, security escorted Winfrey and friend Gayle King out of the theater.

About 20 minutes later, Winfrey and her crew arrived at the dinner at the Sheraton Hotel -- a mere two blocks from the theater. The flashbulbs were fast and furious in the ballroom, but around Winfrey there was an oasis of calm, thanks in part to a lineup of half a dozen security men between her and the rest of the crowd.

But even they couldn't keep away a white-haired woman who eagerly approached the talk show host and pushed a multicolored gift bag on her (no doubt hoping that whatever was in there turned into one of "Oprah's Favorite Things"). Winfrey graciously accepted the bag and posed for photos with a few fans. Her behavior made you realize that this kind of thing must happen to her all the time.

Security never left her side, standing around her table throughout the dinner. Then, just before the stroke of 12, like a latter-day Cinderella, Winfrey departed much more quietly than she came, through a hidden exit.


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