It’s not every day Radio City Music Hall temporarily closes down its men’s bathroom. But that’s exactly what happened when Oprah Winfrey decided to film two episodes of her Lifeclass series at the famous theater in New York City. My adventure started when I got the email from the OWN team inviting me to attend the tapings of Oprah’s Lifeclass: The Tour featuring two charismatic guest teachers — spiritual wise man Deepak Chopra, who taught the afternoon showabout tapping into your spiritual side (which will air on OWN on April 23) and charismatic lifecoach Tony Robbins, who taught the evening live show about living fearlessly.
When I first got to the theater, I was escorted backstage, downstairs to the brightly lit Rockettes dressing room, to convene with about ten other journalists, and then taken into a small room next door for an intimate meet-and-greet with Tony Robbins. We were all personally introduced to him, and he lasered each of us with his full wattage attention and smile. He then sat down on a couch and thoughtfully and insightfully answered a few questions. At the end of the conversation, we took a picture (which you can see on this page) in which I look like my own mini-me next to the 6’7″ Robbins. He is quite literally larger than life.
I was then escorted back to the main hall to be seated for the Deepak Chopra taping. As press we were given seats that actually had plugs on a railing in front of our seat so that we could charge our computers and phones while we watched. That is one of many things that is so ground breaking about Oprah’s Lifeclass — her unique, pioneering, interactive incorporation of social media — in addition to a corresponding online curriculum and live webcast, Oprah encourages people to fire up their phones (on vibrate of course) during the show so that everyone in the audience, and online, can participate in polls, comment on Facebook and live tweet during the show (she also has people Skyping into the show from around the world). I sent out quite a few tweets during both tapings — in fact, I found myself taking copious notes throughout the shows because I wanted to remember some of the profound droplets of wisdom that were said (a few memorable sound bites I jotted down follow this article).
Being at an Oprah show can at times feel like being at a Beatles concert — when Oprah first comes out on stage the reception is exuberant and deafening, with everyone standing on their feet clapping wildly. Some of my favorite moments happened behind the scenes during the commercial breaks when Oprah speaks off-the-cuff, sometimes seriously, sometimes funny, to the audience. For example, during one of the breaks on the evening show, she complained about her uncomfortable high-heeled Louboutins, finally lamenting “I can’t take it anymore” and handing them off to a lucky fan in the audience, remaining barefoot until a stage hand offered her a more comfortable pair. During the Deepak Chopra show about spirituality, she admitted during a break that her own practice was put to the test when that previous week she and her OWN network were scrutinized in the press when news was released that OWN had cut 30 jobs and cancelled The Rosie Show. Oprah confided that she found it helpful to keep repeating her prayer, “In God I move and breathe and have my being” and to keep reminding herself that this “isn’t who you are and don’t get that confused”.
Adding to the excitement was a surprise pre-show for the Tony Robbins evening taping, when Tony suddenly appeared on stage about a half an hour before the show to pump up the crowd. He managed to get over five thousand of us at Radio City hugging total strangers and dancing, jumping, and screaming (his trademark “yes, yes, yes!” accompanied by fist pumping) — a truly definitive and memorable Oprah Lifeclass moment for me and everyone else. Normally I get embarrassed doing this type of thing but the moment was contagious. Tony’s potent point was about how our state — and the motions of our body — affects us and others around us, and there was a tangible surge in energy, of feeling awake and alive — that I noticed in myself and the audience as a result.