The event we’d been waiting for — and dreading — all week has finally come and gone: “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is no more.
And nowhere in D.C. was the loss felt more palpably than at the finale viewing party at JR’s Bar & Grill, a popular bar in Dupont Circle that drew a slew of mostly male fans of the queen of daytime TV.
“Oprah, Oprah, Oprah — that’s why we’re all here,” said 24-year-old Traci Bexley. Of the three dozen or so people who attended the finale viewing party at JR’s Wednesday afternoon, Bexley and her friend Shayla Ball were two of just four female customers.
“I’ve been watching Oprah since 5th grade, for the last 14 years,” said Bexley. “Fashion changed, music went in and out, but Oprah’s always been there. This show was my one-on-one time with her. Whatever step she takes next won’t mean as much.”
Ball, 25, echoed Bexley’s sentiments. “We grew up with her,” she said. ”The worst part is we’re finally old enough to really appreciate her.”
But just because the finale marked a sad day didn’t mean JR’s customers weren’t ready for a party.
“We’re at JRs!” announced one fan, Jimmy Taglauer, impersonating Oprah with a throaty voice and outstretched arms. “We’re drinking vodkas! Here’s my friend John Travolta!”
Taglauer, 30, has been an Oprah fan as long as he can remember. “I had four older sisters,” he said by way of explanation. He left work at 2:30 p.m. and took the bus and the Metro to get to JR’s in time for the 4 p.m. screening. “I left the office specifically for this. It’s kind of momentous.”
While there wasn’t any sign of John Travolta or any of Oprah’s other famous friends, JR’s couldn’t resist but throw in a spectacular surprise — something that was noticeably missing from the finale.
“You’re all getting CARS!” someone bellowed, mimicking Oprah’s trademark style, over the bar’s PA system about three-quarters of the way through the show. When the crowd displayed no reaction aside from confused looks, the voice said again, “No, really, you’re getting cars. TOY CAAAARS!”
“She’s a caricature of herself now,” acknowledged Taglauer, “and I like that. Some of her interviews are really important. And let’s be honest — she picked our president.”
The crowd watched with rapt attention (anyone who spoke over Oprah promptly got shushed), sighed sympatheticaly when she teared up, and cheered when she gave a shoutout to her gay fanbase; “I thank you for tuning in every day along with your mothers and sisters, your daughters, your partners — gay and otherwise ...” she said in the final moments.
“We knew this was a big day in our lives and we were like, ‘How can we honor her?’” said Bill Huff, 29, who attended with a group of about seven friends. “We thought about having a party at one of our places, but realized we didn’t want to pay for it or clean up after.
“So we ‘Oprah-fied’ ourselves” — a photo manipulation tool on the Oprah Web site — “and brought in our own favorite things. Mine are gummy bears, rainbow chip [cake] frosting and ‘pocket gays,’” Huff said, holding up a computer printout of two “really tiny gay men.”
As the finale wound down, so did the happy hour. Huff and his friends held hands in a sort of prayer circle as Oprah pressed her palms together in thanks to her audience.
Vernon Wall, one of Huff’s friends, described the finale as an “Oprah keynote.” Huff called it a “eulogy to herself.” Another friend, Joey DeSanto. called it “Judy Garland, 2011.” “Judy Garland — but without the drugs,” corrected Huff.
“I’ve been watching from the beginning,” said Wall. “She was always good. She’s always been consistent. I’m not sad because it’s not over. This show is over. But Oprah’s not done.”
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