Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Oprah Hits The Stands

By Shelly Ridenour

APRIL 24, 2000:  O' my God: By the time you read this, you'll be able to grab your very own copy of O from the newsstand. Oprah's eponymous new magazine -- it's the nickname close personal pals call her -- launched with a big ol' star-studded (among the guests: competitor Martha Stewart) party in New York on Monday, and hit the streets on Wednesday. Since Hearst Magazines announced last summer that they would be publishing the Queen of Talk's bi-monthly lifestyle mag (reportedly set to go monthly in September), rumors have been flying fast and furious.

Among my favorites: An April 10 story in Newsday reported, "Hearst hadn't reckoned on the extent of Winfrey's hands-on involvement. 'The idiocy was to assume they'd be able to just show Oprah stuff and she'd sign off on it,' said an executive close to the launch. Deadlines were missed, Winfrey insisted articles be rewritten, and photo shoots were delayed due to colored candles. 'Take them out,' Winfrey commanded at one home design session, and demanded another interior be re-photographed after she noticed a background bowl. 'I would never have that in my home,' she reportedly said."


Here's what we know: The price is $2.95. The subscription rate is $12 for twelve issues. The debut issue is 318 pages, 166 of which are ads; the rate for a color ad page is $32,500; O has commitments for 600 ad pages -- that's $20 million -- for the first year. After an initial print order of 850,000 copies, Hearst upped the run to more than a million. The target demographic is women ages 25-49 (and I have to admit I am freaked out by the fact that I am part of Oprah's target audience and my mother is not). O will not accept tobacco or diet ads. Jane Fonda will be interviewed in the next issue, and Editor in Chief Ellen Kunes told the New York Daily News that Oprah will appear on every cover "for the forseeable future." (And justifiably so; Oprah's appearance on the cover of InStyle marked that magazine's best-selling issue ever, and her 1998 covers for Vogue and Good Housekeeping were their top sellers for the year.)

So what falls in between the bookending front- and back-of-the-book columns Oprah herself pens? A much-ballyhooed interview with Camille Cosby, wife of Bill, about their son's murder; an essay by the fantastic author Danzy Senna ("Caucasia") about growing up as a mixed-race child with a racist grandmother; and the story of a model who left the runway for the "simple life" of running a $25 million Martha Stewart-like empire. The Boston Globe's Mark Jurkowitz writes, "O's one truly memorable piece [is] a book excerpt [in which] writer Elizabeth Kim recounts her struggle to surmount her wrenching experiences and forlorn destiny as an illegitimate child in postwar Korea." Future issues will feature columns by Oprah show regulars trainer Bob Greene, spiritualist Gary Zukav, financial consultant Suze Orman and psychologist Philip McGraw. "There will be no diet column," Winfrey tells USA Today. "I am so over dieting."

The current issue also features predictable fare: "Illuminations" by guru Marianne Williamson, such as "Wisdom is like marinade" and "The effort to be rooted in love is the effort to grow wise." There are poems by Alice Walker, a journal excerpt from Jewel (if it's anything like her book of poetry... eeeeeeeee!) and scattered empowering quotes from the likes of Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt and, of course, Maya Angelou. New York Post gossip columnist Neal Travis writes, "The sense of deja vu was overwhelming when I opened the first issue... It just seemed so familiar -- articles headed 'The Hidden Power of Listening,' 'Use Your Life,' 'Your Knees Don't Have to Hurt,' 'The Gift of Homemade Stationery' and 'Connect With Your Friends This Weekend.' That's when the penny dropped. The only things missing from Oprah's fat new glossy are sections called 'Humor in Uniform' and 'Laughter is the Best Medicine.' So welcome, O, to the world of the Reader's Digest. I don't think Martha Stewart's Living has much to worry about."

And the Sun-Times' Paige Smoron says, "Bottom line? Oprah's fans will be in nirvana (some, literally). But readers unfamiliar with Oprah's unique brand of feel-good narcissism will roll their eyes from time to time. This is dangerous territory, after all -- even Ivana Trump has her own magazine."

Good thing O, the woman, has the right attitude. She recently told USA Today, "'Beloved,' taught me one thing. Do the work and give up any attachment to it. Give it everything you've got, then let it go."

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