Oprah's Big Car Giveaway

Oprah celebrates 19 seasons; awards each member of her audience a new car

By Sarah Hall Sep 13, 2004 6:00 PMTags

Oprah Winfrey: reigning queen of daytime talk, book club guru and newly minted automobile fairy.

The gabber celebrated the start of the 19th season of The Oprah Winfrey Show Monday by awarding each of her 276 audience members a brand new car.

Teasing her season opener, Winfrey had guaranteed viewers something momentous. She even had an emergency medical crew standing by in case anybody in her audience was overcome by the magnitude of the surprise.

"We're calling this our wildest dream season, because this year on the Oprah show, no dream is too wild, no surprise too impossible to pull off," Winfrey said.

In order to maintain the element of suspense, Winfrey initially called 11 audience members onto the stage and gave each of the elated chosen ones a Pontiac G6.

As the rest of her audience looked on enviously, gift boxes were distributed throughout the crowd and Winfrey told them that one box contained a 12th set of keys.

But when the audience opened the boxes, they each discovered their own set of keys, as Oprah crowed, "Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!"

Audience members responded by erupting into screams and many began weeping, making for excellent close-up fodder. The group then rushed out to the parking lots at Winfrey's Harpo Studios to check out their new rides, each decorated with a red bow.

Winfrey said she chose her audience members based on testimonials from their friends and family members about their specific needs for a new car. One couple drove a car with more than 400,000 miles on it; another woman drove a car that her son said "looks like she got into a gun fight."

Gifting her audience with cars wasn't the only act of generosity Winfrey performed in her opener. In another segment on the show, she teamed with Tyra Banks to surprise a 20-year-old girl who grew up in foster homes and homeless shelters with a four-year college scholarship, a $10,000 shopping spree and a makeover from Banks' America's Next Top Model team.

Winfrey also aided a family with eight foster children on the verge of being kicked out of the house they were renting by giving them $130,000 to buy and repair the home.

If 19 seasons on the air rates each audience member a new car, it's hard to imagine what Winfrey will be giving away when she hits season 25?the yakker recently extended her contract to keep hosting her syndicated chatfest through 2011.