OFFBEAT: Hammond reader asks about Maya Angelou and Oprah Book Club

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-06-08T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Hammond reader asks about Maya Angelou and Oprah Book ClubBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

A favorite part of writing this daily column comes from the many reader questions I receive each day.

And sometimes, they don't arrive from telephone calls, emails or in the mail, but just from everyday encounters, such as a visit to the grocery store.

Last week, while in the checkout line at a grocery store in Munster, reader Barb Narug of Hammond recognized me from my newspaper column photo and asked me about the tribute I wrote about poet Maya Angelou, who died last month at age 86 at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Before long, another woman standing next to me also joined in the conversation about Oprah Winfrey and how she revered Angelou as a friend and mentor.

Narug also had a specific question which I promised to answer in today's column.

She said she seemed to recall Oprah hosting an intimate party at her home, which her producers taped to air as an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and that it highlighted Angelou's book.

"What I also remember, for some reason, is that Oprah and Maya and everyone were in their pajamas, unless I'm recalling it wrong, as odd as it sounds," Narug said.

"Do you remember any of this?"

Barb is certainly correct. And she did not just imagine such a televised slumber party.

What she is remembering is one of the showcased episodes that revolved around Oprah's Book Club, a very popular feature segment Oprah promoted on her show from 1996 until May 25, 2011. By the time she ended the book club discussion segment, she had recommended 70 books during its 15 years. (When I hosted a similar monthly concept highlighting cookbooks for Barnes & Noble on U.S. 30 in Hobart from 2002 to 2004, I remember one of the store managers Jeanne Leurs telling me that any tome that featured the all-important Oprah Book Club foil sticker sold like gold!)

In 1997, Oprah selected Angelou's new book "The Heart of a Woman" (fourth of her six penned memoirs) as one of her Oprah Book Club selections. As a part of the book discussion and promotion, Oprah and pals held a pajama party in the living room of Angelou's 18-room home which was taped to later air on her show in June. As a part of the episode, Oprah and Maya in their pajamas lounged on Maya's giant brass bed as the poet dispensed her wisdom to the talk show host.

Just as you thought, I too, believed the episode I just described, was taped at Oprah's Farm in Rolling Praire, Ind. near LaPorte, which she sold in 2005.

Some of the confusion might because in September 1997, during the 23rd season of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," the sketch comedy show spoofed this Oprah Book Club segment with a parody that featured Tim Meadows as Oprah hosting another such pajama party, this time, at her Indiana farm, which ended with she and all of her guests giggling like schoolgirls in her hot tub. While fellow cast member Tracy Morgan was usually made to don a wig and portray Angelou, he was not featured in this sketch, although Angelou's name is referenced by Meadows as he portrays Oprah in the segment.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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