Eight years ago, it was big news: Oprah Winfrey had agreed to appear on David Letterman’s “Late Show,” apparently ending an estrangement between the two TV titans that stretched back at least 16 years.
Tonight (Thursday, Aug. 1), Oprah will turn up again on “Late Show” (11:35/10:35c on CBS) for the first time since 2005. The show was taped yesterday in New York (watch video of Oprah arriving at the Ed Sullivan Theater). Actor Paul Rudd is listed as the show’s other guest.
Among the topics Dave and Oprah discussed: Meditation — as you can see if you watch the clip, below.
While the Winfrey booking will likely give the “Letterman” show a one-night shot in the arm in the Nielsen ratings, it’s not being talked about with quite the same fervor as their previous “Late Show” get-together.
And that’s because these two seem to have buried the hatchet (though it’s never been completely clear what exactly they were feuding about in the first place).
The most recent evidence of a thaw between Dave and Oprah was the interview he agreed to, and she conducted, last fall on stage at his alma mater, Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. The in-depth interview was edited down for her show on OWN, “Oprah’s Next Chapter.”
It was conducted when Letterman was preparing to be saluted for lifetime achievement at the Kennedy Center Honors last December, and he agreed to several interviews around that time (including one with Charlie Rose) — a relative rarity for Dave. To his credit, he answered every question Oprah threw at him — even questions about his marriage and his extramarital affairs.
Her last visit to “Late Show” was on Dec. 1, 2005. It was also her first visit to Dave’s CBS show because she hadn’t appeared on any Letterman late-night show since March 2, 1989, when Dave’s NBC “Late Night” show did a week of broadcasts from her home base of Chicago and she appeared as a guest. According to various accounts, the two had no rapport whatsoever and Oprah didn’t return for 16 years.
In 2005, she came on the show to promote the new Broadway musical version of “The Color Purple” that she was financing. The musical was just down the street from the Ed Sullivan Theater, and Dave personally escorted Oprah to his show through throngs of onlookers who had gathered there for their highly publicized reunion.
As for their famous feud (if there ever was one), various observers have attributed it to that ill-fated 1989 appearance on “Late Night”; or Dave’s ill-fated hosting of the Academy Awards in 1995 when he seemed to make fun of Oprah and Uma Thurman’s names; or another anecdote, once told by Letterman to Jon Stewart on “Late Show” in 2010, in which Letterman said he and then-girlfriend Regina Lasko (now his wife) “pranked” Oprah and Steadman Graham, who were sitting at another table in a restaurant, by persuading a waiter that Oprah would be picking up Dave’s check.
Is the yarn true? Who knows? Letterman just may have been joking. Maybe he and Oprah will talk about it tonight and set the record straight.
Since 2005, not much has changed in Dave’s life and career, but Oprah has gone through significant changes — most notably, shutting down her afternoon talk show and launching her own cable network, OWN. She’s coming on “Late Show” to promote a new movie she’s in too — “The Butler,” about a White House butler.