About 15 years ago, at a one-day office temp job somewhere on Michigan Avenue, one of my co-workers discreetly pointed to a man just out of earshot. He had an athlete’s frame, a drill sergeant’s posture, and a general’s bearing. In the hushed tone that we little people use in the vicinity of greatness, my co-worker said, “That’s Stedman.”
“Wow,” I whispered back. “Who’s Stedman?”
After a pause befitting the moment, she said, “Oprah’s boyfriend.”
The rest is foggy, but here’s what I think happened: Stedman eyed the spine of a book on my desk—I was re-reading Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France—and he complimented my evident erudition. I suggested, in German, that we head to Morton’s for lunch. He agreed in French and then hailed a cab in Italian.
The steaks and martinis went down almost too well, so we spent the afternoon working it off at the East Bank Club. I won’t say that I spotted Stedman as he lifted 475 pounds off of his expansive chest, because in truth he did all the work, and my presence at the incline bench was ornamental at best. “Studman” sometimes seems the more appropriate pronunciation.
After a lengthy and spirited steam-room discussion on the Leibniz-Newton feud, we returned to Morton’s to split a magnum of Sauvignon Blanc and a pair Maine lobsters boiled in Stedman’s own sweat.
I have seen Stedman every single day since. More than a friend, he is a combination of father and brother to me—quick to box me across the ears when I fail, but just as ready to cheer my meager triumphs and to prod my slightest efforts. So I, of all people, was shocked to hear him say that Chicagoans do not appreciate Oprah.
Stedman delivered the unwelcome judgment last Friday on Fox’s Good Day Chicago, a morning newstainment show whose title now reeks of irony.
“ I really don’t think [Chicagoans] appreciate her,” Stedman told the normally sunny David Novarro and Jan Jeffcoat. “A prophet does not have any honor in its own town.”
If this sounds like a Messianic description of Oprah, that’s because Stedman was quoting another charismatic personality known mainly by a first name. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place…”
This analogy is not entirely fair to Oprah, since Jesus wasn’t a billionaire and did not have his own magazine, but Stedman’s point stands.
On September 9, 2011, after 25 glorious seasons, Oprah will end her show.
She will shake the dust of this town from her Tory Burch sandals, and we ungrateful Chicagoans will gnash our teeth and beat our heads in lamentation.
But not yet. The day will come when the bridegroom—or, I should say, the bride— is taken from us. But while she is still here, Chicagoans must offer Stedmanian commitment to Oprah by celebrating all she has done for us. For example, there was that one time that… uh…
Shoot. Didn't she give everybody a car at some point?