Sunday, 03 October 2004 20:00
LIFE AFTER BEING ON OPRAH
It's the day after my guest spot on The Oprah Winfrey Show aired. I was an expert on shoplifting addiction for the show on "Secret Lives." My book, published in 2003 by Infinity Publishing, is Something for Nothing: Shoplifting Addiction and Recovery. Did you know that 1 out of 11 people in America shoplift? Nearly 25 million Americans take the three-finger discount!
I am still pinching myself. Several people have asked me: How'd you do it? How'd you get on Oprah? After seven years of on-and-off writing and having been turned down by fifty publishers, Infinity Publishing helped me realize my dream in November 2003. The book is finally what put me over the top! My book is what made me an expert in the eyes of the world. Plain and simple.
I got the Oprah Show's attention shortly after my book was published. By grace, a colleague of mine was a best friend in college with a senior producer for Oprah. I mailed her the book. She was interested but cautioned me: Oprah receives about 1,000 story ideas a day. I did the math: Oprah's been on nearly 20 years; 20x365x1000=7,300,000 story ideas pitched to Oprah. I started praying immediately for Winona Ryder to have a relapse! I believed my book was important. Three months later, another producer called me who was making a strong pitch for an end of the year show.
Meanwhile, I still had to go about my life—bills needed to be paid. I flew to Honolulu in late July— I know, tough life—to attend the Annual American Psychological Association International Conference. I brought my books, brochures, and business cards, determined to make contacts with people from across the globe. I was overwhelmed by the number of attendees—over 10,000—and the hundreds-upon-hundreds of seminars on every conceivable topic...except mine.
The day after my return, the phone rang. It was the Oprah Show. Over the next two weeks, I'd spend countless hours searching for a shoplifter who was willing to do the show. I knew many who could, but few who would. The producer wasn't even sure she would have me (or my book) on the show. Finally, I was able to get a woman shoplifter in recovery from the Philadelphia area (coincidentally, the home place of Infinity Publishing). The producer decided I was going to be the expert after all and flew to Detroit to film me and the weekly shoplifters support group I founded, most of whose members have benefited from my book.
On Tuesday morning, August 24, my wife and I were flown into Chicago. We were picked up in a limo driven by a middle-aged balding man with whitish hair who smiled at the bottom of the airport escalator holding a sign with my last name on it. It was a rainy day, and we lounged at our Omni Hotel suite on the Magnificent Mile, taking a sauna, Jacuzzi and fine dining on Oprah’s tab at the hotel restaurant. I ordered room service: a Russian massage therapist who worked her deep tissue magic on our tired bodies. We slept like babies that night.
The same limo driver picked us up the following morning at 7:30. I was relaxed and excited at the same time. At the studio, I had a quick makeup and hair check and by 9am my wife and I were escorted to the big room. I was seated in the front row with the other guests, my wife a few rows behind me. The energy in the room was electric.
When Oprah came out, it was just like you see on TV. Everyone jumped out of their seats and started screaming and applauding! Sure, we'd been coached but nobody really needed any coaching to cheer for Oprah. We would have done it anyway. Everybody loves Oprah!
Soon I would have my 15 minutes of fame (well, 6 minutes after editing). I sat on Oprah's beautiful yellow leather couch across from the host herself. The woman shoplifter, seated between us, gave an eloquent and heart-wrenching interview. Then, I took a deep breath, caught the eyes of my wife, and gave her a calm thumbs up. It's showtime! I was in the zone: relaxed, confident, enjoying and milking every minute of it. Oprah was so down to earth! She makes you feel real and important.
A jolt of thrilling satisfaction shot through me as Oprah mentioned my book title, and then the book cover flashed on the monitors for what seemed like a mere moment that should have been frozen in time. As I watched my appearance on the Oprah Show yesterday, September 21, 2004—when the segment taped in August finally aired—it was as good as I remembered—maybe better, except my shirt collar stuck out of my suit coat a bit.
So, I did it! My book is out there in the world. Within one year of being published by Infinity, I really did it! Through the power of the book, lots of persistence, hard work, and a little (a lot) of patience and luck, I got on the Oprah Show. I hope you have a shot at this kind of success, too!