CHICAGO (Reuters) – Oprah Winfrey kicked off one of her last-ever national talk shows on Tuesday with hugs from Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Madonna in a packed Chicago arena.
"She's a self-made woman who's been at the top of her game for over 25 years -- and she's still kicking a**," Madonna told a delighted audience of about 13,000 as a stunned-looking Winfrey stood beside her onstage.
The show, being taped on Tuesday for airing on May 23 and 24, is billed as "Oprah's Surprise Spectacular" because not even the talk show queen was said to have known who would be appearing.
Winfrey's final original "Oprah Winfrey Show", whose contents are still under wraps, will air on May 25, bringing to a close 25 years of the most-watched daytime talk show on U.S. television.
"Your show has turned surprise into an art form," Hanks told Winfrey on Tuesday. "Oprah Winfrey, today you are surrounded by nothing but love. Your studio was not big enough to hold it all, so here we are," Hanks said, gesturing around the glittering basketball arena and concert venue.
Shortly after, Madonna walked onstage and praised Winfrey for her courage. "It's no secret that millions of people are inspired by Oprah," she said. "I am one of those people ... She fights for things she believes in, even if it makes her unpopular ... I have learned so much from her."
A beaming Cruise told Winfrey it was an honor to have been on her show 12 times since 1988. Referring to his first appearance on the show 23 years ago, Winfrey quipped, "You looked like you were 10."
R&B singer Beyonce prefaced a song and dance performance by declaring, "Oprah Winfrey, because of you, women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of what we are, who we are, and who we can be ... We can run the world!"
The show also featured Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry and singer-actress Queen Latifah. Josh Groban and Patti LaBelle sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and comedy stars Tina Fey and Steve Carell sent in video-taped tributes.
Winfrey, regarded as the most influential woman on U.S. television, is wrapping the final season of her syndicated Chicago-based show to devote more energy to her fledgling OWN cable network, which launched in January.
Winfrey announced in November 2009 that she would end her talk show, which airs five days a week on Walt Disney Co's ABC and in some 140 countries.
(Reporting by Matthew Lewis, editing by Jill Serjeant)