Oprah's outcasts

What does it take to get booted off her couch?

MR. SMARTY pants, a.k.a. The Corrections author Jonathan Franzen, had to open his big mouth; now look what happens. First he's chosen for Oprah Winfrey's book club—one of the biggest commercial coups any writer could hope to attain—and invited to appear on her television show. Then, interviewed last week on NPR, he said of Oprah's literary selections that "she's picked enough schmaltzy, one- dimensional ones that I cringe." Now he's apologetically trying to retract his words, but it's too late; Oprah swiftly rescinded Franzen's invitation to appear on her show.

The brouhaha has been called the first-such occurrence in Oprah history, but an exhaustive, exclusive SW investigation reveals otherwise, as detailed below:

Norman Mailer: After being invited to discuss his new memoir, Bottoms Up, the crotchety Brooklyn writer was overheard maligning Ms. Winfrey during a booze-fueled brawl at the White Horse Tavern. "That fat bitch wouldn't know which side of a book to open if her life depended on reading it," he snarled. A drunken Mailer was later forcibly denied access to the Oprah TV studio, claiming he was misquoted and was actually referring to his third wife.

J.K. Rowling: The creator of the Harry Potter series was unceremoniously axed from a recent Oprah lineup when, in her recent Harry Potter and the Ogre's Curse, her young protagonist battles "a monster called 'O-fragh' who destroys the imaginations of young wizards by subjecting them to brain-scrubbing TV rays." An uncontrite Rowling says a sequel and film adaptation are planned: O-fragh Strikes Back.

Susan Sontag: First drawing ire for her linkage of U.S. foreign policy and Arab terrorism, she later amplified her remarks: "More than Western hegemony, it's our smug, insular American stupidity that's to blame. You can't fight Osama with Oprah." Hours later, she was replaced on the show's schedule by Martha Stewart.

Martha Stewart: Called on short notice to promote her latest home furnishings book, Stewart commented to a TV reporter that, "God knows Oprah's set could use some help. I mean, when was the last time you saw ecru drapes? And those throw pillows? Terrible!" Ms. Stewart was promptly uninvited by fax.

Salman Rushdie: According to an Oprah publicist, the author of The Satanic Verses was nixed from his guest appearance after he called Ms. Winfrey "a bit of a wanker" on a BBC Radio show. Her publicist explained, "We're not sure what it means, but after Martha Stewart, we're not taking any chances."

Tom Clancy: Promoting his latest techno-thriller, The Gemini Agenda, on his official Web site, he wrote of Winfrey: "That woman is tough! She doesn't need security guards—just look at her! It'd take the Delta Force to knock her out." Clancy was promptly barred from the show while protesting that he meant the remarks as a compliment.

Michael Crichton: The author of Jurassic Park IV had his Oprah invitation overridden when the show's producers read a passage in which a mad scientist fed caged velociraptors "soft, corpulent, vacuous TV-talk-show hosts whom they devoured like so many minimarshmallows."

Stephen E. Ambrose: "I have no idea why my Oprah appearance was canceled," says the best-selling writer of Undaunted Courage and other history works. "I was quoted as saying that her old boyfriend Stedman seemed gay—but what's wrong with that? I mean cheerful, peppy, happy-go-lucky, fun to be around. How could anyone find that objectionable?"

Brian Miller: The obscure alternative weekly newspaper editor was bumped from the show after belatedly admitting that he had not authored Cold Mountain, Tiger Woods' autobiography, and The English Patient, as he previously claimed. He then further confessed that he could not actually read or write, having failed to complete grade school. It is not known what has since become of the mendacious illiterate.

bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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