Oprahfied

I'm not what you'd call a fan of Oprah Winfrey. I like that she encourages people to read and assures women that they have valid inner lives. I can also acknowledge her greatest accomplishment—which, if I'm going to tell it like it is, remains one of the major achievements of this country's last century: She's an overweight black woman with more money than God. (This is no small feat, since America is a racist nation raised on the superficial adulation of wraithlike white women; anybody willing to argue this must have suffered a severe head wound during Nancy Reagan's reign.) And I'd rather an overweight black woman have a lot more money than God, since he never knows how to spend it, anyway.

Unfortunately, we now have official proof that owning billions will get the best of anybody in America, up to and including overweight black women. The Oprah Winfrey Show recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with a "special" episode. It was Oprah, it was Hermes, and it was unbearable.

As you may recall, Oprah was denied entry to Hermes' Paris store this past summer—and, man, was she pissed. Following her lead, the media pounced on the fashion house with accusations of everything short of playing a role in the former imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. Oprah's show last week gave Hermes the generous opportunity to apologize for the insult—or, to look at it another way, it gave Oprah a chance to show us how low she's fallen on her rise.

"My friends and I were standing inside the doorway, and there was much discussion amongst the staff as to whether or not to let me in—that was embarrassing," she told her audience. She then invited Robert Chavez, lackey president of Hermes' U.S. division, on for some bootlicking. Chavez, struggling manfully to maintain some dignity, expressed remorse and explained that the store had been trying to usher everyone out in order to set up a private event, and that—much to the outraged disbelief of Winfrey's audience—the "rigid" ("Rude," countered Oprah) staffer had no idea who Oprah was. Then Oprah, speaking to millions of viewers on the premiere episode of her show's 20th season, swore she "wasn't trying to play that celebrity card." Then Chavez expressed more remorse. Then Oprah told everybody it was OK to buy Hermes bags again.

Then I threw up. It may have been due to my exertion on the Stairmaster at the gym where I was watching the show, but I don't think so.

For the record, I once got snubbed while trying to buy Calvin Klein underwear at Macy's, and I'm certain that my arm hair prevented me from getting good service at Ambercrombie & Fitch. I am sure that Oprah was given a hard time at Hermes, and I, too, was shocked that such a thing could happen. (A rude Parisian shopgirl? A Gallic fashion house looking down its nose at people? What has become of the internationally renowned French reputation for bear hugs and humility?) But I'm not so sure that this was an event worthy of broadcast retribution. Despite the untenable humiliation of African Americans by unrepentant white snobs throughout Western history, I'm even less sure that such a petty, packaged display of entitlement makes either Oprah or Hermes look more benevolent in my eyes.

sweicking@seattleweekly.com

 
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