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September 10th, 2009 by Dr. Phil


Photo Credit: Harpo Inc./George Burns

Photo Credit: Harpo Inc./George Burns

One night last month, I happened to be awake quite late and flipped on the television and started watching the movie Twister, which is about a group of storm chasers in Oklahoma and Kansas.  The story is kind of simple, but fun, although for me the cinematography was nostalgically spectacular.  I grew up in those wide-open farm flatlands where you can see for 100 miles on a clear day.  The wide roads and Dairy Queen-type drive-ins featured in the movie took me back to a simple and comfortable time.

I remember thinking that as I get older, more and more is nostalgic because my past is getting longer and my future is getting shorter! It was a pleasant feeling, and I recall finding it odd to be moved by something from my past.  Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age.  Little did I know that I was about to really get my “nostalgia socks knocked off!” I was about to go back to where my television life all began.  I was headed back to Chicago to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time in over seven years.

Now, I have known Oprah for many, many years.  Despite the totally fabricated fantasies that you read in the tabloid rags about my relationship with Oprah, the truth is, we are great and dear friends, as well as close business associates.  She and Robin are great friends, and both Jay and Jordan have grown up with Oprah in their lives.  Outside of my family, there are few people in this world who are more important to me than Oprah. To this day, I have trouble putting into words how she has changed my life and that of my family.  But although we have always stayed personally connected, I had not been back to the stage where it all started.

So, a few weeks ago, off I went.  Like so many times before, I packed a suit and flew to Chicago to do her show. I thought you might like to know what I was thinking and feeling, so I actually made some notes along the way.

I landed and was driven to the very same hotel in downtown Chicago (my home away from home) — in fact, into the very same room — where I had stayed during my five years of doing the show. (At that point, I thought about how I was doing what probably 8,000 to 10,000 guests on my show have done. Interesting role reversal.) I got out of the car and the same bellman who was there seven-and-a-half years ago said, “Welcome back, Dr. Phil.” Talk about stability. I have to say, I was feeling like I had been there just last week.

I dumped my bags and headed off to one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Wow, Cathy was still there at the front desk and hadn’t aged a day!  We had had a running joke, she hadn’t forgotten. Without missing a beat she said, “Hey, get in here and we will put the feedbag on you.” She did! Then, back to hotel to prep for the show and off to bed.  So strange how the pattern kicked in like autopilot.

At 7:00 a.m., we turned onto Carpenter Street and pulled up to Oprah’s famous Harpo Studios. Wow, all of a sudden, I had this powerful feeling of coming home.

Photo Credit: Harpo Inc./George Burns

Photo Credit: Harpo Inc./George Burns

Inside, so many friends from days gone by.  Good folks. But the one person I did not see on arrival was Oprah herself. I knew I wouldn’t see her before the stage.  She taught me long ago to not to EVER see your guests before the show so you are both fresh when things get underway.

The real nostalgia kicked in when I stepped into what had been my “quiet zone” for five years of Oprah shows. There’s a long, wide hallway outside the studio where the show is actually shot, and at the end of that hallway are big, thick metal doors. It was in this hallway that I had always had my alone time; time to totally shut out the rest of the world and focus on the important work ahead. Without ever talking about it, Oprah’s staff never engaged me once I stepped into that hallway.  It was my place and my time, then and now.

I realized that they had suddenly, as if on cue, disappeared. They still remembered that I needed my time in that hallway. They knew I needed to step into that zone.  Now, the feelings were powerful. I swear, it was like I had never been gone: I am in the moment, ready to go. The assistant stage manager steps in.  Eye contact; time to go.

I walked through the metal doors and saw a newly refurbished stage. But incredibly, the aroma of the stage area was the same. Everything, in fact, felt the same. And there was Oprah, standing up, waiting to greet me. The producers played a taped piece of some of the more memorable moments during my appearances on her show over the years, and I was so overwhelmed.

In a flash, however, I was beside Oprah. To the world, she’s the most powerful figure in television – a clarion voice for all things good. But to me, she’s my great friend. And just like that, it was like two friends talking about the most interesting times in which we live. She’s the best there ever was or will be.

And what did we talk about? As Paul Harvey would say, for the rest of the story, tune in to Oprah. You will not be disappointed.

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62 Responses to “Homecoming”

  1. Cindi says:

    Dear Dr. Phil,
    On this show, I believe you talked about a sociopath who is in jail for several murders. The other day, you suggested another certain person who is in the limelight as most likely being a sociopath. Personally, I don’t think he should be in the spotlight, let alone be looked at as some sort of hero.
    But I have questions: are all sociopaths “dangerous”? I wouldn’t trust that particular person as far as I could throw him…. (I doubt I could even push him!) And is this a genetic flaw of some kind? Because you eluded to the fact that there is no rehabilitating them… or at least that it would be extremely difficult to.
    Should people be concerned?

  2. Jenni Scallan says:

    Hi Dr Phil

    As I live in South Africa, I guess it’ll be a while before I get to see your reunion show with Oprah. :(

    I used to so look forward to the Oprah show on the days on which you appeared; you were just so straight forward and sensible. It’s fabulous that you went on to have your own show, which I LOVE! Most times I watch it 6 days a week, plus I also follow the Dr Phil Show website. As for your ‘Dr Phil-isms’, my favorite that I’ve taken to using (mostly on my teenage son) is ‘Do you think I just fell off the back of a turnip truck?’ !

    Love & Best wishes
    Jenni Scallan

  3. Patty Gaynor says:

    I am an older woman with Leukemia. CLL to be exact. I understand this is the lesser of all cancers that I should be worried about. I would like to here more about the research that is going on for this nasty stuff. Although, I am doing relatively well,the kickbacks from this junk are terrible. I have developed many illnesses and infections.
    Over-all, my first oncologist, gave me a 5-year life span. I have lived 13 yrs past that. I was diagnosed on Dec.3,1996 @2:30 PM CST time. Don’t ever let people tell ya that a Bone Marrow Aspiration does not hurt, even after having been numbed, it was not totally numb. Believe when I say, I let him know how bad it still hurt. To anyone who has cancer and the doctor gives you an allotted period of time, DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. It is all about attitude. If you go in with a negative attitude you will most likely only live that length of time . On the other hand , a postive attitude goes a very long way when you talk about your health.
    The first few weeks are damaging to anyone. “Cancer is much like a tornado, it comes in and attacks some of us, it then destroys a certain part of your body. The answer is Fight for your Life”, learn All you can learn about the specific kind of cancer you have. Believe me, it helps. Get into a support group. Support groups are not always depressing, they are upbeat and fun actually.
    Now that I have comlpeted what I needed to say, I will let ya go.
    I do love the show.

  4. Joy says:

    Dear Dr. Phil,
    Could tell me when or if the show you did with Oprah has already aired. I have been in the hospital and just came home last evening. I really wanted to see this show. I found this notice in my E-mails this morning while trying to catch up on everything I missed. The hospital I was in was not equipped with wireless internet service so I couldn’t take my laptop with me. It also had only a few channels, so I wouldn’t of known when the show aired. Is there anyway I can view this show on-line now that I am home?
    Keep up the good work!

  5. Tammy says:

    I am interested in watching the “Dr. Phil” reunion show that was on the Oprah Show last week … Dr.Phil spoke with a woman whose father was a serial killer … its there a way I can watch the episode online on my computer?

  6. I am so glad you took the time to document your reunion with Oprah. Reading it was very touching and it is amazing, I have never met Oprah in person, but feel so connected to her as well. She has an amazing gift and has done amazing work. I must say that some of her best work was introducing the world to Dr. Phil. You both have been great resources for our family and I love you both!!! Keep doing what you both do so well.

    Cheering you both on in McDonough, Georgia!!!!!

  7. Michelle Adams says:

    I like the quick glance that the camera caught of Dr. Phil. It showed his genuine concern and compassion.

  8. Lauren says:

    It was a good show. You shouldn’t wait 7 years to do that again. How about everyother year? What I found interesting were the behind the scenes thoughts. For example Oprah chose not to interview Nadia Suleman because she thought it was better for you to do that interview. I just love those little tidbits of info.

  9. Tamela Handie says:

    Hi Dr. Phil. My name is Tamela Handie from Kansas City, Missouri. I’m one of the original 42 people that you worked with 8 years ago on the Oprah Winfrey Show-Get Real Challenge. That experience totally changed my life and I am forever grateful to you for helping me to get real and acknowledge what I needed to change in my life. I watch your show all the time and I was thrilled to see your return to the Oprah Show with the Get Real Retreat. The individuals that you worked with are definitely blessed and I hope they take heed to what you taught them. The last time I saw you was in 2004, when I came to a taping of your show. I ran into one of my fellow Get Real Challengers when I arrived, who was one of your staff members, and they treated me and my guests really well and gave us priority seating and I even got a Dr. Phil mug, which I still use and treasure. I often share the photos that I took with you and members of your family. I can’t thank you enough for the gift of insight that you have. I got divorced after the Get Real Challenge and remarried last year to my high school sweetheart. Dr. Phil, the world is a much calmer and enjoyable place because of the work that you do. From the bottom of my heart, I truly thank you!


  10. Alicia Pacilio says:

    Dear Dr. Phil:
    I love your show, and value your opinion. I was wondering if I may suggest a show on Teens and Drugs and what it does to the families and siblings.
    This is a subject near and dear to me because my son Joseph is in jail now serving 3 months for having Pot on him while he was on the train. He was given the choice to take re-hab but of course refused it and took the jail sentence instead. This has been going on with my son for almost four years now. He can’t keep a job, he never wants to discuss his emotions, he’s been kicked out of therapy, (no one wants to treat him with his attitude) Day Top asked him to leave as well. Day Top is a rehabilitation facility which he went to for approx. six months until they kicked him out for a bad attitude. He will be 20 yrs. old this year and I am so scared for him…He’s become my OTHER son now not the boy we knew. He has run away, and even slept in a shed because he dosent want to live where there are rules! I have tried everything I possibly can to get him help but to no avail.. I see in his eyes that he is lost my heart breaks and I cry myself to sleep because I am afraid that he won’t see his 21 st. birthday..I tried to be a good mother I really did, I can’t help but feel guilt everyday because I believe some how I let him down and failed him, and thats why he self medicates. He didnt grow up in an abusive home, although his Dad and I divorced when he was 9 we had a very civil divorce and share custody with my boys, we went to every baseball game, football game, karate practice, you name it we were there for him, including his Step Dad. I wish I could understand why? He has stolen from us, broke the walls in the house(when he couldnt get his way) and even call me a “cunt” in his rage. I am at a loss everyday and now that he is in jail I worry someone will hurt him! I don’t know what to do Dr. Phil! I need your help. I thought loving your children was enough, But I was wrong. I need you to help me help my son Joseph. Thank You for listening, Alicia

  11. Jacqueline says:

    i loved this show it was well overdue!!!! and i love that u have the dr.phil family back i have been wondering about how they have been doing as i was a teen mom too and could totaly relate to their situation

  12. Samantha says:

    Great post! Really good insight. Friends can always be there in difficult times and make life more meaningful. Thanks for your post. I recently stumbled upon this blog like I stumbled upon yours. I think they offer some good points and laughter about the topic: http://burisonthecouch.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/a-friend-indeed/

    Thanks for the post! I’d like to see more like it.

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