Oprah surprises audience with new cars

Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2004




CHICAGO (AP) -- In addition to advice, encouragement and inspiration, Oprah Winfrey had a special gift for every member of her audience -- a $28,000 car.

The syndicated talk show host handed out car keys to all 276 people in the audience who had come for the taping of the premiere of the 19th season of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

"We're calling this our wildest dream season, because this year on the Oprah show, no dream is too wild, no surprise too impossible to pull off," Winfrey said on the show that was taped Thursday and aired Monday.

Making sure the audience was kept in suspense, Winfrey opened the show by calling 11 audience members onto the stage. She gave each of them a car -- a Pontiac G6.

She then had gift boxes distributed to the rest of the audience and said one of the boxes contained keys to a twelfth car. But when the audience members opened the boxes, each had a set of keys.

"Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!" Winfrey yelled as she jumped up and down on the stage.

The audience members screamed, cried and hugged each other -- then followed Winfrey out to the parking lot of her Harpo Studios to see their Pontiacs, all decorated with giant red bows.

One woman stepped up onto the frame of a driver's side door, put her head on the roof and hugged the vehicle.

The cars, which retail for $28,400 fully loaded with options, were donated by Pontiac.

"A little idea grew into a big idea," Mary Henige of Pontiac told The Associated Press.

She added that Pontiac will pay for the taxes and the customizing of the cars.

Winfrey said the audience members were chosen because their friends or family had written to the show about their need for a new car. One woman's young son said she drove a car that "looks like she got into a gunfight"; another couple had almost 400,000 miles on their two vehicles.

In other segments on the show, Winfrey surprised a 20-year-old girl who had spent years in foster care and homeless shelters with a four-year college scholarship, a make-over and $10,000 in clothes. And a family with eight foster children who were going to be kicked out of the house they were renting were given $130,000 to buy and repair the home.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show," which debuted in 1986, is syndicated to 212 domestic markets and 109 countries.

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