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Narcissistic Talk Show Hosts... Next Time On 'Oprah'

In high school, there was always a girl who exhibited previously unseen forms of vanity. The colossal egomaniac who had acolytes clinging to her because of the egomania. The narcissist who shouldn't -- and whom your mom promised you wouldn't -- have gotten all of that corroborating attention from members of the opposite sex.

And yet she did.

The rest of us thought, why would anyone want to be around someone so self-absorbed? But to her disciples and assorted hangers-on, the answer was simple. "There must be something about this person, if she loves herself so much," they clearly decided. "And I need to be a part of it."

What happened to that self-obsessed high school megalomaniac? She grew up to be a talk show host. And Oprah Winfrey) still presides over a world that none of us knows anything about.

  • A world where a weight loss method called "Making The Connection" is alluded to, but never quite explained. Perhaps it's because the real connection is between Oprah's checkbook and her personal trainer and chef.

  • A world where an entire show is devoted to the subject of liposuction simply because she's doing research on the procedure for her post-weight-loss baggy arm predicament. ("Skin Flags -- Next Oprah!")

  • A world where her poet pal Maya Angelou sends a phalanx of preachers down to Amarillo, Texas to pray for her because she's involved in a lawsuit.

  • A world where, upon winning a People's Choice Award, she offers matter-of-factly that she's really just doing God's work.

  • A world where a book, any book, smiled upon by her shoots to the top of the bestseller lists in seconds.

  • A world where boy toy Stedman "Coattails" Graham writes a book called You Can Do It, despite the fact that he doesn't seem to do anything except spend Oprah's money.

  • A world where titling her own autobiography The Uncommon Wisdom of Oprah Winfrey: A Portrait in Her Own Words isn't considered hubris.

In the realm of narcissism, Oprah's self-love can only be calculated on the mammoth scale of Kathie Lee Gifford. Let's face it, if Oprah had offspring, their future mental health picture would be just as bleak as that of little Cody and Cassidy Gifford.

Not like that'll ever happen. Kids would move the spotlight away from Oprah.

Like Kathie Lee, Oprah seems to believe that there isn't one aspect of her life that the huddled masses wouldn't want to hear about. But even Kathie Lee doesn't take us on a tour of her medicine cabinet. Oprah is now devoting entire programs to showing her audience products she likes to buy: "Water-Piks -- Next Oprah!" Can "Oprah's Home-Shopping Club" be far behind?

I'm not saying I want my talk show hosts to be blank slates. When ex-"Cute Beatle" Paul McCartney was Oprah's guest, it was sort of interesting to hear her go on about how she wanted to marry him when she was a little girl.

But when the former Wings frontman performed -- and indeed, when anyone performs on Oprah's stage -- an annoyingly disproportionate number of camera shots during the performance are of Oprah. See Oprah listen. See Oprah smile. See Oprah dance. See Oprah sing along. It's as if the audience at home can't even really enjoy the performance unless they can be assured that Oprah's rockin' out.

Oprah's guests seem to understand that they're just renting space in her world when they tread on her stage. They even thank her differently, replacing typical lines like "Thanks for having me" with gushing praise for Oprah herself. "Thank you, Oprah," they coo, leaning forward and touching her hand. "Thank you for what you're doing, for who you are, for just being you."

Ask any stand-up comic from a bygone era and they'll tell you that Johnny Carson was God and being on The Tonight Show was the be-all, end-all career boost of a lifetime. But do you ever remember seeing a comic who got called over to Johnny's desk ever gushing over him, thanking Johnny for just being him?

And what, exactly, is Oprah doing to deserve this fawning treatment? She's turned her back on everything that made her rich and famous... now that she has the luxury to avoid it. Pregnant teenage prostitutes, white supremacists, and polygamists? Leave those to little nipping dogs like Springer. Oprah's got a world to enlighten.

If Oprah had started out with all the "positivity" and "spirituality" that she espouses now, would she be a zillionaire today? No, she used that "uncommon wisdom" of hers to cash in on the sleaze first, so that eventually the pressing issue of her favorite flannel pajamas could finally be brought to light.

If you think you can avoid all of this just by not tuning in, forget it: The Oprah Octopus is on the move. Last month, ABC aired a little Harpo production called "Oprah Winfrey Presents the Wedding.") And all the ads sported a head shot of Oprah, who doesn't even appear in the movie, spiritually imploring you to tune in.

If that trend continues, how long will it be until we see the disembodied head of withered jillionaire and cosmetic-surgery sugar daddy Aaron Spelling hovering right next to the Fox logo during airings of 90210 and Melrose Place?

But let's keep this all in perspective: Oprah's real mission is to speak to the kids out there. Why, right now there's probably some high school egomaniatrix out there, staring at herself in a mirror and trying to formulate the perfect name for her future production company while her collection of sycophants slowly spells her name backward.

Next Oprah.


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