Uncle Oprah Touched Me
by Gregor Stronach
But I was there. I know. I've seen.
My story begins with my trip to Chicago. I was supposed to be joining a walking tour of several large cities of the United States of America, to discover first hand the awesome beauty and style of the architecture of Kim Il Hung. Kim Il Hung was an escaped Communist sympathiser whose years in the northern death camps had cramped his ability to think in anything other that straight, vertical lines - probably something to do with the chain link fences which kept him separate from his wife for nine long years.
Anyhow - I traipsed around the Windy City, an apt name for Chicago as it was suffering some terribly blustery conditions for the entire time we were there. So too, it would seem, were the cab drivers. On their own they could well have earned Chicago its unofficial moniker on their own. Smelling worse than the Venice Canals at low tide, the taxi drivers really need to be unionised and bathed, or put out to pasture. I blame the frozen custard that everyone seems to be eating over there - by day four of my tour, I too was suffering the 'Roaring Forties', much to the disgust of the doorman at my hotel.
Like all good tourists, I did the tourist things. Having gotten myself thoroughly lost a couple of times, I found myself meandering down North Lakeview, coming to a stop beside the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, where a poor black man was begging for change, wrapped in several layers of clothing which did nothing to protect passers-by from his smell.
"Be touched by Oprah Winfrey", he croaked as I walked by.
I stopped dead in my tracks. Had I heard him correctly? Was this homeless man pimping for Oprah?
"Come and be touched by Oprah Winfrey", he rattled, his rheumy eyes streaming, staring deep into my soul. He knew it was what I wanted. He knew that a simple brush with fame would seal this holiday once and for all as a life-changing experience.
I began to pepper him with questions.
"How? How is this possible? What do I need to do to make this happen?" I asked, marvelling at the prospect of returning home to London, able to tell my friends that I had been touched in a special, special way by Oprah.
"Sixty bucks", the old man coughed, extending a polio-withered hand from the depths of his tattered rags.
I gladly handed over the cash. The mere thought of meeting Oprah Winfrey had me dancing like Snoopy - on the inside.
He led me into a dark alley, past three dumpsters and up to a plain black door. Knocking twice ... pausing ... then knocking six times, he stood back. The door opened a crack, and a pair of bright eyes peered out of the darkness.
"You have one?" a voice asked.
The wino nodded, pushed $40 through the door, deftly pocketing the extra $20. I didn't mind - I'd gladly pay double that fee.
Quick as lightning, we where whisked inside. I found myself standing on a stage, 400 middle-American housewives baying for blood in an orgy of pseudo-sapphic lust. They were here to see Oprah too, each one having paid their money I assumed for the chance to be touched by Oprah.
"Get over there!", I heard, as I was manhandled onto the couch, cheap pancake makeup applied hurriedly over my rosy cheeks and shining, perspiration damp forehead.
"You're Robert Downey Jr, ok? Just smile, talk about drugs and hookers and the inherent sadness of the human condition. Try to imagine yourself as a star of the 80s trapped in a new millennium where cocaine is unfashionable and supermodels are only interested in each other."
I nodded dumbly, confused as the audience went wild. Loud muisic assaulted my senses, and the rush of activity behind the cameras ceased so suddenly, I thought someone had stopped time. I looked off-stage, and gasped. It was her.
Teetering on four-inch snakeskin heels, Oprah waddled to the couch, waving to her adoring audience of Modern American Women. Having taken her applause, Oprah appeared to notice me for the first time.
"On today's show, we have a very special guest. It's been a long and difficult road for this extraordinarily talented young man, so I'd like a big Oprah welcome for... Robert. Downey. Junior!"
The cheering got louder than ever before, several women needing to be restrained by burly security guards as they tried to rush the stage to steal Oprah's clothes.
She sat down next to me, turned to me with her giant bovine eyes, saying "You look amazing. After all you've been through... doesn't he look amazing?"
As the ladies present barely controlled themselves, and after an implausible amount of clapping and cheering, it happened.
Oprah Winfrey put her hand on my knee ...
Gregor Stronach will probably never visit Chicago as long as he lives.