Special Reports

UPDATE: Oprah hitting all the hot spots in Macon

Oprah Winfrey made the rounds today in downtown Macon -- seeing more sights than even the most ambitious tourist likely sees in a single day. And hundreds of fans staked out various hot spots to catch a glimpse of the star.

Sylvia Boykin, a local actress, proudly displayed her autographed issue of "Oprah Magazine" to anyone and everyone standing in front of the Tubman African-American Museum.

Boykin said she had a feeling that Winfrey would drop by the Tubman at some point today, and decided to stake it out, including buying a ticket for the museum's special tour on notable African-American women, which was inspired for this week by Winfrey's visit.

Boykin's patience paid off when Winfrey and her entourage arrived at the museum around 2:45 p.m.

"Her security person told me, 'No autographs,' " Boykin said. "But as she was leaving, she said 'No, I'll sign hers.' I'm the only frickin' person here who got her autograph!"

City Council president Anita Ponder, who also the education director for the Tubman, said it was a great experience having Winfrey stop by the museum.

"It was absolutely amazing," Ponder said. "I was surprised at the amount of artists she knew of that we have on display, and some of the ones we don't have on display."

Ponder said Winfrey had heard of the Tubman's mural of famous African-Americans, which includes Winfrey, and was eager to see the display. Tubman officials also show the model and floor plans of the new Tubman Museum that is under construction on Cherry Street.

Ponder said Winfrey talked briefly about the fundraising campaign she is involved with for the Smithsonian Museum, but Ponder added that she nor the staff talked with Winfrey about fundraising for the Tubman.

Ponder said the Winfrey was a big boost for the city in general.

"Not just the museum," Ponder said. "It's the excitement she's creating around Macon. She's woken up the whole community."

Jumping from restaurants to downtown shops

Highlights of Winfrey's tour downtown included shopping trips to Karla's Shoe Boutique at the corner of Second Street and Cherry Street and the Ginger Michelle boutique on First Street. She also visited H&H Restaurant and the Nu-Way Wieners on Cotton Avenue. Throngs of people crowded in front of the storefronts in each location, shouting her name as Winfrey was escorted in and out of each business by her security personnel.

Winfrey started shopping at Ginger Michelle around 1 p.m. Store owner Ginger Hess said she tried to keep the doors open so as to make it as normal a shopping experience as possible, but the security people had to close the door as the crowd swelled.

"It was great to have her in the store," said Hess, who had hung a large banner above her doorway on Thursday welcoming Winfrey to Macon. "It's great to have such a fabulous woman in Ginger Michelle."

Hess said Winfrey bought several items, including a handbag, clutches, jewelry and Spanx.

The Winfrey entourage then headed to H&H Restaurant to meet Mama Louise Hudson and Mama Inez Hill. Over 300 people waited in front of the restaurant for more than two hours.

Customers crowded around the talk show host as she entered the well-known restaurant. Many stayed much longer than their meals lasted, prompting workers to try and shoo people away as the growing crowd threatened to spill beyond the restaurant's fire code capacity.

When Winfrey arrived, she slowly made her way through the small dining area as fans pressed against her with cameras and cell phones. Security guards pushed back, creating a small seam of space for the talk show host to walk through.

"Will you marry me Oprah?" called one man. She laughed off the proposal.

Macon mayor Jack Ellis showed up at the restaurant around 12:40 p.m. and entered through the back door. Minutes later, when several of the people thought Winfrey's SUV was pulling around back, a huge chunk of the crowd rushed en masse to the back only to find it was a false alarm. Comically, the crowd spun around and rushed back to their spots in front of the restaurant.

Both local and Atlanta TV crews filmed the crowd, causing one woman to beg off being on TV.

"If my boss sees me, it's over!" she said, pleading to the cameraman. "(Winfrey's) gonna have to get me a job!"

Another woman grumbled into her cell phone: "I wouldn't be running down here if it was anyone else, I can assure you."

When Winfrey finally arrived at the restaurant, she chatted with several customers and both Mama Louise and Mama Inez.

Patrons in the restaurant were told Winfrey would not be signing any autographs as she walked through the restaurant just after 1 p.m. today.

But Elizabeth Cleveland got lucky. She pulled out a white banner for the Children's Hospital, where she works to raise money, and asked her favorite television host to sign it for charity.

"That's all we wanted was to get this signed," she said.

Mama Louise, who gained renown while serving as the cook for the Allman Brothers Band, said she was excited for both her and Mama Inez to meet Winfrey.

"I can't even tell you," she said. "It was so thrilling to me that (Mama Inez) got to meet her. She loves seeing her on TV. (Winfrey) told me she was glad to meet me and had heard about all the things I did."

Mama Louise said she hasn't had that many people in and around the restaurant since Gregg Allman's last visit.

From there, Winfrey & Co. drove to Karla's to meet Otis Redding's widow, Zelma, and his daughter, Karla Redding-Andrews.

Redding-Andrews said she bought three purses as Christmas gifts from the store. She said there wasn't much time to talk about the late soul singer. "We gave her a bag full of Otis Redding items," she said.

Team Winfrey then visited Nu-Way, where several of her staff carried out takeout bags. That was one of Winfrey's longest stops downtown.

As Winfrey left the restaurant, she took the time to talk to Katie Fisher of Macon, who was there with her four-month-old daughter, Eliza. Winfrey shook Eliza's hand as the crowd snapped photos and took video.

"I've been an Oprah fan for a long time," Fisher said. "Meeting her was very exciting."

Oprah talks with fans outside 1842 Inn

This morning, Winfrey emerged from the 1842 Inn in downtown Macon at about 10:30 where a small group braved the cold hoping to get a glimpse of the media mogul.

With a camera in hand and no makeup on her face, Winfrey videotaped her fans, who were gushing with glee. Tiffany Herndon of Macon presented turkey-shaped cookies from Grant's Bakery to Winfrey, who is in town to tape her program at the City Auditorium Saturday.

Herndon had bought the goodies for her children.

"But they'll be fine with it. They love her too," Herndon said.

When a daycare center bus stopped to meet Winfrey, she passed out the cookies to the youngsters. With one left in the box, Winfrey said, "God is good, there's just enough" and took a bite of the remaining cookie.

While people took pictures on their cell phones and posed with the superstar, others handed phones to Winfrey, who carried on a conversation with the people on the other line.

Winfrey repeatedly told the picture-taking crowd, which grew larger by the minute, "I don't have any make-up on," as she posed for snapshots.

When Winfrey first considered doing her "Hometown Tour," she chose Macon because her ratings are higher here than anywhere else.

"Of all the people in the United States this is the number one city for people watching the Oprah show," Winfrey said. "What most people do is they go where their numbers aren't good but I say lets applaud the people that applauded you. ... "Take care of your friends first."

When asked about the 1842 Inn, Winfrey said: "My God is this fantastic in here. There are 20 of us in here so it's like family. It's like being home. It's cozy. So much better than a big hotel."

After checking-in Thursday night, she read the history of the hotel.

"What's so amazing about it is, you're reading this history, we're all sitting in the parlor," she said. As an African American you know when this house was built you wouldn't have been allowed nowhere near it so it's really wonderful to kind of take it over. It's a new day."

After spending several minutes talking to her fans, she waved goodbye and headed back into the hotel.

But not everyone who came was patient enough to wait for Winfrey.

In the predawn cold, William "Cricket" Williams rode his Harley Davidson all the way from Cochran.

"If she wants a ride, I'm ready," Williams said before driving off.

He wasn't the only one disappointed.

Others who wanted to leave invitations, gifts and flowers were turned away from the hotel.

Come back to our Web site for more on what Oprah's up to in Macon, including photos and video.

Jennifer Burk and Matt Barnwell contributed to this report.

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