CHICAGO - The stars came out to honor Oprah Winfrey in a pair of spectacular farewell shows taped in front of 13,000 ecstatic fans Tuesday as the talk show queen wraps up her 25th and final season. Tom Hanks served as host and cheerleader for the evening, telling Winfrey: "Tonight you are surrounded by nothing but love" and thanking "a friend who had a classroom of millions" for everything she's done for her viewers.
Much was said about Winfrey's charity work, but even more was said about how she inspired her fans to lead better lives and help others. "It's no secret that millions of people are inspired by Oprah," a gushing Madonna told the crowd.
"She's a self-made woman who's been at the top of her game for over 25 years and she is still kicking ass and encouraging people to dream big, to work hard, to read a book, to ask questions, to get an education no matter who you are or where you come from."
The two shows -- which will air Monday and Tuesday ahead of the final episode Wednesday -- were filled with surprises for Winfrey, who was brought to tears again and again. Winfrey could do little more than shout "MJ is in the house!" when Chicago Bulls basketball legend Michael Jordan returned to Chicago's United Center arena to join her on stage.
She was also overwhelmed when Jaime Foxx serenaded her with "Isn't she lovely" and Stevie Wonder rose up from under the stage at the keys of a grand piano with a new song he'd written for her. And she sat stunned as esteemed poet and personal mentor Maya Angelou told the story of Winfrey's life while Alicia Keys accompanied her on the piano.
"I'm just trying to stay inside my body, girls," Winfrey told her friends Gayle King and Maria Shriver as the tribute-filled show approached its emotional conclusion. Dakota Fanning led a group of young "ultimate viewers" -- including one who thanked Winfrey for helping to "lift the shame of being abused and taught me it wasn't my fault."
"We call ourselves Oprah show babies. Your voice has been the soundtrack of our lives," Fanning said. "We've learned from the Oprah show that we are enough. That we matter, that our lives are of value." Beyonce stunned the crowd with a rousing performance of her female empowerment anthem 'Run the World' (Girls). "Oprah, because of you, women everywhere have graduated to a new level of understanding of what we are, of who we are, and most importantly, who we can be," Beyonce said before launching into the set.
Jerry Seinfeld got the audience laughing by thanking Oprah for teaching men how to be better husbands and how to survive disagreements by learning to talk as if they're on Oprah: "Just listen, nod and answer the question." Will Smith hosted the second show with his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who told Winfrey that, while she doesn't have children of her own, "you have mothered millions" and "that puts you in the status of a goddess." Aretha Franklin, Usher, Josh Groban, Patti LaBell Rascal Flatts and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth also put in rousing performances. Halle Barry, Katie Holmes and Queen Latifah were among the stars to pay tribute.
Winfrey's devoted fans may be losing a beloved afternoon companion, but they certainly won't have to say goodbye.
"Oprah, as we get closer to saying goodbye to the Oprah Winfrey show as we know it, we will always be there for you as your next chapter begins," Tom Cruise vowed. The first national episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show aired on ABC on September 8, 1986, and the finale was episode number 4,561.
Five US presidents -- Jimmy Carter, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama -- have been among the show's 30,000 guests.