Let the Babble Begin

updated 11/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/02/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

OPRAH WINFREY CONFESSED SHE ONCE wrote him a fan Letter—but didn't mail it. Dr. Ruth Westheimer said thinking of sex makes her think of him. But for once, the "Transvestite Junior Leaguers Who Kill Their I Hairdressers" kept mum, as the bizarre took a backseat to the warn-and-fuzzy at the Oct. 17 celebration of the 25th anniversary of Phil Donahue's show. Taped in New York City for a Nov. 15 prime-time NBC special, the tribute showcased vintage clips from Donahue, which first aired locally on WLWD-TV in Dayton, Ohio. More than 500 assembled Philophiles tittered at shots of the glib host's evolving locks and tracked his interests from movie stars to nudists.

The highlight of the evening: a skit, featuring the assembled bigmouths, about a secret club for talk show hosts. Joan Rivers—off site but participating via video monitor—proposed a show on "People Who Have Slept with Madonna," adding, "I have Yankee Stadium on hold."

From L.A. (where she is starring in the play Six Degrees of Separation), Donahue's wife, Mario Thomas, sent a video valentine. "He's a great cook and a great slow dancer," she revealed. "Happy 25th anniversary, Phillip."

"It took 25 years and 6,000 hours to make it to Broadway," said an emotional Donahue, onstage at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Then he did a soft-shoe—in front of seven kids dressed up in white hair and glasses—to "Me and My Shadow."

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