What a Party!
Fans of Oprah Winfrey's talk show might have thought her live 50th-birthday show Jan. 29 was one rockin' party. Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder and John Travolta turned up as surprise guests, Jay Leno wheeled out a 400-lb. banana cake, and the show won its best ratings since 1996. But that was only a warm-up. Two nights later at a private estate in Montecito, Calif., Winfrey was back on the dance floor, bopping with girlfriends to "We Are Family" and getting her groove on with pals from Tom Hanks to Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston to California First Couple Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger. "It was a get-down, funky, dance-floor jammin' celebration," says Ellen Rakieten, executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Surveying the scene, the ecstatic birthday girl declared to the crowd, "Have you ev-ah, ev-ah seen anything like this?"
Not even close. The Jan. 31 bash – "better than a White House state dinner," says Winfrey's long-time love, Stedman Graham – capped a five-day birthday extravaganza. "It literally took my breath away," Winfrey tells PEOPLE of the main party, which was held at the estate of friends and neighbors Bob and Marlene Veloz, from whom she purchased her Montecito spread for an estimated $50 million in '01. "I felt like a princess at the ball." (Highlights will air on Oprah Feb. 6.) Adds her best friend, Gayle King: "It was one jaw-dropping moment after another."
And so it went throughout the moveable festivities, which kicked off Jan. 28 at Chicago's Metropolitan Club, where Graham, 52, hosted a dinner for 75 Winfrey intimates, including her father, Vernon, 71, and mother, Vernita Lee, 68. "It was a very personal, this-is-your-life-Oprah party," Graham says of the evening. At one point Vernon gave a toast in which he recalled his daughter's first public speaking gig, a church reading of the poem "Invictus," at age 9. As he told the assembled guests, "A lot of the older folks said, 'Oh, brother Winfrey – she's going places!' "