The day TIFF stood still: the Oprah, er, Precious premiere

The day TIFF stood still: the Oprah, er, Precious premiere

Precious moments: Oprah Winfrey clasps her hand to heart at the world premiere of Precious (Photo by Karon Liu)

First the Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. Then Tim Hortons opened in New York. And now, Oprah Winfrey comes to Toronto.

We stood at the exact same spot for seven hours last night at Roy Thomson Hall to capture our red carpet photos of Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, Tyler Perry, Sherri Shepherd, Gayle King, Mary J. Blige and others. Still, we were latecomers; the girl beside us arrived at 8 a.m., and others started rolling in at 10 a.m. By six we could see a current copy of O Magazine in every direction (what else would Oprah sign?), which probably produced a spike in magazine sales and a possible solution to save the print industry.

Gayle King holding the signature Oprah mic (Photo by Karon Liu)

This was easily the biggest crowd of the festival so far. A security guard told us there were 14 rows of people behind us, which we felt when Gayle King got out of the first car. No one expected Oprah’s best friend (and editor of O) to arrive, but it all made sense when she got into the media pit with her own camera crew: there’s going to be a future episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show on the subject of Precious (the press conference was also being filmed that morning).

Since she was visible on the red carpet throughout the arrivals, the mob chanted her name repeatedly in hopes of luring her out for a meet and greet. It worked, but she darted back into the pit when the mighty O arrived. As expected, there was a temporary lapse in the crowd’s sanity when co-producer Tyler Perry escorted her out of an SUV. He quickly disappeared into media land (the crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to him), while Oprah did a twirl in front of us and clenched her heart, showing how touched she was by the overwhelming fanfare. Unfortunately, she did not sign autographs, leaving the sidewalk strewn with shattered dreams and tear-stained copies of unread Os.

Up next was Sapphire, author of the novel Push upon which Precious is based, who was new to having fans scream after her and was a touch overwhelmed. Then Mariah Carey arrived to show her how it’s done: smile, jiggle, pose. The guards had to push back the barriers. We were told that Nick Cannon would be her date, but she arrived solo and blew kisses to the crowd as she walked by. (A note to the apoplectic fan who couldn’t stop waving her hand in front of our camera in an attempt to get Mariah’s attention: thanks).

Sherri Shepherd poses exuberantly (Photo by Karon Liu)

The View co-host and Precious co-star Sherri Shepherd arrived next, and gets our award for best red carpet pose as she eschewed the hand-on-hip statue option for a eagle-like stance that cracked us up. Another pleasant surprise was seeing Paula Patton arrive with hubby Robin Thicke (son of Alan). We also felt slightly awkward for Gabourey Sidibe, looking fresh and fun in bright orange, because everyone behind us kept calling her by her character’s name. There were no autographs handed out until the final major arrival, Mary J. Blige. The singer, who wrote the song for the movie, went down the entire line of fans to sign and shake hands.

And as if there wasn’t enough star power that night, just when we thought the red carpet was finished, a black car rolled out. “It’s someone very important. You’ll see,” teased the security guard with the ear piece.

It was Robert De Niro.

Surprise guest Robert De Niro (Photo by Karon Liu)

He got out of the car, waved at fans and went straight to the media pit. Fans continued to chant Oprah and Gayle’s names in hopes of coaxing them back out, but, sadly, the night was over for those outside. It was an unforgettable encounter, and we went home to ice our bruises and wipe the many footprints off our camera bag.

See our all 20 photos from the premiere of Precious: Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire>>