HOLLYWOOD - Oprah Winfrey wanted pancakes.
I know, I know - that goes against everything you've read about the suddenly svelte talk show host and actress, who recently dropped more than 60 pounds with the help of a strict diet regiment and a lot of water.But she freely admitted to television critics interviewing her here during the winter press tour Saturday that that morning, after she finished her six-mile run, she wanted pancakes. A full order. With home-made applesauce.
Which wouldn't be a problem for most folks. I mean, if you or I made $6 million or so last year and we decided that we wanted pancakes one morning, we'd darn well have them, wouldn't we? But it isn't so easy for Winfrey, who lives her life in the fish bowl fantasy world of fame.
"I really want the pancakes," she told her husband, "but I'm sure it will get printed."
Don't laugh. It's happened to her before. In fact, the day before while she was walking through the airport she noticed a tabloid magazine with the headline, "Oprah Risking Her Life to Stay on Diet - And Risking the Show."
"This whole celebrity-fame trip is very interesting," said Winfrey, looking sexy and slim in a short black dress and lacey black nylons. "I'm rather amused by it."
And not intimidated. She had the pancakes.
"I have learned not to be controlled by the frenzy," she said. "I realize why so many people fall apart and turn to alcohol, drugs, fooling around and all that stuff. Because if you allow yourself to be influenced at all by the outside frenzy - what you guys (critics) write, what I read in the tabloids, the rumors on the street - it will absolutely destroy you."
The multi-media star, who will produce and be featured in ABC's "The Women of Brewster Place" miniseries in March, knows whereof she speaks. "There was a time," she said, "when I read everything, I got upset, I would call critics who wrote bad things. I tried to explain to them that I'm really not that way, I'm not a sleaze."
That's probably why it upset her so much when one tabloid printed a story about what she had supposedly ordered at a restaurant - a huge amount of food that would have represented an incredible eating binge if it had been her order, which it wasn't. "It ticked me off," she says now. It made me look like a pig and I was just upset by it."
But not anymore.
"Bill Cosby told me that there would come a time when it wouldn't bother me anymore, and then I would know that I was growing up," she continued. "And I'm really at the point now where I just feel like I'm not in it. I read it and . . . I'm really very pleased at the way I've handled it, actually.
"Because I've discovered that the only difference between being famous and not being famous is that people know who you are. But you know, I don't feel that I've changed inside. I feel that I am the same person."
And definitely not, she insists, Geraldo Rivera. "The whole tabloid TV issue does not, in my opinion, affect me," she told critics, who tend to lump "The Oprah Winfrey Show" into the same programming pattern as "Geraldo" and "Donahue."
"I don't put myself in that category," she said. "If I thought I was just doing something for the sake of doing it, just to get numbers, I couldn't live with myself. I couldn't."
Rather, she considers all the fuss about tabloid television "anti-woman."
"To a great extent the issues that Donahue does, and the issues that I do, and Geraldo, I suppose - I've never watched Geraldo - are female-oriented because we are geared to female audiences," Winfrey said. "And a lot of people aren't concerned that women's husbands are leaving them or fooling around.
"Now, I realize that if you read our topics in print they may appear to be sleaze," she continued, "but I sit there and I look at the pain these people go through. And I know - I get 3-4,000 letters a week telling me that our show helps people to change their lives."
But don't get the impression that she's upset about what critics write or anything. "It comes with the territory," she said.
Sort of like fretting when ordering pancakes.
-MORE WINFREY, asked if she would consider putting weight back on in order to play a really meaty (if you'll pardon the expression) role: "I believe in padding now."
-STILL MORE WINFREY, on why she never watches her competition: "I'm an incredible mimic . . . I used to watch `Donahue' until one day I was out in the audience and I said, `Caller, can you help me out here?' And I realized that I should not watching anymore because I'm holding the mike like Phil and now I'm repeating Phil phrases. That's why I don't watch."
-ONE MORE WINFREY: "I did a show about white supremacists once. It was about `Should the Ku Klux Klan have the right to the air waves.' And I went into the show believing in freedom of speech and thinking yes, of course they should if that's what they want. About 10 minutes into the show I said, `Forget it. They don't deserve it.' "