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Next ‘Oprah’: Winfrey Admits to Cocaine Abuse

January 13, 1995 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Oprah Winfrey? She could make a week’s worth of shows all about herself. She’s been fat. She’s been poor. She’s been sexually abused.

And now, it turns out, she smoked cocaine

Next on ``Oprah″: ... Talk Show Hosts With Drugs in Their Past?

``I did your drug,″ Oprah, 40, struggling to contain her tears, told a former crack smoker at Thursday’s taping of her syndicated talk show in Chicago.

``This is probably one of the hardest things I have ever said,″ Oprah said. ``I relate to your story so much. I have done this drug _ I know exactly what you are talking about.″


``And that is my life’s great big secret that has always been held over my head,″ she added.

She said she used drugs as part of her relationship with a boyfriend.

``I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t have done for that man,″ she said, but added that that her drug use ended with the relationship.

Next on ``Oprah″: ... News Anchors Who Loved Too Much?

Oprah said her drug use occurred while she was an anchorwoman on a TV news show. That would make it her 1973-76 stint at Nashville’s WTVF-TV.

Oprah acknowledged the contradiction of her life back then:

``I had a perfect, round, little Afro, I went to church every Sunday and I went to Wednesday prayer meeting when I could ... and I did drugs,″ she said.

Next on ``Oprah″: ... Women Who Lived a Double Life?

Her guests were four mothers who had acknowledged their problems with drug abuse, including Charmaine Brown, a young woman who wrote to Oprah seeking help with her own intermittent cocaine use.

The young woman made repeated references to Oprah’s strength and honesty. Then, about halfway through the show, a choked-up Oprah paused to regain her composure, turned to another guest and made her admission.

Oprah didn’t specify what form of cocaine she had used, but Deborah Johns, a spokeswoman for the show, said later that she understood the drug had been smoked. Johns said Oprah would not give interviews on the subject.

``Oprah’s words on the show are the best expression of how she feels,″ Johns said.

Oprah’s admission comes after a year of turmoil at her Harpo Productions. In June, her longtime executive producer resigned, then her personal assistant. And a publicist who quit the show is suing her for $200,000 in severance pay.


Still, her show ranks a solid No. 3 among syndicated shows, just behind top-rated ``Wheel of Forture″ and No. 2 ``Jeopardy.″ All three shows are distributed by King World, which had no comment on the drug matter.

Oprah’s confession was reported by another guest on the show, Washington Post reporter Patrice Gaines, who has written a book detailing her own experiences as a heroin user.

Grimes wote that Oprah’s critics might say that she chose the moment to boost her ratings or condemn it as TV exhibitionism.

``Many simply won’t care about those arguments,″ Grimes wrote. ``Plenty of people need to know that someone who looks as perfect, who is as loved and popular as Oprah Winfrey, can make mistakes.

``And that she can admit those mistakes.″