How Gayle King Was Behind Oprah's Famous Car Giveaway
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How Gayle King Was Behind Oprah's Famous Car Giveaway

Oprah and Gayle King are never too far apart. The media moguls have been best friends for nearly 40 years and have supported one another through their ups and downs both personally and professionally. King has been part of major milestones of Oprah’s popular daytime talk show that ended after 25 years.

One of the most famous episodes featured Oprah giving away cars to each audience member and yelling the iconic, “You get a car” line. Per King, she was also part of the surprise.

Gayle King gives behind the scenes details on her involvement in Oprah’s car giveaway

King recently spoke with People Magazine’s Pop Cultured. In the interview, Jing explained how she came into contact with a Pontiac executive while traveling and he shocked her with his wish to make a donation to The Oprah Winfrey Show.

“I was at an airport, minding my own business,” the CBS This Morning host said. “A guy walks up to me — and I’ll call him Larry — [and said,] ‘We’re really interested in giving a car to the show.’ I said, ‘Oh, ok. That’s nice.’ He said, ‘No, no, we’re interested in giving a car to everyone in the audience,'” she continues. “At that point, I put down my suitcase and went, ‘What did you say?'”

The iconic "You Get A Car" stunt:

She quickly learned that the guy was serious and had even contacted the show on several occasions.

He said, ‘We’ve been trying, and we can’t get anyone to return our calls.’ Well, why would they return a call because it just sounded so far-fetched?” King added. “But there was something about him… that I believed him.”

At the time however, King and Oprah had a rule that they never talked about things as such that involved her show. “She said, ‘I have a whole team that does this. I get this all day long. I really don’t want to get it from you.’ There are still times that I just can’t help it, which is what happened with the cars,” King explained. “So I said, ‘I’ll take your card and pass it along to her team.’ And I couldn’t get to the phone fast enough. And then from there, then the question became, how do we execute it?”

Oprah only wanted to give cars to those she felt were in need or most deserving

It wasn’t a hard sell but King says Oprah wanted to do something different with the donation at first. To make her goal, they were selective with audience members for that specific episode. 

“Oprah is a girl who will tell you all the time, ‘Love is in the details,” King said. “She wanted to make sure that every car had a bow, and not just a regular bow — it had to be an oversized jumbo red bow. I remember her looking at different shades of red to make sure it was the right shade of red. It was a whole big thing.”

King was front and center to witness the giveaway. She flew from Connecticut to Chicago to watch it all play out live. “I wanted to see it for myself,” she says, noting that Winfrey was just as excited. “It was such a secret, so I don’t even think Oprah could sleep that night, because she was so excited about what was going to happen the next day.”

In total, the cars cost $30k per person, rounding out to an estimated $7 million.

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