'The Secrecy Knocked My Socks Off,' Kitty Kelley Says of Oprah Winfrey
By Marc Schneider Posted Apr 12th 2010 08:30PM
In 'Oprah: A Biography,' Kelley leaves few rocks unturned in a quest to expose more about Winfrey, who is already known for being pretty open about her life's journey.
"The secrecy knocked my socks off, because we think we know everything about Oprah," Kelley told PopEater on the eve of the book's release. "We think that she's told us all about her drug use and her relationships with people, but in this book I found out differently. I was just astounded by it."
Winfrey's love life figures prominently in the book, with much ink reserved for her longtime relationship with Stedman Graham and her rumored one with best friend Gayle King. Though Kelley has determined there is "no foundation" to rumors she's a lesbian, she believes Winfrey has made her sexuality part of the conversation by her actions.
"She's been engaged to Stedman since 1992 and has never married him," she tells us. "She is seen far more often in public with Gayle, then she is with Stedman. So if you put those two things together, then you have public questions."
The book includes this tidbit from friend and author Erica Jong: "I would not be surprised if Oprah is gay. If she is, she is. It certainly fits."
Kelley has different take, telling us, "If you asked me to classify her, I'd have to say she was asexual in this stage of the game."
Kelley also writes that Winfrey once dated and even lived with former 'Entertainment Tonight' host John Tesh back when they were reporters for a local station in Nashville. Tesh confirmed Monday to the NY Daily News that the two "dated for a short time" nearly 40 years ago but isn't commenting on whether they lived together or on Kelley's claim that he left her in the middle of the night.
Not surprisingly, Kelley did not actually speak to Winfrey or members of her inner circle for the book -- the TV mogul allegedly requires everyone around her to sign confidentiality agreements.
In fact, Camp Winfrey has used a single response since word came down that Kelley was working on a book: "Oprah hasn't participated in or read Kitty Kelley's book, so she is unable to comment."
Yet after over 850 interviews with former insiders and other authors, she has determined there is a "world of secrets" around Winfrey. King joked on 'Good Morning America' today that "Oprah doesn't even know 850 people."
O Me O My: Winfrey Snapshots
Oprah Winfrey is seen looking quite glam as she presents at the Oscars back in early March.
Check out some recent O pics >>
Check out some recent O pics >>
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"I spent three days with her," Kelley said of Esters in a 'Today' show interview on Monday, "and over that time she told me who Oprah's real father was and swore me to secrecy."
She added: "So here I am writing a book about a secret keeper and I get pulled in and I keep a secret myself."
Winfrey's mother, Vernita Lee, refused to be interviewed for the book, but Kelley said it's not because the two are close. In the book, she alleges Winfrey refuses to give her mother a direct phone number to reach her. Instead, Lee must go through one of Winfrey's assistants.
'Oprah: A Biography' also gets into the sensitive area of Winfrey's youth. She has spoken of being the victim of sexual abuse between the ages of 9-14, but Esters told Kelley that the family simply does not believe it.
"Her family, I think, is in great denial of her sexual molestation," Kelley tells us. "I believe Oprah. I know that she was sexually abused because she shows all the scars of someone who has been abused. Now, her family doesn't believe her, but that's part of her life story. That she wasn't believed, that there was nobody she could confide in."
Winfrey has already recalled the painful experience of having a baby boy at age 14, then to deal with his death six weeks later. But Kelley adds in the book that Winfrey never saw the child after giving birth and that there was no funeral or death notice. Kelley also reveals the child's name.
Kelley has said the book "tries to show how these secrets, these awful secrets, controlled Oprah for most of her life."
"I think it's an indication of how powerful Oprah Winfrey is," she said in our PopEater interview. "It doesn't have anything to do with the content of the book quite frankly, because the book wasn't out there yet!"
She added: "You can't say it's skepticism" that's driving talk show host's to give her the cold shoulder, "because they don't know what's in the book."
One group of people that likely won't be urged to read the book is Winfrey's legion of adoring fans. Aptly put by her best friend King, "I'm thinking it's not going to make her book club selection."
Other Revelations Found in 'Oprah: A Biography':
- Oprah told author James Frey, of 'Million Little Pieces' infamy, that she too had smoked crack before.
- Oprah once ordered and ate two pecan pies in the span of an hour.
- There were rumors at ABC that Oprah had romantic feelings for Diane Sawyer.
'Oprah: A Biography,' published by Crown, hits bookstores Tuesday.
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