By Benjamin Dashley
Waiting for hours in the cold. Sleeping on concrete for a night. For about 3,300 students lucky enough to get a ticket in John R. Emens Auditorium, 4 p.m. Monday can’t come soon enough.
Once listed as one of the top 10 TV Feuds by Time magazine, David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey have since made amends and will take the stage together this afternoon.
Tickets for the event were free, but the time spent by students — some waiting as long as 22 hours — came at an opportunity cost well above the price of some tickets on Craigslist.
WILLING TO PAY
Once Stephanie Roberts, Zionsville, Ind., heard about tickets selling out, she immediately posted a Craigslist ad.
“I had one guy get ahold of me from Craigslist,” she said. “At first, he said he would sell me the tickets for $60 each.
“A few hours later, he said he had talked to his girlfriend, and she had encouraged him to ask for $200 for both tickets.”
Shortly after that, he called back and told her he wanted $250.
“That’s when I told him to forget it,” she said. “I think he thought he had found a gold mine and he was milking it.”
Roberts said she was willing to shell out around $100 for each ticket, but $125 was just too much.
“I’d have to account for travel expenses, too, so it just wasn’t worth it,” she said.
She said her adoration of Winfrey is more than just seeing her on TV.
“I’ve been a longtime Oprah and Letterman fan,” she said. “I grew up listening and watching both of them.”
Letterman’s success is an inspiration for other Hoosiers, Roberts said, but she has always wanted to see Winfrey.
“She really connects with people,” she said. “She’s down to earth and seems to make a real connection.”
This isn’t the first time she has tried to see Winfrey. When Winfrey was still hosting her eponymous TV show, she tried to be part of the audience a few times.
“When her show went off the air, I figured I missed my chance,” Roberts said. “It was on my bucket list to see her.”
When the university announced today’s conversation, though, her hopes were renewed.
“I thought, ‘Hey this would be another opportunity,’” she said.
At the time of publication, Roberts has not been able to secure a ticket.
She said she still has hope for the event. At press time, seats were still available for a telecast of the event in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center Ballroom. According to Ball State’s website, tickets are not required for this showing.
TRYING TO SELL
Tyler Hill, a senior geology major, is selling his ticket for $100.
“I showed up to the line [for tickets] at about 2 a.m.,” he said. “I brought a tent. It was really nice for that time of year, so it wasn’t too bad.”
He has been unsuccessful in selling his ticket so far.
“I’ve had several people interested,” he said. “Most of them don’t know that you had to have a student ID, though.”
Tom Taylor, vice president for Enrollment, Marketing, and Communications, said the university put an ad on Craigslist to remind users that a student ID was required for any tickets in Emens. At the time of publication, the ad was no longer up.
“The intent is not for students to make money by selling their tickets,” Taylor said. “This is really a generous thing that Mr. Letterman does.”
He said it wasn’t against the rules to sell tickets, though.
“Obviously, we can’t prevent it from happening,” he said. “We can’t stop an enterprising young student.”
‘A REMARKABLE EVENT’
The story of Letterman and Winfrey’s friendship is the stuff of legends.
According to a 2010 New York Post report, a 16-year feud between the two started when Letterman left Winfrey with his bill at a restaurant.
The fight was exacerbated in 1995 when Letterman made light of the similarities between Winfrey’s name and that of Uma Thurman.
“I’ve been dying to do something all day,” Letterman said, “and I think maybe we can take care of this.”
He then walked from one side of the stage to the other, introducing them and poking fun at Keanu Reeves in the process.
“Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah. Have you kids met Keanu?”
This poke at her name continued a period of silence between the two. The feud ended in 2005 when Winfrey went on The Late Show to promote her production of “The Color Purple.”
The duo also appeared in several Super Bowl commercials together.
Today’s conversation is only Letterman and Winfrey’s fifth appearance together since burying the hatchet.
“Either one coming here is a remarkable event,” Taylor said. “To have them both together and to be able to see it live in this kind of exclusive setting is amazing.”