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Oprah Reunites With Her First Love | The Oprah Winfrey Show | Oprah Winfrey Network

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OPRAH: Well, it was September 22nd, 1970, when Anthony Otey and I officially became boyfriend and girlfriend. I saved all his mushy cards and one of the reasons- we had- in our senior year that year, we had like these books that everybody had to buy. I forgot what they cost and so you really have all your senior memories and favorite songs and all that stuff. I don't know if all of you all did that, but that's what we had and he saved the wrapping paper from a present I gave him. He was an artist, and even back then, I was trying to be an actress. This was my reply when Anthony asked me to go steady and I hadn't seen this. This is in his book and the producer just handed it to me. My reply- this is my writing. "Dear Tony-" Oh, by the way, I called him Tony. He, called me Gail because Gail is my middle name. Gayle's also my best friend, but Gail was also my middle name. So, everybody in my family called me Gail. "Dear Tony. Hi. Gee, I hope you're feeling better than I am. I feel very sick inside because I turned down the opportunity to participate in America's Junior Miss Pageant. Now I wish I hadn't. Norma Scruds isn't speaking to me, so I feel pretty miserable about that too." Who is Norma Scruds? I don't know. OK. "Regarding your question, if the offer still stands-" I guess he was asking me to be his girlfriend. "I refuse to answer right now simply because this atmosphere is so blah. I'll probably remember our relationship whether fantastic or blah for quite a while and I'd hate to remember saying yes in Mr. Pate's .7 government class or in these blah hallways. How undramatic can you get? Oops, I think I spilled my secret." Oh, very good. OK. Our song was "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It was? Our song was "Bridge Over Troubled Water." ANTHONY OTEY, Oprah's First Love: Yes, it was, Oprah. OPRAH: It was? Mr. OTEY: Yes, it was. OPRAH: Oh, Anthony, come on out, please. Oh, my God! Great to see you! Hi. God, you look great. Oh, my God. Mr. OTEY: How are you doing? OPRAH: That was our song? Mr. OTEY: Well, that's what you put in the book. That's what I put in the book. I think it was. OPRAH: You know what? I- they were playing the Dells. I used to love the- it's a good slow drag song. You could sweat out your- in the light with the- in the basement with the blue lights. Did you all do that too? Did you have a basement with blue lights too? Mr. OTEY: It was red lights. OPRAH: OK. OK. I thought it was a cultural thing. So, how have you been? Mr. OTEY: I've been fine. How have you been? OPRAH: I've been really good. Mr. OTEY: Well, that's good. OPRAH: I've been doing OK. Mr. OTEY: It's been, what, 20 years or so? OPRAH: Yeah. So, you're in Chattanooga? Mr. OTEY: Chattanooga, Tennessee. OPRAH: Are you teaching art? Mr. OTEY: No, I taught art for about four years and then we started a drug prevention- intervention program known as Students Taking the Right Stand that serves school districts around America and-helping train and educate teachers how to work with students in the area of child substance abuse, divorce, pregnancy, teen sexuality, those kinds of things. OPRAH: Oh, that's great. That's good. That's really neat. So, when did you get married? When did you get married? Mr. OTEY: I got married back- December 19th, about a week before, Christmas in Chattanooga in 1981 and I'm married to Barbara. That's my wife. She's a schoolteacher there too. OPRAH: Oh, you're Barbara? Mr. OTEY: That's Barbara. OPRAH: Hi, Barbara. It's nice to meet you. Hi. Nice to see you. Nice to see you. Mr. OTEY: And we have two children. OPRAH: You have two kids. Mr. OTEY: Two boys, a 6-year-old. OPRAH: Did you bring pictures? Mr. OTEY: That's Brian there. He's 6 years old. OPRAH: Oh, cute. Mr. OTEY: And that's Adam, the 3-year-old. Three years old. OPRAH: That's neat. How's your mom? Mr. OTEY: My mom's doing very well. She asked me to send her warm regards and my dad as well. OPRAH: Does she still have all those antiques in the living room and everything? Mr. OTEY: Still collecting antiques and the house is still a museum. OPRAH: Really? You have to walk around to .get in the house and everything, yeah, and so your sister's fine? Your brother's fine? Mr. OTEY: My sister's fine. She's going to be moving to Chicago. She and her husband- her husband's a minister and she'll be moving here in about- OPRAH: Really? She married a minister? Mr. OTEY: Can you believe that? Yeah. She wasn't that bad. OK. Yeah, she wasn't that bad. A little spoiled, but- OPRAH: That's great. Mr. OTEY: She's moving to Chicago. He's a pastor and she's got one son. He just turned 20. OPRAH: Oh, that's great. So, have you had a good life? Mr. OTEY: I've had a very good life. I've been very blessed. We have a very warm, loving family, my wife and I and kids, and Chattanooga's been a very good town for me. We've been able to develop and pilot a program that travels around. the United States. I've authored a couple of support manuals for working with kids, and at the same time, have started an organization of my mine known as An Hour of Minority Enrichment which will produce cultural-sensitive materials for the black community so that single parents can work with their kids at home. There's a tremendous job the schools are doing and we're involved in that. There's a tremendous job the church is doing, but there's a greater job that parents have to do at home and so we're about educating parents. OPRAH: You're so normal. That's good. Great, Mrs. BUMPUS: Can I ask Anthony a question? OPRAH: What? What did you say, Gayle? Mrs. BUMPUS: Can I ask Anthony a question? OPRAH: Oh, that's my best friend, Gayle. Mrs. BUMPUS: Anthony, I'm just dying to know what was she like in high- I mean, was she outgoing, friendly? Was she- she was obviously popular because she got most pop- but what was she like? Was she difficult? Mr. OTEY: Well, I'll tell you I can remember the first time I saw Gail and I called her Gail for as long as I can remember. She came into a dance at a community center that I was working in and she came in and she sat in the corner and she had these pigtails on and she sat in the corner and the guys- OPRAH: I thought I was Gidget. Mr. OTEY: At the community center, she came and sat in the corner. She watched all these kids dancing in there and the guys kept saying, "Who that's girl," and I said, "I have no idea," and then she came to our school and I had just broken up with another young lady. I- OPRAH: Mildred. Mr. OTEY: Mildred. She lives in Chattanooga now. OPRAH: Mildred lives in Chattanooga? Mr. OTEY: Lives in Chattanooga. OPRAH: This is so interesting because Mildred and I used to know each other and my father didn't want me to go with you, although he thought you were very respectable young man, and- because you had gone with Mildred and I remember when I decided I was going to go with you that I had to- Mr. OTEY: She decided. OPRAH: Yeah, after you asked me and I accepted. I mean, it was a big thing in the house for me to get permission to be able to be your girlfriend. Mr. OTEY: Well, it was interesting because I- it was- when we first started hanging out together, we kind of brought Gail into our group- our little clique there. We would go to Shelley Park tsp ?,/ all the time. We'd sit in the park and throw frisbees and it was about eight or 10 of us and all of our friends- we were all sitting there talking and all of them got up and just kind of tipped away and Gail and I were just kind of sitting there on the blanket under this tree, just kind of sitting there, and it was like, "Well, let's-" Do you strike up a conversation, you know, or what do you do and I kind of felt like these guys had it in for us to get together as far as going steady and-but she was a very bright, very articulate person. One thing I remember most about Gail is that she knew what she wanted very early in life, and as I travel around the country talking to young people, I- she said she wanted to be a movie star. She wanted to be an actress and I praise God that she's done that. Mrs. BUMPUS: Way back then? Mr. OTEY: Yeah, way back then, and she was willing to put aside a lot of other kinds of things. Of course, back during the 70s, you know, drugs were starting to get into the schools and that kind of thing and we were involved in integration and all those fights in those years. We were actively involved in that, but she knew what she wanted to do and she worked hard at it, and when her ship started to sail, she got aboard and she- OPRAH: Well, I've got to go to break now, Anthony. Thank you very much for that speech.

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