For Oprah Winfrey, in town this week while making a movie, there's still a part of her that regards Baltimore as home.
"Even just seeing street names brings a sense of familiarity and coming home," said Winfrey, who came to Baltimore in 1976 as an anchor for WJZ (Channel 13), and remained with the station until 1983. "It's like, 'Hi Calvert Street. Hi Charles. Hi Biddle.'"
Winfrey took time Thursday to have lunch with her former WJZ colleague, Richard Sher, and a group of friends at Wit & Wisdom at the Four Seasons Hotel in Harbor East. She even found time to pose for a selfie with a fan, who told her, "my daughter subscribes to your magazine."
Winfrey was here as an executive producer and one of the stars of HBO's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," based on the life of a Baltimore County woman whose cells, removed from her while she was a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951, became the basis for the first immortal cell line. Those cells continue to be used in medical research.
Standing near the waterfront, with a view toward the Inner Harbor, Winfrey said, "I feel like I was groomed and became a real woman here in Baltimore. It feels like home changed so much, though. It's hard to recognize — except for the Inner Harbor, the only place where I feel like, 'Oh, I really recognize [it].' Going down some of the streets with the boarded-up rowhouses, that was kind of shocking, startling, depressing. I called Richard and said, 'What is going on?'
"It feels different coming back," she added, the selfie safely taken, "because it feels like the city grew up."