05/20/2011 AT 12:00 PM ET
The talk show queen enlisted the help of her longtime event planner Colin Cowie, who created a room he calls “layered with love.” Tributes from her A-list pals were projected onto walls bathed in lavender light, and accented with towering arrangements of orchids and peonies. And her favorite sayings (“Live your best life,” for instance) were printed on cocktail napkins.
Meanwhile, guests like Tom Hanks, Jerry Seinfeld, Aretha Franklin and Kelsey Grammer had their pick of food from six different dinner stations.
The menu included fried chicken, tortellini with black truffles and Chicago steaks that were “the size of a Brontosaurus,” says Cowie. To drink? Custom wine pairings, sangria and, for Oprah, tequila, which she downed in a shot.
Guests were all abuzz about the taping. “Everybody who came to the party could not stop talking about the amount of love that was in that room,” says Cowie. “It was sky-high with the most extraordinary entertainment. And then you looked around and everyone was bawling their eyes out.”
When it was all over, a “completely thrilled” Oprah, who had changed into a “stunning” orange dress, was mobbed by well-wishers.
As the party rolled on, “I forced her to eat a bowl of risotto,” says Cowie. “She hadn’t eaten a thing all night.”