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Lance Armstrong, like so many stars before, spills to Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Interviews Lance Armstrong

Oprah Interviews Lance Armstrong

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Updated: February 17, 2013 6:26AM

The news today is full of anticipation about Lance Armstrong’s “confession” (of sorts) to Oprah Winfrey — after many years of firmly denying all those doping allegations made about him.

Despite having ended the 25-year run of her daily “Oprah” franchise almost two years ago, Winfrey is still considered the go-to person for the kinds of interviews involving tricky or embarrassing or painful revelations.

“Oprah is still that national, confessional mother figure she always was,” said a longtime Winfrey confidante Tuesday who spoke anonymously because she is not authorized to speak for the host or any Harpo or Oprah Winfrey Network projects.

“It is also interesting that each of these big interviews she has landed since launching OWN has had a huge impact on the ratings for her network. … It’s just more proof that people still want to see Oprah being Oprah — asking the tough questions, but in her own unique, compassionate way,” added the source.

The Armstrong interview — which will air on OWN Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. — is only the latest one Winfrey has done with stars facing tough subjects.

Usher invited Oprah into his home to discuss — among other things — the custody battle he was facing. In the wake of Whitney Houston’s untimely death, her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown turned to Winfrey as rumors were flying about her lifestyle and relationship with Nick Gordon, the young man Houston treated as her unofficial “adopted” son.

Rihanna sat down with Winfrey and gave an emotional interview that delved into her complicated, previously abusive relationship with Chris Brown. And even David Letterman recently opened up to Winfrey — in far more detail than he had in his mea culpa on his own talk show — about his sexual flings with women on his TV staff.

“Oprah’s audience may not be as gigantic as it was in the old days of her daily talk show,” said the longtime Winfrey observer. “But all these interviews prove she still has it — and continues to be the person troubled celebrities will turn to in order to get a platform they know will be fair to them.

“Oprah never shies away from asking those tough questions. She won’t let them wriggle out of answering. But at the end of the day, she’s got heart and is completely honest. … It’s all about compassion.”

GEM OF AN ITEM: For some people, it may be hard to get their heads around the idea that Swatch — the company known for making those stylish but relatively inexpensive fashion watches — has just bought the uber-luxe Harry Winston jewelry firm. The purchase price, a cool $1 billion.

Long a mainstay in the world of Hollywood, Harry Winston was the first jeweler to loan out gems to the stars. It all started with Jennifer Jones and the 1943 Oscars, when she won the Academy Award for best actress for “Song of Bernadette.”

In more recent years, stars including Halle Berry and Gwyneth Paltrow have walked red carpets decked out in Harry Winston jewels. After Paltrow won the best actress Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love,” her beloved dad, filmmaker Bruce Paltrow, actually bought her the diamond necklace the Winston firm had loaned her — thrilled by her win and thinking she looked so beautiful wearing it.

SAD NEWS: With the passing of Dan Edelman, Chicago and the world of public relations lost a true giant. Dan built the firm that bore his name into a true international powerhouse, now ably run by his son, Richard. While much will be written about Dan’s significant accomplishments as a industry leader and important supporter of numerous worthy causes, I will best remember him as a lifelong friend who I could always count on to tell me the truth. Sometimes that candor could sting — the truth often does — but I will always be grateful to Dan’s sage advice, especially when it came to writing this column.

To his wife Ruth — Dan’s true partner for so many decades — and the entire Edelman family, deepest condolences of the loss of a man who had such an impact on this city and nation.

† The many friends of photographer Bob Dowey — as well as the legion of Chicagoans who were artfully captured by his camera — are mourning his passing this week. Long the official photographer of the Chicago International Film Festival and a frequent presence at many other cultural and charitable events, Bob was a true gentleman, always smiling and ready with a kind word.

SCENE ON THE SCENE: Veteran actress and comedian Rhea Perlman was spied lunching at RL Tuesday. … New mom Kristin Cavallari was seen working out at the Equinox in Highland Park — pumping iron and running on the treadmill. … The Bears’ Brandon Marshall slipped into Sunda for dinner Monday.

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