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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meeting Rosie O Donnell: The Rosie Show then and now

In 1996 I sat visiting my Nana in her nursing home. As she flipped channels on her 12 inch TV a commercial showed a cow udder. She asked if I knew what it looked like. I had no idea.
"A penis!" she told me.
I was 12 and didn't really appreciate penises... yet.
In her defense it was shortly after her open heart surgery and she was high on painkillers. 

As she flipped the channel again The Rosie O' Donnell Show came on, which was still very new to TV. 
She told me she thought Rosie was really funny (for a girl), and we watched the whole episode together as she nodded in and out. Later that year my Nana passed away, but that fun memory will live forever. For me, so has Rosie O' Donnell as a lifelong inspiration.

Soon after that day I started watching TRODS at home daily and quickly became addicted.
For most my childhood I had dreamed of someday moving to NYC to be a comic and actress and Broadway star. From 4-5PM everyday I got to escape Augusta Maine through my TV and be in NYC watching the stars I loved.
Rosie's show brought to life in my tiny living room the Broadway shows that I would have never been exposed to otherwise. This was the foundation of my lifelong love of theatre.
When tabloids said she was gay I even defended her in front of all my high school classmates.
"Shut up! Rosie is so not gay she loves Tom Cruise!"

We both shared a love.... (OK, slight obsession) for Barbra Streisand, (click here to see my Village Vanguard concert interview) and she always inspired me to dream that I could become whatever I wanted to.
I watched her show religiously every day until 2002 when she moved on.
That same year I was moving on as well. I graduated high school and moved to NYC at age 18. I didn't not know a soul but was determined to follow my dreams.

While attending The Broadway Flea Market in 2003, I was shopping at the table of remaining Rosie show logo merchandise. I had two handfuls of koosh ball pencils, a postcard and a mouse pad.
As I looked up from my goodies I was staring directly into the face of the former Queen of daytime TV.
Rosie O' Donnell had showed up at her table to sign autographs for charity. After nearly having an aneurysm and peeing down my legs I was able to squeak out a pathetic "hello" before she sat to begin signing.

For $5 I could get her to sign my photo.
I was a starving actress but I had waited my whole life for this moment. I pulled together my last $5 and debuted if this was worth it. Five dollars was so much money. I would have to eat Ramen for dinner and walk home since I wouldn't be able to afford metro card, but it would be worth it

My hands shook as I approached Rosie in line with my postcard. This wasn't the Rosie I grew up with. She looked haggered and tired. Her hear was messy and she was wearing a large t shirt,no makeup and a big white bandanna around her forehead.
Rosie at the 2003 Broadway Flea Market

Soon it was my turn. My turn to thank my inspiration and say something not retarded. She briskly grabbed my picture briefly glancing at me as I mumbled something retarded about loving her show. She just said "thanks" and signed picture in hand, the line people quickly herded me aside for the next autograph seeker.

It wasn't quite the moment I imagined in my head, when I would meet Rosie and be welcomed onto her show as a famous celebrity and gush about Funny Girl. As I walked the twenty blocks home I kind of wished I had kept my five dollars.
It left me a bit sad, but more aware of the realities of fame and celebrity vs reality. Was this the outcome of fame and being America's Sweetheart?

As the years went on I continued to be a fan following her blog, published memoirs: Find Me and Celebrity Detox and bumpy season on The View which ended in a spat with that nasty Republican bitch Elizabeth. I finally got to see her live in Fiddler on Broadway.
I discovered a Rosie that wasn't flinging koosh balls and calling people a cutie patootie every five seconds.
I discovered a real woman who I respected on a different level than just the pre packaged fluff of a famous person I was spoon fed as a teen.

This year, nearly ten years later Rosie has returned to TV with her reinvented show on the OWN Network.
There is something so comforting about turning on my DVR every night and being able to watch her show again.
She returns to America better (and thinner) than ever, with grown children to boast about, and proudly proclaiming her love for her soon to be wife.
This is a Rosie we never knew before. Some of America may be more uncomfortable with her now, but she does not shy away from who she is.
During the new hour long she is very articulate, mature, funny and still inspires me daily.
The show structure continues to change and get better as it goes on, and I predict more Emmy's coming her way very soon.

With her return to television also comes the return of my buried dream, to be a guest on her show. Nearly ten years later I have not given up my goals. At 28, my career in NYC slowly chugging along and taking off. Having become the countries most famous Lady Gaga impersonator who my talking Rosie O' Doll still tells me: "Dreams come true, with Rosie!" Rock on sister friend.