Rosie's View Debuts – with Jessica

Rosie's View Debuts – with Jessica
Simpson (left) and O'Donnell
Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages; Joseph Marzullo / Retna

updated 09/05/2006 at 12:00 PM EDT

originally published 09/05/2006 12:25PM

New cohost Rosie O'Donnell kicked off her first day on The View – and the show's 10th season premiere – with an A-list guest: her old pal Jessica Simpson.

O'Donnell tried to get to the bottom of reports that Simpson is dating singer John Mayer. "You don't want to say, but maybe?" O'Donnell pleaded.

"She just goes right there!" Simpson said, slightly stunned, then added, "I'm not actually dating John Mayer."

"I think the 'dating' part is wrong," said a skeptical Joy Behar, who – like cohosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and even the venerable Barbara Walters – often had a hard time getting a word in during the hour.

O'Donnell opened the show with a grand entrance, saying, "Like it or not, here I am!" as she walked onstage arm-in-arm with Walters.

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After a standing ovation from the studio audience, O'Donnell and Walters took their seats alongside Behar and Hasselbeck at a new table. "For goodness sake," Walters said once the ovation finally died down, "what's all the fuss about?"

"It's about the new set, whaddaya think?" shot back O'Donnell, who said the redesigned backdrop no longer looks like "your grandmother's living room."

O'Donnell also pointed out a large floral arrangement at the foot of the stage, a gift she said came from the "very nice guy" Tom Cruise. Walters said they would talk about him on Wednesday.

The group launched into their daily "Hot Topics" discussion, talking about toilet training (thanks to Hasselbeck) and the growth of pubescent pubic hair (O'Donnell's contribution) and O'Donnell's blogging, which Walters brought up.

Denying she was upset by one of O'Donnell's online comments, as she'd told Newsweek, Walters said, "I have never read a blog."

O'Donnell apologized anyway, saying she'd never write about the show again without first running her message past Walters. She also pointed out that she no longer has "the haircut that scared America." Her hair is "going to be long from now on," she said. "And I'm taking my medicines, so everything's going to be fine."

Off-camera, during the first commercial break, O'Donnell was high-fived by Walters and Behar and fist-knocked across the table by Hasselbeck. She also complained to producer Bill Geddie, "I can't hear a thing."

Because O'Donnell was famous for giving away gifts on her eponymous talk show, each member of the View studio audience received a toy boat – as well as a two-night cruise aboard the brand new Royal Caribbean Liberty II (the first gift The View has ever given away, Walters noted). Audience members also received copies of Simpson's new CD, A Public Affair.

Another Rosie touch: Cookies and juice were provided to those standing in line before the show. Asked how the new star was feeling, O'Donnell's partner, Kelly Carpenter, told PEOPLE, "She's pumped." And Kelly? "I'm nervous, actually."

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