After a six-year hiatus, Rosie returns to stand-up—with a vengeance
Road testing her standup comedy chops for the first time in six years, Rosie O'Donnell made it crystal clear that the Queen of Nice can be the Queen of Mean. Calling herself "a bitch who ain't so nice," the retired talk show host, performing at the grand opening of Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Hotel & Casino on June 22, bashed everyone from Michael Jackson ("a freak") to Bill Clinton ("he disgusts me") to Oprah Winfrey ("home counting her money") before close to 1,900 surprised guests. "It felt great," says O'Donnell, 40, of returning to her comic roots. "It's still like a mound of wet clay. I have to work with it a little bit and get it into a fully functional mold. It's new material, new point of view on where I am. Tonight was the beginning."
And she's eager to revive the acerbic alter ego sidelined when she got her talk show. Back then, "people were not able to incorporate the two [personae]," says O'Donnell. "But now that the show's over, I'm going to go back to doing this."
Yet in matters of the heart, Rosie's soft side still wins out. A day later O'Donnell, whose partner, Kelli Carpenter, 35, is five months pregnant, addressed a women's conference in Miami Beach. Telling moving stories of her own experiences as a gay mom, O'Donnell urged the audience to speak out in support of gay adoption. "This is not about a homosexual agenda," said the comic, who has three adopted kids. "This is about a child agenda. Every child deserves love, and every child deserves to be respected."
Liza's Candid Camaraderie?
'Eds up, Ozzy! Sources confirm that newlyweds Liza Minnelli, 56, and David Gest, 49, are talking with VH1 about starring in an Osbournes-esque reality show next season. According to columnist Liz Smith, cameras would track the couple in their Manhattan apartment and—producers hope—capture cameos by pals such as Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor as they drop by for fancy dinner. Or (please! oh, please!) a spirited game of Scattergories. Minnelli friend and former talk show host Joe Franklin notes that "Liza is very private, so I'm sure her husband talked her into this." He's hoping to see Liza and David argue back and forth: "If Liza has the same short fuse her mother had, it will be a lot of fur flying."
What's in a Name? cash
Memento, schmemento. These days celebrity autographs are at least a $100 million industry, where famous signatures are hawked to the highest bidder. Still, says Bill Miller, publisher of Autograph Collector magazine, "the Golden Era of Hollywood where celebs would always pose with fans" is over.
Yet some stars do make time. Autograph's annual survey of the most and least accommodating celebrity signers, released recently, give high marks to actress Brittany Murphy, Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Drew Carey, Malcolm in the Middle's Frankie Muniz and the singer Shakira, whose signatures can fetch $50 to $125. Tougher gets are Russell Crowe, Britney Spears, Tobey Maguire, Alyssa Milano, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Alanis Morissette, with signatures prized at $65 to $200.
The most valuable autograph for a living celebrity, says Miller, belongs to Marlon Brando, whose John Hancock on an 8 x 10 photograph is worth $1,000, more if scrawled on a Godfather picture. Brando "thinks it's bizarre that people would want his signature. He just never signs."
Miller acknowledges that it's difficult for a star to distinguish between a true fan and a profiteer. His position: "Stars should sign one autograph bur not a stack of photos. It's all about being reasonable."
Hey, Hey, We're the Monkeys
Ringo, are you sitting down? Former Beatle Paul McCartney has rocked out with a male and female pair of bonobo apes at Georgia State University's Language Research Center in Atlanta, as part of a scientific investigation into the effects of music on human biology. "He played keyboards and she played drums," McCartney, 60, told Britain's Q magazine about the May 12 jam session, which included "Eleanor Rigby." "It was wild."
Informative, too, says Dr. Mark Tramo, director of Harvard's Institute for Music and Brain Science, which assists in the research. Catchy tunes like McCartney's "teach us about how the brain works," he says. "Why is it that a Beatles song, like 'Yesterday,' is so memorable that you can go 15 years without hearing it, and then hear the first two bars and immediately remember the whole song?" Tramo describes the bonobos as perfect subjects. "They're kind of laid-back, hippie version of chimps. You'd think they'd be into a little rock and roll."
Crowe's Tale of the Tape
Nearly three years ago, when Philip Cropper and Malcolm Mercer realized they had a security tape of a bar brawl involving Russell Crowe in their Coffs Harbour, Australia, nightclub, one word seemed to come to mind: Ka-ching! The pair were taped discussing how to profit from the tape, telling Crowe's friends that the Gladiator might be interested in buying the clip before it showed up on Australian television (which it eventually did). They never made a direct threat to Crowe, however, and on June 24 the pair were acquitted of charges that they attempted to blackmail the actor. Said Judge John Williams: "The reprehensibility of this type of behavior is irrelevant."
He Wears It Well
Rod Stewart may have violated the laws of sartorial sensibility when he arrived at Royal Ascot—England's premiere horse-racing event—on June 19 clad in a purple-striped tie, white belt and white shoes, but contrary to reports in Britain's tabloids, the rocker was not barred from entering the exclusive Royal Enclosure because of "incorrect dress." (Considered to be a part of the court when Queen Elizabeth visits, the Enclosure requires that men wear top hat and coattails.)
In fact, Stewart "was not expecting to get into the Royal Enclosure," says Ascot spokesman Nick Smith. "He had a badge for the paddock across from the Enclosure and was directed by one of our stewards to that facility." So was the 57-year-old rock star's attire appropriate? "Absolutely," Smith says. Tasteful? No comment
with Anne Heche
In the world before Sept. 11, actress Anne Heche's autobiography, Call Me Crazy, with its claims of sexual abuse and mental illness, made headlines. So did Heche's bizarre television interview with Barbara Walters. Since then Heche, 33, has embarked on a quieter life at home with her husband, cameraman Coley Laffoon, 28, and their 4-month-old son Homer. Now preparing for her Broadway debut July 2 in Proof, Heche spoke with Scoop about her new, lower-key style.
How's married life?
It's the greatest thing in the world. Coley has a purity of heart.
The most joyous experience of my life.
There was a time people thought you were—pardon the expression—crazy.
To me, I'm just an evolving human being with the goal of living in peace and joy.
Your book was so intimate. Why did you write it?
To bring the topic of abuse into the world and to help victims of abuse communicate.
Was that message lost?
Certainly. The coverage was focused on things that were sensational. People take what makes me sound crazy.
Your character in Proof deals with madness in her father and possibly herself. Does your personal experience help with the role?
Anything helps you as an actress. You are your toolbox. So, yes.
What will this play do for your career?
I hope people see that I can take on a role, that I can be a lead, that I can handle it.
How do you balance your schedule with the baby's?
We have a very late-night baby, so I can definitely feed him before the show. He's now a Broadway baby.
What do you do for fun?
We take walks through Central Park, past the ponds and fields and baseball diamonds. It's like Fairtytale Land. We'll go for hours.
ON THE BLOCK
WESTERN WHITE HOUSE
California retreats can be as presidential as a rousing chorus of "Hail to the Chief." Think Richard Nixon in San Clemente or Ronald Reagan in Santa Barbara. Then there's Martin Sheen, the fictional President Jeb Bartlet on TV's The West Wing. His retreat? A two-bedroom Santa Monica cottage he used as a pied à terre when he didn't feel up to making the longer commute to his Malibu home. Of course, it does have ocean and mountain views. Given the asking price ($1,895,000), those must be splendid ocean and mountain views.