It couldn’t last forever. Just weeks after being booted from “The View,” Rosie O'Donnell is back in the entertainment headlines as word leaks out that her upcoming memoir takes some shots at Barbara Walters. Undoubtedly it also takes shots at the many others who she feels have done her wrong.
No big shock. Rosie never goes away quietly these days. She doesn't just burn bridges, she chops down the charred timbers and turns them into mulch, just so there's no chance at ever repairing the damage.
She fights her own battles and she fights other people's battles. She fights for good causes and she fights for petty causes. It seems like she fights all the time these days, and she brooks no disagreement. Whether she has something to say or nothing to say, she periodically feels the need to jump up and down like a 4-year-old yelling “Look at me! Look at me!”
And like idiots, we oblige. We care what she has to say about a journalism legend like Walters because Rosie's discovered the secret of modern entertainment, which is that if you say something loud enough and strong enough, it gets attention regardless of whether there's any substance behind all of the hot air. People don't get noticed by being nuanced and subtle, they make it by taking extreme stances and fighting to the death before they yield.
Scorched Earth policy
This is how things go with Rosie. A disagreement is never settled amicably with a handshake — it's fought in the media, on her blog, or in court.
Her latest effort as co-host of “The View” is the perfect illustration of the good and bad traits that Rosie brings with her when she joins a show. She was brought on as a co-host to increase ratings in the wake of Meredith Viera's departure for TODAY, and she did that to perfection.
Producers knew she'd bring added buzz, because she is a passionate woman with strong views who doesn't mind sharing them with the rest of the class. Indeed, O'Donnell used the show's pulpit to both air her views on general topics and pick fights with celebrities whenever her name hadn't been appearing in the newspapers often enough.
Sometimes those opinions were on heavy topics like politics, but often they were centered around questions like whether or not being mean to Clay Aiken makes Kelly Ripa homophobic or a belief that the “American Idol” judges are too mean.
Her feud with Donald Trump epitomizes her time there. The original spark came when Trump allowed Miss USA Tara Conner to keep her crown by going into alcohol rehab, and Rosie slammed him for not being enough of a moral authority to make such a decision. What Rosie either ignored or didn't care about is that faced with the choice of either Rosie O'Donnell or Donald Trump as their moral compass, most people would choose the “none of the above” option.
Because The Donald seeks attention at least as eagerly as Rosie does, the original comments led to the months-long exchange of snipes to the point where maybe two percent of the country remembers what the fight is about in the first place. All we know is that we're eagerly awaiting the day that both just move on already.
Fighting with celebrities also provided Rosie a much-needed break from fighting with the Bush Administration and its allies, questioning everything from the collapse of 7 World Trade Center to most aspects of the war on terror. And of course, she famously may or may not have called the U.S. forces in Iraq the real terrorists, which sparked the argument with Elisabeth Hasselbeck that got her kicked off “The View.”
Now comes her book, and for the moment it's Barbara Walters turn in the crosshairs as the contents begin to get leaked. Rosie says Walters is tired and old and needs to move on, and thinks it's time for her to retire.
Take Rosie's advice, Rosie
It's hard to believe that more than 20 years ago, Rosie O'Donnell got her big break by advancing to the semifinals in the comedy category on “Star Search” by making jokes about how to respond when hairdressers ask “Who cut this hair?” when they're trying to fix a botched hairdo. (Answer: Say “You did.” That shuts them up quickly.) She had a really funny, clever act, and it wasn't surprising when she eventually parlayed that into a career in entertainment.
But her act has gotten angrier by the year, and it's at the point where she really needs to take a break and sort out whatever it is that's causing her to try and fight everybody who looks at her funny. Instead, she'll get offers to come back to television, because she brings all of her baggage with her now when she goes on the air and that baggage brings ratings. And then, her new employer will get tired of her act, they'll start sniping at each other, and that professional relationship will end the same way.
But instead of sniping that Barbara Walters should retire, maybe she should study how her former co-host is handling the situation. According to The New York Post, when asked about Rosei's comments, Walters responded, “Rosie sent me the book with a note telling me how much she loved me. I have read the book — and I would like to concentrate on the love that she sent.”
No big shock. That's how confident, mature adults deal with problems like this. Dismiss it. Forget it. Move on. Unlike Rosie, she still has a show to do.
Moving on and letting disagreements die is something Rosie O'Donnell could stand to work on herself. In the meantime, maybe when she's looking for people who need to stay off of television, Rosie O'Donnell should try looking in the mirror.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.