Between the Lines

Oh Rosie!

Richard Burnett
I have trashed Rosie O'Donnell for years because the one-time closet case made me want to puke every time she fawned over "cutie patootie" Tom Cruise on her TV talkshow. "Shut the fuck up, Rosie," I always wanted to tell O'Donnell. "You're making everybody think you're straight." If you listen to Rosie today you'd think her "inning" herself was more unwitting rather than a master plan.
But New York Press columnist Michelangelo Signorile lambasted Rosie in his March 5 column : "One of the hallmarks of Rosie's show, which no doubt played well in Peoria, was her supposed crush on Tom Cruise - though she didn't dare let on that she might have crushes on famous women. Like Kathie Lee [Gifford], she talked incessantly about her children, but said nothing about her live-in mate and co-parent. Rosie knew what Liberace and other famous occupants of the glass closet have always known: there are plenty of people out there who so deeply do not want to believe that their favorite star is queer that, unless you say the words, they won't ever get it, your own glaring giveaways and the supermarket tabloids notwithstanding."

Then Signorile, bless him, went in for the kill : "So it's understandable, then, that some gay people think it's nice that Rosie is finally saying the words now that her show is ending-but still ask, What about all those struggling gay teens who could have benefited during the years that her show was riding high, while those same teens' own moms were watching the show and while Rosie was spinning out yarns about Tom Cruise?"

Well, Rosie was having none of that. Without mentioning any names, Her Highness trashed her detractors. "I never once said I want him [Tom Cruise] naked in the bed doing the nasty," she told Dianne Sawyer on ABC-TV's Primetime Thursday (March 14). "I want him to mow my lawn and get me a lemonade. He makes my palms sweat, he makes my heart beat, and I adore him - gay, straight or somewhere in between. He is the perfect man that ever walked the face of the earth, if you ask me. And I've said that too. And some gay-rights people, or gay activists, have said, 'Oh, you're trying to make people think that you're straight by saying that Tom Cruise thing.' As if gay people do not appreciate the aesthetic beauty of somebody of the other gender. That is so untrue. He is absolutely the most handsome, gorgeous, make-me-blotch man I've ever met in my life. That doesn't mean that that's my sexuality or that I'm going to end up marrying him or would want to. I've said on my show many times, I don't like him in an adult, sexual, carnal way. I like him like Davy Jones. I used to put his poster on my wall and kiss it good night before I went to bed. That's Tom Cruise for me."

Rosie went on to tell Sawyer that, "A lot of the gay community has really given me a lot of crap in the last few years, saying, you know, 'She's so out,' and it's true, I am. I have lived my life very openly and very truthfully. When I was with a man, everyone knew who my partner was, and when I was with a woman, everyone knew who my partner was. There was never any secret or any hiding. There was never any trying to trick anyone."
Well, I just don't buy that. Like Signorile writes, "From the standpoint of some lesbians and gays - and certainly from that of fearful entertainment industry executives - it was smart for Rosie to first establish her career, define herself as a devoted mother and as one of America's favorite talk show hosts, then announce that she is a lesbian later. Still, it's hard not to be a bit cynical when discussing a woman who waited until she was almost 40 years old and until after she grew tired of doing her TV show - which she's packing in this year - to stop promoting a lie."

Not all journalists - well, "all journalists" being mainly myself, PlanetOut columnist Rex Wockner, Savage Love columnist Dan Savage, Village Voice columnist Michael Musto and Signorile - are sick and tired of the likes of Rosie. Another gay journalist, my very mainstream colleague Deb Price of The Detroit News who writes America's first-ever gay syndicated column, headlined her March 8 column 'Rosie's Crusade.'

"Rosie knows exactly what it's like to lose a parent at a tender age," Deb writes. "When she was only 10, she lost her warm, funny, loving mom to cancer. So Rosie completely identifies with a little 10-year-old named Bert who is in danger of losing both his parents as well as his four brothers to a very curable disease -- prejudice. Born HIV-positive, Bert is now eligible to be adopted because he no longer tests positive. The state of Florida is aggressively working to have him adopted but refuses to let his award-winning foster fathers -- who've loved him since he was two months old -- adopt him. The state's mindless reason: They're gay."

Price then writes, "Furious over a court ruling upholding the Florida law banning all gay people from adopting, Rosie contacted the ACLU to ask how she could tap her star power to focus middle America's attention on the terrible injustice being done to Bert and children like him."

Even Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Executive Director Joan Garry waded into the fray, telling USA Today (March 6), "Attitudes and opinions change when people know someone who is gay. So when someone like Rosie O'Donnell comes out, it's not just her kids -- or gays and lesbians, or their kids -- who benefit from her courage. It's also the vast majority of Americans who, if they didn't already, now know at least one person in their lives who happens to be gay."

But apparently all the People and Rosie magazine covers in the world couldn't keep Rosie cynics at bay until finally Rosie lashed back, telling Q Syndicate columnist Paula Martinac (March 28) on, "He [Michelangelo Signorile] is a moron. His idea of gay America consists of only those he deems worthy enough. I do not enjoy him, his point of view or his rhetoric. He isn't even funny. One reason I did not come out sooner, I didn't want anyone to associate me with Signorile in any way. Same goes for [Michael] Musto [of the Village Voice]."

Rosie was even more blunt at a Feb 25 ovarian cancer benefit in New York City where USA Today quoted her as saying, "'Oh, but you were lying,' the gay Nazis say. 'You said you liked Tom Cruise.' I said I wanted him to mow my lawn and bring me a lemonade. I never said I wanted to fuck him."

What I find remarkable in all of this is how the core of the matter has not adequately been dealt with, though Rosie admitted the truth to Dianne Sawyer on Primetime Thursday without being asked.

"Part of the reason why I never, like, said that I was gay until now was because I didn't want that adjective assigned to my name for all eternity," Rosie told Sawyer. "You know, gay Rosie O'Donnell. Because it's never in the top-10 list of how I identify myself."

But, like Irish author Jamie O'Neill - whose international bestselling 643-page historical novel At Swim, Two Boys (Scribner) tells the tale of two male teens falling in love - told me earlier this year, "I'm glad I'm gay. After my name it's the most important aspect of myself."

I could not have put it better myself.

So go ahead, Rosie. Trash "gay" journalists like Savage, Musto, Signorile and me. At the end of the day I'd rather come out smelling roses than smelling Rosie.

Richard Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill can be read locally in Hour magazine as well as on the web at and (click on the ‘’issues’’ link and scroll down to Three Dollar.