Celebrity Detox: The Fame Game

Celebrity Detox: The Fame Game

3.5 49
by Rosie O'Donnell

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Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and always brutally honest, this is Rosie O'Donnell's surprising account of the pain, regret, and euphoria involved in withdrawing from celebrity life--and the terrifying dangers of relapsing into the spotlight.

CELEBRITY DETOX is Rosie's story of the years after she walked away from her top-rated TV show in


Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and always brutally honest, this is Rosie O'Donnell's surprising account of the pain, regret, and euphoria involved in withdrawing from celebrity life--and the terrifying dangers of relapsing into the spotlight.

CELEBRITY DETOX is Rosie's story of the years after she walked away from her top-rated TV show in 2002, and her reasons for going back on the air in 2006. In it, she takes you inside the world of talk show TV, speaking candidly about the conflicts and challenges she faced as cohost on ABC's The View. Along the way Rosie shows us how fame becomes addiction and explores whether or not it's possible for an addict to safely, and sanely, return to the spotlight.

Chronicling the ups and downs of "the fame game," Rosie O'Donnell illuminates not only what it's like to be a celebrity, but also what it's like to be a mother, a daughter, a leader, a friend, a sister, a wife...in short, a human being.

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Grand Central Publishing
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Celebrity Detox

By Rosie O'Donnell

Grand Central Publishing

Copyright © 2007 Rosie O'Donnell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-58224-7

Chapter One

The Two Bs

My mother loved Barbra Streisand. A lot. She had all her records, plus she watched her whenever she did a talk show or had a TV special. My mother listened to Funny Girl on the blue Victrola cabinet she got at the flea market, a cabinet she stripped and stained herself somehow, alone in the garage. My mom had five kids and her own mother living with her. How did she have time to do anything? I have four kids, a wife, and two nannies, and I am often overwhelmed.

My mother took the time out to fill up on yellow. Yellow is my shorthand for real, for true, for beauty. Yellow means what is good with our world. My mother knew yellow. We watched Billie Jean King together as she beat Bobby Riggs. My mother took us to Radio City to see the Christmas show. My mother pointed out the women who had risen above what it meant to be a woman, back then in the 1960s, and even now too. "Streisand," my mother would say, "look at her, from Brooklyn, look at her now."

"Anything is possible, little girl." My mother told me this, in her own way, usually without words. Irish people are sometimes not so good with words. They are sometimes not so good with feelings. That's why inside I'm a Jew. I want to feel it, talk it, live it, scream it. I want it all out there.

At some point in my childhood, my mother told me about Barbara Walters. Probably she pointed her out to me on the TV. This woman was a weather girl who worked her way up to being co-anchor with Harry Reasoner, who interviewed every world leader, and she did all this at a time when women were told it was impossible. She paved the way for Oprah and Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer and every TV newswoman, every female TV personality for that matter. My mother recognized Barbara Walters's meaning from the get-go.

We used to watch Barbara Walters. My mother recognized that Walters was always imparting two levels of information, the spoken and the implicit. The spoken was the this and that of the day's news. The implicit was that it was now possible for a woman to deliver that news. We watched Barbara Walters's phenomenal rise to the top. We watched, more closely still, the wide wake she left, a path I think my mother wanted me to see. Barbra Streisand, she was about the ultimate; she was genius incarnate. She was a goddess to us, while Walters was of this world. What Barbara Walters proved to us was that women could rise in this world. What Barbra Streisand proved to us was that art was beyond gender, and through it one could rise right beyond this world, and get to someplace better.

Several years ago I left my show. I'd lost the ability to get to the place Streisand had shown me was possible. Six years of celebrity-hood had left me depleted, and I had to find myself, find my art, and find my family again. I went off the air so I could touch down on the ground. And I did. And the ground felt good. I had my kids back-Chelsea, Parker, Blake, and Vivi. I had my wife. Kel and I had started up a gay cruise ship business and twice a year we went sailing with other gay families. We filmed it all and made a documentary of what it means to be a gay family. We screened the documentary one night at the New York Arts Center. This was in April 2006. One month prior to this, March 17, had been the thirty-third anniversary of my mother's death. There were rumors, sometime around then, that Streisand was thinking, at age sixty-four, of going back on tour. It was April in New York City, the trees were putting on green sleeves, boats were back on the Hudson, and my movie was finally done.

And so Barbara Walters came to this first screening. She wasn't a stranger to me. Not only had I spent much of my childhood watching her on TV and, more significant still, watching my mother watch her on TV, I'd also known her as an adult, in my own right. I'd had dinner with Barbara Walters, and she'd even been to our home to interview Kelli once. We were friends in the celebrity kind of way-you know and respect each other-you have dinner every few months. You don't chat on the phone, but there is an undeniable association, a shared intimacy that paradoxically lacks all intimacy. You are members of an exclusive club where everyone speaks a language very few others have been able to attain. Fame.

A few weeks before the premiere of my documentary, I'd been to a party at Barbara's house. This was a party for Mike Bloomberg, and Kel got all dressed up to go. Kel looked beautiful. She always does. I was wearing my standard black pants from Target and my J. Jill clogs, and we went uptown, and we were curious. We'd never seen Barbara Walters's house before. Going there was a fairly big deal. We rode the elevator up and walked into a stunning red room, and there was Barbara, in the center, wearing a beautiful gold lamé evening gown, the same one she probably wore to interview some heads of state. Maybe Idi Amin Dada or Prince Charles or even the Dalai Lama. She looked flawless and stunning in her bright red room, a Julian Schnabel painting on the wall, a double piano, the keys as white as teeth, a man in a tux playing. I was, well, I was enchanted, almost flabbergasted-the color, the beauty, the women with their silk sheaths and the hors d'oeuvres served on trays with scalloped rims. A lot of people might assume that's what celebrities do, go to fancy parties with double baby grands in merlot-colored rooms, but the fact is, I don't. Mostly, especially since leaving my show, I'm home with Kel and the kids, eating string-bean casseroles with fried onions on top, Blake's favorite. I remember a waiter whisked by, offering me some flaky layered thing.

At dinner I sat next to Liz Smith. I think it was during the serving of the second course that in walked this woman, gorgeous, I mean, she looked like Ann-Margret meets Jessica Rabbit. She had a Clinton-like charisma. When I asked, "Who the hell is that?" Liz Smith said, "That's Georgette Mosbacher." Georgette looked at me from across the room. She seemed dreamlike. I said to Barbara Walters, "I have to know her." Barbara may not have taken me seriously at first. "Look, Barbara," I kept saying, "I'm enchanted." I don't know if Barbara arranged it or not, but not long after Georgette came over to me. She leaned in real close and said, "I'm a Republican, don't tell anyone. I'm in the closet!"

People have questioned me about the way I'm drawn to certain people, men and women both. My attractions to other people are not sexual in any sense. That seems hard for people to really believe. There was, for instance, a weekend when Jane Fonda came to visit me. We were in my craft room. I was showing her some art I had made. In one of my collages was a photograph of Madonna. "You two were lovers?" Jane Fonda said, more of a statement than a question. I said, "No, we were never ever lovers. We were sisters from the moment we met." There was never anything sexual about it. This surprised Jane. Her surprise surprised me.

After dinner the night of Barbara's party, I remember singing "Liza With a 'Z'" as a beautiful old-school pianist played on the baby grand. I could feel Barbara Walters watching me. Sometimes that happens. A stare seems to have weight, or touch. Someone's eyes land on you. That night it was Barbara's eyes, mixed up with my voice, as I sang "Liza With a 'Z.'" I was in Barbara's world, and the song was a string pulling her back, I think, to the days when she was younger, when her father, Lou Walters, who owned the famous Latin Quarter nightclub, was alive. I believe that song brought her back to something in her past, and I could see her seeing me, Barbara Walters, the woman my mother admired for the wide wake she made, the woman who, in delivering news, became news herself.

I am drawn to many people in many different ways-sister, friend, buddy, colleague-but to Barbara, I was drawn differently. Perhaps because my mother died when I was still a child, I will forever in certain instances see women who are much older than I am as a child might. Barbara was the age my mother would have been had she survived her cancer. And I also knew Barbara had a daughter, and was therefore a mother. When I saw Barbara, I saw my mother seeing her; I saw the television in our house on Rhonda Lane, and the gray telephone poles supporting miles and miles of wires stretching high up a hill, toward a place we could never get to.

Maybe the song was bringing Barbara back to her past; all I knew was at that moment we shared something real. I wondered what it was. And then the song ended. It was time to go home. We left the red room, and during the many many months I worked on The View I was not invited back.

But the room left an impression on me, so much so that even now, if I close my eyes, I can see still its hue, a red that resists words but that pulses on nevertheless, a color too rich, too much, like the woman herself; she is striking and beautiful, but also blinding, Barbara Walters, her beautiful red giving off a glare that makes one want to wince, in both pleasure and pain, and then to turn toward something softer.

Two weeks after the red room, the party, I invited Barbara Walters to the premiere of my documentary, and I'm glad I did it. I'm proud of that film. It shows gay families as they really are, struggling with all the same things every other family struggles with: sunscreen, diapers, sippy cups, and stubbornness. What makes the film so moving is how grateful the families are to finally have a place, some place, to go together. I'm also proud to have made it at a time when my career was down in the dumps because here I was doing something, creating a whole other thing. There was beauty and truth in that movie, a film about children and parents, about love and human equality and vulnerability. The women who directed it get all the credit. I'm not sure I could have put it together and said so succinctly what it is that gay families are about without their help. The movie ends with a view of the huge ship on the Caribbean blue waters.

And then the lights went back on and people rustled up out of their seats. I was in the lobby and I saw Barbara Walters come out of the theater, crying. "Rosie," she said, "would you ever consider being the permanent co-host of The View?"

I looked her in the eyes. That she was moved moved me. That she had shown working-class women like my mother that a wider wake was possible-that moved me too. I'd been out of show business for four years, a sacred silence this had been, but maybe I was ready to go back. What happened next I didn't plan. I certainly could never have anticipated it and still today I can't explain it. All I know is this. "Barbara Walters," I said. "I'll do whatever you ask."

As it turns out, I did not do whatever she asked. I came on The View, and this is the story of how it all happened, offstage, onstage, how we struggled to make the show, and then so much more than that. This is an account of what it means to make a show, and a friend, and an enemy, or two. This is about where we went wrong, and right. It's a story about stars and celebrities and one woman-me-going off air four years ago and then trying to reenter orbit, not knowing if she can. It's the story of wondering whether I could give up the addictive elixir of fame and then go back, wondering if it's possible to sip instead of slug. It's a revision of a book I did four years ago, just as I left my show, but trashed because it was too soon. I could go on and on, it's a story about so much, but the only thing that matters here, now, is her question, "Will you come?" and my response, "I'll do whatever you ask," and how over the year that turned out not to be true at all, how I did not do whatever Barbara Walters asked, how in fact I did very little of what she asked, how she started as a sort of mother, and me a child willing to obey, and where we finally ended up, months later, two very different women with very different values, living in very different rooms, battered by betrayal but nevertheless doing what women all over the world do best. Barbara Walters and I, after all that happened over those hard months, after all the Trump dump and divisive ways of the world we are in, we have still, and nevertheless, at the very end, we have found a way to talk. We have found, dare I say, a way to love? We found, I have to hope, a friendship that, like any other friendship, is both compromised and connected.


Excerpted from Celebrity Detox by Rosie O'Donnell Copyright © 2007 by Rosie O'Donnell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Rosie O'Donnell is one of America's favorite celebrities. She was the host of The Rosie O'Donnell Show, one of the most popular shows of the decade, and has also appeared in numerous movies, television sitcoms, comedy specials and, most recently, on Broadway. She was also co-host of The View.

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Celebrity Detox 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some years ago, an L.A. bound plane I was on had to make an unfortunate landing in Texas until some issues were resolved. While somtimes waiting to reboard in stresslful times like this, one has a tendency of bonding with those around you. One person in my small, bonded circle in the waiting area was Rosie O'Donnell. She had already won Star Search and had just finished doing something with Dom DeLuise 'as his daughter I believe'. I recognized her from Star Search and started a conversation with her since I am also an actor. We immediately hit it off and bonded with each other sharing stories of our first films both at Columbia Pictures. She was enthusiastic and I could tell had a heart of gold. Rosie, in that room, gave others confidence in the midst of the layover. She found humor and I remember her smiling alot. I remember thinking, 'what a lovely person.' Of course at the time she was not famous, except for dorks like me, who knew Star Search. She couldn't belive that I even remembered her Burger King skit when she talked too close to the mike. It always made me laugh. All these years later, Rosie lives not too far from me and I used to see her with Kelli at a great little place called The Coven 'great pub' which is long gone. I always wanted to say hi and see if she remembered our little stop over, not only as a fellow actor but as a friend. The last thing most celebs want when they are out is to be bombarded with people, so I always respect that and never did say hi. I have always felt like a little bird with Rosie. I watched her at the beginning both in person and from a distance all through her career, from the streets of Nyack to Hollywood. I have always seen a smiling, good-hearted woman who wants to do good. Celebrity Detox is yet my latest glimpse into Rosie's life and I applaud her candor, honesty and poetic approach to personal expression. The book is very different. It is unique! It is not prose for prose sake but it is intermingled with poetry, journal entries, rants and raves. I do not think Rosie's intention in writing this book is supposed to be a literary masterpiece, but an expression of all that she feels inside. The tenderness of the loss of her mom colored her future in so many ways and it is obvious in her relationships with Barbara Walters and Barbra Streisand. Her sensitivity is very palpable and only those who understand this type of sensitivity will be able to relate to how Rosie has responded to some things .. yes, it can sometimes be aggressive, but I believe we get to that point when you've just had enough! Enough is enough. Rosie comes from a good place. She is not out to harm anyone. Her choices are her choices. Her journey is her journy and because she has dared to be different and often protect and fight for the underdog, she is often misunderstood and the rocks come hurling at her. This book will help you understand Rosie better if you are currently confused by some of the recent events. May God bless her and hold her and her family in the palm of his hands. The proceeds are going to children - what a beautiful thing to do. I highly recommend the book not only because it is full on interesting tidbits on 'the biz' and some of the behind the scenes situations but more than that it offers a perspective that the media sometimes does not allow us to see - what goes on in the heart of someone when he/she is the brunt of a media controversy. How easy to forget that we are human beings! I think Rosie demonstrates that so well in her book. Peace.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a little bit of a challenge for me to read, but after a few pages I was hooked and couldn't put it down. I have loved Rosie since I happened to catch her comedy act on TV one day. The way she writes and tells her story is very different for me at first, but after having read the whole thing there is no other way for her to tell her story. I love her so much, but mainly, I am so grateful to her for being the strong person that she is. I love that she doesn't back down from bullies and stands up for what is right. I love you Ro.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For actresses, i will post what movies to starr in.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very disappointed! I thought this book was about rosie and her being on the view. It was not! Sorry i bought it. Save your money!
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roena More than 1 year ago
For me this book had substance, but I found Rosie repeating herself quite a lot. Therefore, I feel one can read 1/2 of the book and get the same thing out of it as the last half. I found some enlightening episode's of Rosie while she was on The View, yet the constant repetition just bored the hell out of me. Her relationship with her partner seemed so balanced and so right, that its almost unbelievable. Now rightly so, because as of this date they have broken up. I do understand her delemia of "being a movie star", but come on already stop the complaining and do something to change that!!! I admit I did read the entire book, because I kept thinking I'd find out something...something was missing in this book...
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FutureBond More than 1 year ago
This book is not well written and it's kind of boring. The entire book is Rosie talking about how much she loves/hates Barbara Walters. I got this thinking it might be a funny biography or an edgy take on celebrity. It's neither. Only for the die-hard fans I think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You can kind of hear Rosie's sense of humor and style in it but it is very hard to get into and no strong desire to want to pick it up again. Definitely not a page turner. As far as I have gotten, it seems more talking in circles and going off on tangents than actually what it says it is supposed to be about. Maybe it will get better the farther I get into it but I am never eager to pick it up and try to continue. When i run out of my book supply and am desperate to read something, then I will probably get back to it. Glad I only paid bargain book price for it.
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