The real Rosie

365 days of amazing challenges and feisty decisions turned America’s sweetheart into the fighter she’s always been—and The Advocate’s leading lady for 2002

BY Judy Wieder

December 24 2002 12:00 AM ET

The psychology of the tabloids fascinates me. I guess
it’s a window into our society.

I think America or society, myself included,
likes to build people up and then see their
falls—look what’s happening to Martha Stewart;
it’s a sin.

You’re supportive of her.
It has nothing to do with anything other than
the fact that she’s a woman. And the fact that
other women are standing in line to take her down is
horrifically offensive to me.

With all the recent corporate scandals involving men—
Not only do men do it, they screw their
employees out of their life savings. It’s a sin
what they’re doing to Martha. If she is guilty of
anything, it’s answering a phone call from her
broker. You know what the difference was between the
day before that phone call and the day after? $42,000.
[Yelling] She is worth billions.

Why don’t you tell me how you really feel, Rosie.
[Laughing] I have been muzzled for three months
from the press. This is very freeing.

What is all this paint on your clothes?
All of my clothes are covered with paint. You know why?
For three months they’ve been telling me,
“Don’t talk to anyone.” For three
months the only outlet I have had artistically has
been canvas. My studio has probably 3,000
canvases.

You paint?
Yes. Because Kelli’s been smart, saying
to me, “Get in your craft room, honey.”
She won’t let me read one piece of press. They rip up
newspapers and magazines so I don’t see the
articles. Kelli said that if I read them, I would go
ballistic. I would have a press conference that day and
scream and yell.

Which you are trying not to do?
Again, that anger is not the way to go.

Kelli just gave birth to a girl, Vivienne Rose, on
November 29. We’ve done a lot of articles
with lesbian mothers and their partners. What was
it like for you not to be pregnant?

I never wanted physically to have a baby. I
don’t know why; I never did. Any baby you hand
me today will be mine in three minutes. I feel totally
like Vivienne Rose is my baby when I feel her and I talk to
her. I’ll tell you this: Kelly has made me
promise this will be our last child.

Is that what you want too?
If it was up to me, I would have 10. I love it.
I love the chaos of it; I love the insanity of finding
a sneaker under the bed; I love them arguing over
who’s gonna get the prize out of a cereal box. And I
never in my life—when I had my son and then my
daughter—thought I would ever give up any part
of that total ownership of their lives to anyone else. I was
doing this by myself—regardless of who I was dating
or sleeping with.

This was Parker and Chelsea?
Yes. I was like, Your name’s on nothing,
whoever you are—no way, this is just me! This
is my baby. Well, when I fell in love with her, I was like,
Oh, my God, I cannot believe I am about to do this. We
adopted a baby boy, Blake, together, and when she said
she wanted to have a baby, I said,
“Excellent.” Kelli’s an amazing parent;
I totally coparent with her; I could not parent
without her. She provides stability in a way that I
don’t.

Like how?
Parker gets his first-grade homework:
“There’s a cow, a dog, a fish, and a
chicken. Their names are Binky, Buddy, Sam, and Sue. The
chicken likes Binky; Sue is the
bunny”—what are the other two names? Now, I
literally sat there with him for 20 minutes. And my
brain—I never got loaded with that
software—blanked, and I finally had to say,
“OK, Parker, you’re gonna have to wait
until Kelli Mommy comes home, because I cannot solve
this, even though it’s a problem for 7-year-olds.
Mommy Kelli’s brain can do this in five
seconds.” But when he lost his first tooth, I
helped him make a Lego tooth fairy bridge that the tooth
fairy could climb up. I can do that.

Do you anticipate a difference in your family dynamic
with your new baby?
I do ask Kelli, “Do you think you are gonna feel
different because you gave birth to this baby?”
Kelli says she doesn’t think so, but we’ll
know when it happens.

That’s honest.
All I know is that children are a blessing,
always. And our job is to make them walk through life
“with the grace of having once been
cherished.” That’s a line I stole from Anne
Rice. I realized, that is what we need to do to our
children—cherish them. Children, to me, are the
biggest lesson and gift you can get about yourself.

What do you think your biggest mistake has been?
Not telling the people I love the most that I
love them.

Why didn’t you?
Because I didn’t grow up in a family that did.
And my children and the people that I cherish the most
are the ones I have to work hardest at expressing it
to. You have to be carefully taught. My children have been
taught. And that is my biggest accomplishment and also my
biggest regret.

What’s the regret?
That I didn’t get to live that as a child. I
wasn’t cherished.

What else besides children helps to heal you around all this?
I feel like I’ve been in the spotlight, famewise,
and what I would love to do is to frame other
people’s work. Tennessee Williams wrote an
amazing essay called “The Catastrophe of
Success.” He wrote it after he wrote The
Glass Menagerie,
about how his life was ruined by
the success of that play. He finally realized that he
had to check out of the Four Seasons hotel and to go
back to Mexico and live amongst real people. Then
he’d be able to write his next play. So I kind of
felt like, he went to Mexico, I went to Nyack.

I heard you’re selling all your properties. Will
you stay in New York?

I plan on staying here—we’re
selling all our other residences that I had.

Kelli told me that her parents have become a close part
of the family.

Kelli was less open about her sexuality than I
was—and I was on TV. When I met her, she said,
“My mother and father won’t ever accept this;
they’re very religious.” When I knew that she
was going to be the person for my whole life, I sat
down with her mother and father: “I love her and
this is my life partner, and I hope that you can get on
board with it, because I would like for you to be part
of our family.” And Kelli was like, “You
didn’t say that to them!”

I bet they were relieved.
You know what? I think so too, and they’re here
every month. They were in the hospital when I almost
died last year. They have been parents and family to
me unlike I have ever known. I didn’t grow up in a
traditional family. I didn’t have a mom; I had a dad
who was not really available to parent in many ways.
And so now I’m seeing what that’s like,
and it’s really, unbelievably soothing to me.

I know you’re good friends with Madonna.
I’ve always thought that you and Madonna
are the same person…

[Laughing] Yes, I think so too.

With different outsides. What do you think would happen
if Rosie had Madonna’s outside?
I recognize that in her, and she me. When we first
met—at a time when we were both on the roller
coaster, looking for salvation—I was blessed to
get to work with her, because I think God went, “Are
you sure you want this [fame]? Take a look at what it
does!” Madonna and I would walk down the street
and people would run and scream at her; she has a thousand
people outside her house right now. How can you live in that
kind of distorted reality?

Can anyone, really?
Well, she has found a way to do it. She has love from
her family that is authentic and a spirituality that
grounds her. And I have loved the chance to get to the
level of intimacy that we now have, which is based in
truth and reality and not in the fact that we both ran away
from painful childhoods and dead mothers, the way we
thought joy was found.

And yet that’s the wound that will always be healing.
She came into A League of Their Own, and
everybody was so nervous when she arrived. I had seen
Truth or Dare two days
before—totally by chance. The first thing I said to
her was: “My mother died when I was a kid, and
I too am named after her. And on her gravestone is my
name, and I saw your movie yesterday.” And that was
it. And there was no bullshit from that moment on. The
way that we relate is different from the way I relate
to anyone else. I have nothing but awe for the way
that she’s been able to get through what, few people
know, is a tidal wave. It might seem like it’s
a nice, smooth ocean, but can I tell you
somethin’? It’s a tidal wave! And
you’ve gotta fight just to keep your head above
the surface.

I know you’re bringing Boy George’s musical
Taboo to America…

Yes. Boy George plays Leigh Bowery. I grew up
loving George. He was one of the bravest gay
entertainers there ever was. At the time he started I
knew I was gay. He was 20, and I’m a year younger. As
a young gay girl I remember him on talk shows
answering the question “You’re
homosexual?” with “Well, I rarely have
sex at home.”

How do you get on with him?
He is talented beyond words and, as a result, not easy.
Not meaning mean—he’s a kindhearted
man—but I call him and he’s like [imitating
George’s British accent], “Hello, darling,
I’m in Shanghai!”
“Great—listen, George, can you get on a plane
and come to The Tonight Show with me?”
“Oh, darling, I can’t possibly fly east! I can
only fly west until February, but much love to Kelli
and the children.”

Someone has to be the diva.
He’s in his own reality, which is why he’s
able to be as brilliant as he is. What I want to do as
a producer of Taboo—along with Adam
Kenwright—is make a beautiful frame and put the
greatest light on it and go, “Everybody, come
here. Don’t be distracted by me—look
there.” I want to step back. That’s why
no one can find me right now, because I’ve had
enough of me.

Are you aware of what your coming-out means to people?
I see it in the eyes of people who have stopped me since
I came out, and I get it. I have seen gay people come
over to me and cry and tell me how proud they are of
me that I was now a part of them. And what I always
say is “Thank you—and just so you know, I was
always a part of you.” They knew.

No, they didn’t.
I guess they didn’t. But Judy, to me, I thought,
Of course they do.

Well, I can’t argue with what you thought.
Here’s another thing, just to tell you a little
bit about me. I was on a plane with Kelli, and I had
my iPod on. They make that announcement:
“Please turn off your electronic devices because they
can interfere…” But I don’t hear
it because I have my iPod on. Kelli looks at me, and
I’m grooving out to something. Later we get to
the hotel, and she goes, “You know what? Honey,
that was really rude.” I said, “What was
rude?” She said, “You didn’t turn
off your iPod.” I said, “Why?”
“Because they announced that it was interfering
and because all those other people sitting on the
plane within your vicinity thought you didn’t care
about them and that maybe the plane was gonna crash
because you were too ignorant and self-obsessed to
turn off your headphones.”

Oh, dear!
I felt horrified. I said, “In a million years I
never would’ve thought that anybody was
thinking that. What I thought was, Oh, my God, an iPod
isn’t gonna take down a 747.” So of course
I’m gonna keep on listening to my iPod. I
didn’t realize what other people were thinking.

It’s the
same with the gay thing. I mean, come on—I’m
adopting kids, I never pretended to have a husband
and/or a boyfriend. So I didn’t understand that
people really didn’t know.

All those people across America who didn’t want to
know colluded with your silence.

You know, there’s a quote that says that
society will be measured not only by the noise of the
bad but by the silence of the good. And only recently
did I realize, My silence was complacency. My silence did
equal death in some ways. I only know now, having
jumped off the bridge, what people are talking about.
Because I was on the bridge with my headphones on,
going [yelling], “What’re you talking about?
Kelli, why are you being mean to me? I wasn’t
being rude!” It’s the same kind of thing. Now
I go to her and say: “You have to know, honey,
that I didn’t know.” She goes, “I
know you didn’t know—that’s why
I’m telling you. Wake up!” And I kept
telling her, “I’m awake! I’m
awake!” Well, you know what? I’m not.

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