The real Rosie

By Judy Wieder

Originally published on Advocate.com December 24 2002 12:00 AM ET

First of all,
there are not two Rosies. She was never the “Queen of
Nice,” and she’s not the “Queen of
Mean.” That’s just our media selling
tickets to its own headlines. Sure, she’s a
complicated bunny, but there’s still only one
Rosie, and one’s enough! Passionate, boisterous,
creative, sad, fun, generous, and genuine, she is The
Advocate
’s Person of the Year for many
reasons—not the least of which is that she
survived the year at all!

An authentic
Rosie Hood for the underdog, this woman had it all when 2002
began—except what she treasured the most: the ongoing
connection to those who have nothing. And that
included the Rosie she still remembers: the isolated
child who grew up in Commack, Long Island, whose cherished
mother died when she was 10 and whose father was never
emotionally hers. The kid who ran all the way to
Broadway to find her feelings but lost her soul on the
wild, empty fame ride.

Exaggeration? A
little, but not much. For the rich and famous Rosie, the
gap had grown too wide. She missed herself. So starting with
her book, Find Me, she decided to put herself
back together in an open, honest way.

When Rosie came
out this year, she became the most famous gay person in
the world. For years her daily daytime TV show made her a
regular guest in millions of homes. Her magazine,
Rosie, with her name and face all over it,
followed suit. Nobody of her stature had ever come out
before, and I, for one, can understand her looking at it
from all angles before leaping off the cliff.
Fortunately, she finally collided with an offer she
couldn’t refuse: the chance to be on Diane
Sawyer’s TV special and discuss what it was
like to be a gay parent, as did Steve Lofton and Roger
Croteau, the gay couple suing Florida to overturn its ban on
gay adoption. Not only is Rosie gay and a huge child
advocate, she lost her own bid to adopt the daughter
she’d fostered in Florida because of this law.

“I
occasionally tell Bert [the son Lofton and Croteau are
fighting to keep] that he outed Rosie,” Roger
Croteau jokes. “But really, she did the perfect
thing for the issues and the children on that show. Prior to
that the media was clueless and uninterested; now they
cannot get enough.”

Asked about the
biggest impact Rosie’s had on their personal lives,
Steve Lofton refers to Rosie’s quiet
generosity: “When Rosie found out we
didn’t have a television, she sent the kids a TV and
cable. Now they can choose between a TV movie and a
cable movie once a week.”

Unfortunately,
the good vibes of Rosie’s coming-out took a quick
turn south when Gruner + Jahr USA, the publishers of
Rosie, allegedly thought their star was looking
too much like (gasp!) an activist. They worried
whether she was still the right figurehead for this onetime
McCall’s readership. In the end, they wanted
her name but not her. Rosie saw things differently.
This was her name. They got both, or neither.
That’s when the real circus started.

“It
wasn’t the gay thing, ” Rosie says, “it
was the magazine stuff. That’s when the
tabloids went nuts. That’s when they started in about
my hair and me being a man and so tough and
scary.”

Tough and scary?
Not really. You can tell a lot by being in someone’s
home. Rosie’s is warm and easy. Her girlfriend and
children adore her, and she brightens whenever
they’re around. And when they’re not, she goes
looking for them. After viewing Rosie’s unexpectedly
cathartic art pieces in her studio, I sat down with
Kelli Carpenter, Rosie’s partner of five years,
and discussed why she thought Rosie should be The
Advocate
’s Person of the Year.

"So much! Her
ability to effect change and open people’s
minds—not just in the big world but in my
life,” Kelli says. “She was able to
change my parents’ perspective on being gay and how
gay relationships work, that it didn’t mean you
have to be alone all your life. That was their biggest
fear. But there she was.”

And there she
still is. Vaulting across the family room, trying to get
her youngest son, Blake, to sing “It’s the
Hard-Knock Life” for us—both of them
laughing too hard to sing anything.

The following
interview took place in Rosie’s Manhattan offices and
in her home outside New York.

So how was your year, Rosie?
Oh, boy, it’s been very eventful, I can
say that. My whole life and career—I was
focused on just that, my career. And the first break in that
came when I adopted my son [Parker], and the second break in
that career focus came when I met Kelli, and I knew
that this was, as I told Parker, the puzzle piece that
matched my heart.

Why?
Kelli is an unbelievable person. She was just
the piece that fit. She’s part of the real
grace that comes from being able to live the truth.
It’s too hard to describe.

How did you two first meet?
My brother Danny, who’s gay, met her
at—[calling out to Kelli in the
kitchen
] what event was that, honey? It was some gay
function in New York, and he met Kelli because they
were at the same table. She had just moved from
Chicago and just broken up with someone. She asked him, did
he know anybody who was single.

Kelli [moving
into the conversation from the kitchen
]: I asked him
to introduce me to a nice attorney.

Rosie [rolls
her eyes
]: Right. And then he called me and said,
“I met the perfect girl for you.” And I
thought, Naw, I’m never going to meet anyone! I
never really was a dater, you know?

Kelli: Then there
was another event where you—

Rosie: No,
no—I know what it was! I buy tables to a lot of
charity events, but then I don’t go. I send
other people instead. I’d rather stay home at
night. My brother Danny was going, and he told me Kelli was
going, so I told him and everybody else going to
“check her out!”

Kelli
[laughing]: I had no idea this was going on.

Rosie: So they
all came back giving me the [makes “OK”
clicking sounds
]. But it was four months
before we had a date.

So people were reporting to you, but you still
hadn’t seen or spoken to her?

Rosie: Right. Then she called my brother and
asked for tickets to the show.

Kelli: My parents
were in town.

Rosie: So I was
like, “Red alert! Kelli Carpenter’s coming to
the show!”

You were really nervous?
Rosie: Well, I wasn’t really nervous, but
I looked out there during the show and saw her and
thought, Oh, my God, she’s so preppy! A-a-ahhh,
preppy, this is going to be impossible. So after the show I
made my assistant go tell her that if she wanted to
have a picture taken with Rosie or meet her, she
could. So Kelli was like, “Umm…I don’t
know.” But her mother said [yelling in a
Southern accent
], “I’d love to meet
her!” [Laughs] Little did I know what I was
getting into: Gomer Pyle as an in-law!

Kelli: We just
found that picture the other day.

Rosie: Yeah,
there we all are, posing before Kelli and I had ever even
talked. Then she got all flirty with me, saying,
“O-o-oh, you burned your hand. Does it
hurt?”

Wait a minute! More hand karma?
Rosie: Yes, that’s true. It started that way,
honey. Right up to this [holds up hand, wrapped
after still another surgery
].

Kelli: Yeah, but
she had four months of prep while I didn’t even know
what was going on.

Rosie: True
[laughs]. We were, like, totally setting it up while
I was checking her out. [Kelli returns to the
kitchen
]

Did getting together with Kelli push you toward coming out?
There were many people who said to me,
“Famous or not, why don’t you come
out?” and I always said, “I’m out
enough,” because I never pretended to have a
boyfriend. My crush on Tom Cruise is real—I never
said I wanted to have sex with him. It stunned me
when, after the Diane Sawyer interview, they did a
focus group and it said 60% of people didn’t know,
but I don’t believe that. I believe they
knew.

I disagree. As long as you didn’t say it, they
didn’t have to know.

I guess.

I remember having these discussions with Lily Tomlin. She
didn’t think she had to come out. She
thought she was out. Well, maybe in her world—

It’s not just my world. It was with
everyone: interns on my show. I felt that I never
compromised my integrity or my place in the gay community,
ever.

How did you see your place in the community before you
came out?

What I think the gay community needs to realize
is that all the members are in our dugout. Some are
playing on the field, but everybody’s in
uniform. And the person who’s pitching is not of more
value than the person in the dugout waiting for his
turn to bat. I waited until I knew it was my turn to
bat. And these men, [Steve] Lofton and [Roger]
Croteau—they were a gift from God: what they have
lived and the injustice of this law. I heard in my
head, This is the time.

Well, it would still have been a big deal if it had just
been about you.

But I didn’t want it to be about me.
Because it’s not about me. In the same way,
when they try to give me the Mother of the Year award, I
don’t want to take it. I’m a
multimillionaire. I have assistants and help. The
woman who’s trying to put sneakers on her three kids
and working three jobs deserves Mother of the Year.
Not me.

But certainly, coming out has changed you.
I will say this: Since doing it, I’m
shocked at the change: Everyone had told me this
[would happen]—from my brother to Ellen [DeGeneres].
Everybody who knows me knows that the main focus of my life
is the rights of kids. The biggest thing I ever had to
get over in my life was my childhood—not my
sexuality. I mean, the things that the gay community has
harped on me about, I find odd.

Like?
When Kathy Kinney came on my show and outed
Richard Simmons, I didn’t try to
“in” Richard Simmons. The gay community
accused me of in-ing Richard Simmons, like I was
trying to make people think that he was straight. I
will tell you this: If Richard Simmons ever wants to discuss
his private life with me on national TV, he’s
welcome to do so. It is not anyone else’s right
to do that before he decides it’s time. That’s
the reason I said to Kathy Kinney,
“We’ll be right back with a
commercial.” I’m simply saying that that
right belongs to him. [Loudly] And no matter what
community you feel he’s a part of or what he
represents to you, it is not as relevant as his own
truth.

Don’t get mad at me! The Advocate
doesn’t out people.

Well, that’s how I always
talk—this is why people think I’m maniacal.
This is how I talk. I should’ve been a lawyer.

[Laughing] It’s not too late. Look, if
someone isn’t ready—
But I also think it’s not fair to judge the
person as not ready when they may be living a life
that is just as out as yours.

Wait—I’m talking about being ready to climb
up on the cover of The Advocate and say,
“Here’s my life.”

Correct. Got it, got it. Yeah. Right.

What’s important is that you’re out and
that you did it in a way that is going to help
change the world. That’s why you’re the
Person of the Year for The Advocate.

I am? I didn’t know. They didn’t
tell me. That’s a huge honor, and I think
it’s wonderful.

And we don’t give this honor to people who
don’t deserve it.
[Quietly] No, I don’t think that of
you.

Why did you do a talk show?
Well, here’s what happened. Before my
talk show, I was a comedian. When you’re a
comedian, you have free rein to say anything you want. I had
a blank canvas, and I painted all the time, all over
the country, in Vegas and everywhere. I loved
it.

I know you were rowdier back then.
Then I got this job that required one thing: It
was a specific kind of canvas. It was afternoon TV. It
was Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas. It was
noncontroversial. It was happy, fun, light, mothers-at-home,
and “Relate to them, Rosie, in the best way
that you can.” To me, it didn’t mean
hiding my sexuality, but it also did not mean
flaunting my sexuality. I never once said, “Well, my
boyfriend and I went last night to the
premiere.” I would sit at the Emmys next to Kelli. I
just lived as though everyone knew it.

In addition to Lofton and Croteau, I’ve always
felt that something very personal kicked in and made you
say, “I can’t do this anymore. I
want out. It’s my turn at bat.”

I turned 40. I outlived my mother.

Ah, OK…
My mother died at 39. At 39, I was in the hospital with
a staph infection. They were going to amputate my
finger or my wrist. It’s the middle finger;
I’m the middle of five children. I don’t think
it’s by accident. And I felt that God was
saying to me, I gave you what you thought you wanted,
and I’ve shown you what you need. Where will you go?
Toward what I need, or toward what I think I wanted?

And?
Well, what I thought I wanted was salvation for
free, because Barbra Streisand made me feel emotional
and alive, and Bette Midler too. As a young person I
would listen to them and the emotions sung in Pippin
and the feelings from West Side Story, and that was
the only outlet I had to express all the stuff inside
me. And I thought that by becoming like them I would
feel what they made me feel as a child,
constantly.

But it didn’t work, did it?
No, that was a misunderstanding on my part. It
was a 20-year journey. It took a life-threatening
injury; it took Kelli sleeping on the floor in ICU.
The fame took a toll on my friends and family, on those
relationships that are most valuable and most important.
Finally I had a shift in perspective, and I’m
grateful for that. But when you let go of something,
you make space for something else to be there. And what I
have found I’ve been given as a result of the
letting go—not just of the show but the
magazine and the coming-out—are rewards that I
can’t even begin to explain.

Try.
When I went to opening night at Hairspray
and I heard those words and I saw those performances, I was
sobbing like I couldn’t believe. Because
everything came together for me at once.

Because you’re out? More vulnerable? Why were
you sobbing?

It had nothing to do with coming out. The
sobbing had to do with the fact that this was the
origin of my artistic essence: musical theater. It was
the reason I became a performer. It was always
Oklahoma! and West Side Story and every
musical my mother loved that we would sit and watch on
TV together. It was musicals that made me become a
performer, and when I saw Barbra onstage, I thought to
myself, Well, I love her, and look what she’s
giving me! But I don’t know where you go to
do that.
Hollywood was a vague and elusive
concept. When I came to see Clams on the Half
Shell
in 1974, I stood at the stage door and watched the
woman I had just seen perform miracles [Bette Midler]
walk out of the door sweating with a towel on her
head, stopping to sign my autograph—I was 11
years old. I knew there was a place to go where I could do
what I felt inside of me. And that was Broadway.

So you came full circle?
Yes, to be there that night, to have let go of
everything, to have it be my first public appearance
after my press conference with the magazine, to have
that be the first thing that I did. I felt that, again,
nothing happens by chance.

So many changes! You were the “Queen of
Nice,” and now you’ve become—

The devil incarnate. Right, but here’s
the thing: If you agree to being sanctified, you need
to agree to be vilified.

But did you agree to being this television goody-goody?
I never thought I was the “Queen of
Nice.” In fact, when that came out I remember
saying “You know what? Next year it’s gonna be
the ‘Queen of Lice’ and then the
‘Queen of Fried Rice.’” But at the time
that I came on the air, the number 1 show was Jerry
Springer
. People were beating each other up; guests were
killing each other. Compared to that, I was the
“Queen of Nice.” But in actuality, watch
my HBO special. My art form is not based in kindness;
it’s based in rage.

I’m glad to hear this from you. I always got
that from your comedy.

But you have to find a way to translate that in
your art, as every artist does, so that the message is
heard.

What about AIDS activism?
Now I understand the rage in ACT UP; I understand it was
righteous anger. When your hand is forced, you
don’t have a choice. But I don’t think
that going into St. Patrick’s Cathedral—those
kinds of overt acts of hostility—are going to
be productive for anyone.

Was it frustrating for you when certain huge
incidents happened to the gay community, like Matthew
Shepard or Brandon Teena being murdered, and you
couldn’t join the protests?

Well, I know all of those stories because of
your magazine. But I’ll tell you why I
didn’t feel the need to attend the vigils for Matthew
Shepard—his death was horrific; it is the worst in
us, but that doesn’t mean gay people should
only stand up when it’s a gay person murdered. It
also means when a man is dragged to death because
he’s black in Texas—it means all
injustices.

Of course, but the problem with hate-crime laws is
that while they cover James Byrd’s atrocious
death, most states refuse to add gays to their
list of those protected by law from hate crimes.

Oh, true, I agree.

Did people ask you to come to any of the vigils or marches?
When Ellen [DeGeneres] called me and said, did I want to
go to the vigil—and I love Ellen, and
I’ve known her many, many, many years—I said
no. And she said, “Why?” and I said,
“Because you didn’t call me to go to
James Byrd’s. And if you had called me to go to James
Byrd’s, I might’ve gone with you to
Matthew Shepard’s.” That’s my
philosophy.

Judy Shepard told me she had spoken to you about
Matthew early on.

I was in an elevator with Judy Shepard right
before I hosted the Grammys four years ago. I got on
an elevator with her, and she looked familiar, and I
said, “Are you Ryan White’s
mother?”

Close…
She was in my Filofax somewhere. And she said,
“No, I’m Matthew Shepard’s
mother.” And I was like [gasps], “Could
you come with me to my room? I would love to talk to
you.” And she said yes, and I talked to her and
I told her about myself being gay and what a horrible
thing had happened to her son and how I felt the presence of
God in her husband’s speech. That speech
changed the world because he came from compassion and
love. He said that his son would not want the boys to
die. And there are moments like when I heard his speech on
the radio, where I have to pull off the road because I
am crying too much to drive the car. And what I say in
those moments is “Thank you, God.” We need
this compassion and godliness in each other.

Don’t people treat you with compassion?
The gay community needs to stop pointing fingers
at their brothers and sisters and saying “Not
gay enough.” It’s not as though gay people
didn’t know I was gay; it was the people in
Iowa.

Yes, but the people in Iowa need to know.
But look, I’m sitting on a plane and the
flight attendant goes, “Hi, Rosie—oh, my
God, my partner’s name is Frank, and I just love you,
love your show.” I’m sitting next to
Kelli, and we both wear matching
rings—it’s pretty obvious to everyone
who’s gay.

Yes, of course a gay flight attendant would know, Rosie.
OK, OK.

Everything has changed for you now, Rosie.
And it’s like being on the space shuttle.
I was in intense fame for six years. When astronauts
come down from being in space, they have to go to a
decompression chamber. They need to have therapy and hear
someone say “I know you keep saying,
‘Oh, my God, I walked on the moon.’ But
you’re back on Earth now—shift!”
They have professionals to help them do that.

Don’t you?
There’s no one to help you do that when you let
go of fame the way I did. Also, society likes to think
what I thought, which is, It’s better over
there.
And when somebody “over
there” says “You know what? It isn’t,
and I’m coming back to where you are,”
it changes everyone’s belief system. It forces them
to look again at their own values in life.

Just like you had to?
Yes, and that’s a gift. It’s a
gift that I got by being sick enough and trusting
enough and having the most amazing, heart-opening experience
with the children in my life. These kids came in and broke
the cement around my heart and made a space for Kelli
to enter. And what has grown as a result is an
unbelievably beautiful garden. And the stuff that I
won’t do anymore is pretend.

You were pretending before?
It’s part of why the magazine situation
came apart. I finally said no. I can’t pretend.
I didn’t [tell G+J I would] want it to be a militant
magazine—I just wanted it to be me. If I tell
Christopher Reeve “You’re on the
cover,” he should end up on the cover. He
shouldn’t get cut down to a book excerpt. His
life shouldn’t get reduced to the headline “My
Adventures in Scientology” because Scientology will
sell. That is not all right with me.

I can’t believe this happened to you too. I had
to cancel an Advocate cover with Christopher
Reeve when he directed In the Gloaming.
Someone above me thought our readers would think we were
equating homosexuality with disabilities.

A-a-ahhh! So you know what I’m saying!
It was just ridiculous. I was on a roller-coaster ride and I
kept thinking, It’s gonna get real soon.
And when I got off the ride, I said to the ticket guy,
“Oh, my God, you’re not gonna believe
what just happened to me.” And he said, “Yeah,
I know, everybody says that when they get
off.”

So it’s a big relief after being bound up…
The best part about coming out was the weekend
after. I went to the mall, and people nodded at me,
they winked at me and gave me the thumbs-up, but they
did not come over to me when I was with my children. That is
a profound change. It was as if by saying “I am
gay too—I am what you believe and also
this,” it forced them to see me as a
real, full person; three-dimensional. When they see me with
Kelli, they know: “Wow, that is who she has chosen.
She loves that person.” When they see me with
my children, they say, “There’s a mother
with her children,” and that moment is more real than
the image of Rosie. And it took me a long time to find
it out.

The gay community—whatever that is—has been…?
Right—on the whole, aside from those few
I call the gay Nazis—has been unbelievably
supportive of me.

I think I remember that when Ellen DeGeneres came
out, you were critical of the circus that went on around
her [and Anne Heche].
Well, I knew she was gonna come out because she had told
me for a long time. She came on my show, and we did
the “Lebanese thing”; I wanted to go
there because I wanted people who were smart enough to get
it to hear what I was saying: I’m one of you.
That’s why I did that.

Yes, and the people who knew about both of you,
knew. And those watching the show who didn’t
know, still didn’t know.

I’ve been friends with Ellen for 15
years. I like her a lot. I’ve known Ellen
through many partners, and she has known me through many
partners. When you think you find the person for your
whole life and you’re gonna announce it to the
world, you’d better be sure.

Well, that was a pretty devastating event for her.
For everyone. For everyone.

And the fact that Melissa and Julie blew up at the
same time was unbelievable.

Right.

But again, now that this media circus has happened
to you, do you feel more understanding—

Empathy, yes. But I don’t think the same
thing happened to me that happened to Ellen. I made a
decision to speak up against an unjust law in Florida
because I was victimized by that law. Now, all of this stuff
that’s happened to Rosie the magazine,
that’s something else. They decided it was no longer
gonna have my personality—it was gonna have
someone else’s. All the huge media came over
that. I don’t think it’s because of the gay
thing.

How can you separate any of it?
Let me tell you why: We didn’t lose one
corporate sponsor when I came out on my TV show. We
didn’t lose one page of advertising in the magazine.
It was only after the magazine, people started saying,
“She’s crazy—look at her,
she’s changed.”

Have you changed?
I had a meeting with Warner Bros. eight years ago, at
the age of 32, before starting the show, and said,
“Before you invest money in the show, I want
you to know I’m gay, and I want you to be OK with the
fact that I’m gay. Because what would be really
bad for me would be if the show is successful and I
become tabloid fodder like Oprah, and they put that
I’m gay on a tabloid cover and you are
horrified—then I don’t wanna take this
job. So I want to be up-front in the beginning.” I
said the same thing at G+J. “You realize I am
doing the ACLU lawsuit with the Loftons? You realize I
am a lesbian and letting go of my show? You realize I want
social issues? You realize I am not about beauty and facade?
Do you realize this?” “Yes, we realize
this.”

When did you say this?
At the very beginning. Before we signed the
contract. That’s why I said to them, “Do
you realize that if you do this, I will quit the magazine?
It will cost you millions of dollars and will drag your name
through the mud. You cannot have my name—I
worked 20 years to find it. You do not get to say what
it means.”

Your name is all you’ve got.
Yeah! So I don’t believe what happened to Ellen
is what happened to me. I think if I went to the White
House like she did, a press dinner at the middle of
this blitz with my arm around Kelli, maybe. I think if I
had met Kelli three weeks before and then had a big
announcement that we’d be together for our
whole life, maybe.

Well, she was madly in love.
Look, Judy, I was sure when I made this
announcement about my family. I was sure this was my
family forever. Maybe Ellen was sure of that too, but
it felt to me a little haphazard to stand up for such a big
issue so soon… I mean, you better be sure. I
know that Ellen thought she was sure, and I know that
Ellen is a good person.

You are a much bigger tabloid fave than Ellen’s
ever been.
I have a great tabloid story; I haven’t told it
anywhere else. I take my son to the mall; bad timing
for me, tabloidwise—the kid can now read.
We’re at Target, we’re getting stuff, and
Parker says, “Mommy, you’re 300
‘libs.’” I go, “Where do you see
that?” “Right there—you’re 300
‘libs.’” I go, “Oh, honey,
that means ‘pounds.’ Here’s the
thing—these magazines by the cash register,
they’ve got a little bit of truth and a lot of
lies. Let me explain it to you: Mommy is 200
‘libs.’ Some people think women should
only be 100 ‘libs’ and men should be 200
‘libs’ and nobody should be 300
‘libs.’”

The next week we
go back: “Mommy, are you gonna become a man?”
“No. Mommy got a haircut, and some people think
that people with short hair look like boys and people
with long hair look like girls. I don’t want to be a
boy; I never wanted to be a boy. And there are some people
who are born feeling that they were born in the wrong
body and they want to change their body.”

The next week he
says, “Mommy, is our family breaking up?” I
say, “No. That one, Parker, is a pure lie, and
Mommy’s going to call the man who wrote it and
give him one chance to fix it and tell everyone the truth
about our family.” So on the cover of the
Enquirer, there was a photo that I provided of
me and Kelli and a story that says they lied and they
made up the whole thing.

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.