O'Donnell, Rosie

O'Donnell, Rosie
▪ 1998

      Rosie O'Donnell rattled daytime television in 1997, threatening to dethrone the top-rated, feel-good talk show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," with her own celebrity-studded talk-variety program. In the midst of sexually suggestive talk shows and soap operas, "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" exploded onto the daytime scene with fresh humour and optimism, debuting on June 10, 1996, with the highest premiere ratings of any talk show of the past decade. The spunky comedienne-of-the-people endeared herself to audiences with her frisky frankness, neighbourly chatter, and unabashed love for popular culture, namely television theme songs, commercial jingles, and actor Tom Cruise. Polls revealed that she was second to Winfrey in popularity among the most dominant daytime television viewing group, women. Rewarded with a four-year, $4 million renewal contract, O'Donnell capped her show's first season with the Daytime Emmy award for best talk show host.

      Roseanne O'Donnell, the third of five children, was born March 21, 1962, in Commack, N.Y. Her mother died when O'Donnell was 10 years old. Left to be raised by an emotionally reserved father, she used humour to contend with her own emotions. Throughout her youth her sense of humour also gained her popularity, as demonstrated by her elections as homecoming queen, senior class president, and prom queen while in high school. After graduating from high school, O'Donnell attempted to earn a college degree, first as a prelaw student at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., in 1980 and then a year later as a drama student at Boston University. While doing so, she sporadically toured comedy clubs throughout the U.S. from 1979 to 1984. Show business beckoned, and so O'Donnell left college without a degree in order to develop her professional stand-up comedy career. After touring in less-than-extravagant circumstances, she finally earned enough as a five-time comedy champion on the television show "Star Search" to pursue a movie acting career in Los Angeles. She honed her comedy skills as host and executive producer of the comedy show "Stand-Up Spotlight" on the cable television channel VH-1. In 1992 O'Donnell relinquished her duties as host in order to launch a movie career. She usually got parts as the comic sidekick and/or best friend in such feature films as A League of Their Own (1992), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and The Flintstones (1994), the movie version of the classic cartoon. In her first starring role, she attempted to broaden her image by playing a police-woman-turned-leather-clad dominatrix in Exit to Eden (1994), but the movie and O'Donnell's performance were generally panned by critics. She then moved to the New York stage and achieved critical acclaim in the part of Rizzo in the Broadway revival of Grease! in 1994. Soon afterward she returned to film, again as the comical confidant, in Now and Then (1995) and Beautiful Girls (1996). She returned to theatre only to be host of the 1997 Tony awards.


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Universalium. 2010.

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