Rosie O'Donnell told the editor of her now-defunct magazine that because she was a lesbian she strongly objected to a cover photo showing the entertainer with her arms around other women, according to testimony Monday.
Susan Toepfer, who became editor in chief in July 2002, said the photo was shot for Rosie magazine's September 2002 cover. Both sides agree the cover started a fight that led to the magazine's demise.
The cover featured women from the TV show "The Sopranos," Toepfer said. The proposed cover shot showed O'Donnell standing between two of the stars, Lorraine Bracco and Edie Falco, with an arm around each. That cover never ran.
Toepfer testified in Manhattan's State Supreme Court, where O'Donnell and Rosie's publisher, Gruner & Jahr USA, are suing each other over alleged breach of contract.
Toepfer said O'Donnell called her after receiving the photo.
"She said, 'You're about to hear a Rosie you've never heard before,' " Toepfer quoted O'Donnell as saying. "She proceeded to scream and yell at me. She was screaming obscenities at me. She wouldn't listen to me."
"She said, 'As a lesbian, I'm uncomfortable being on a magazine cover holding another woman or touching another woman,' " Toepfer testified. "I said, 'You know Rosie, that would never have occurred to me in a thousand years.' "
Martin Hyman, a lawyer for Gruner & Jahr, said in opening statements that O'Donnell objected to the picture because it "made her look fat."
O'Donnell's lawyer, Lorna Schofield, agreed that part of her client's objection to the photo was that it was unflattering. Schofield also said Toepfer's near-insistence on the photo made O'Donnell feel she did not have control of her image.
Toepfer, a People magazine editor for 14 years, is now an editor-at-large at Gruner & Jahr. She said O'Donnell threatened to end the publication of Rosie if she did not get her way.
"She said, 'I've been the boss of a TV show for six years. If I'm not going to be the boss of this, then I'll shut it down,' " Toepfer testified.
The cover that eventually was chosen for the September 2002 issue of Rosie featured three women from "The Sopranos" cast -- Bracco, Falco and Aida Turturro.
In mid-September 2002, O'Donnell declared that Gruner & Jahr had violated its contract with her and she quit the magazine.
The publishers sued O'Donnell for $100 million, alleging breach of contract.
O'Donnell countersued and sought $125 million. She maintains Gruner & Jahr breached its agreement with her by cutting her out of key editorial decisions.
The non-jury case will be decided by Justice Ira Gammerman of New York state's trial-level Supreme Court, who has overseen high-profile cases involving Joan Collins, Woody Allen and Stephen Sondheim.