It’s Rosie the riveting


It’s true that no one knew Rosie O’Donnell had split from partner Kelli Carpenter until two years after the couple had already separated, but O’Donnell is doing anything but ducking the media. When she’s not hosting her Sirius Satellite Radio show “Rosie Radio,” O’Donnell has been raving about her new girlfriend (she told Oprah Winfrey last week that she went “Zoinks!” when she met the “absolutely gorgeous” Tracy Kachtick-Anders, a Texas-based artist and mother of six), hawking new projects (HBO premieres her documentary “A Family Is a Family Is a Family” tonight, and a new book, “The Sound of Hope,” comes out in April), and giving her famously honest opinion on just about anything.

In your new documentary, kids offer their insights on what family means to them. In one scene, you and your youngest daughter Vivienne talk about your breakup with Kelli. Was there ever a question to include your own family in the project?

There was. The producers asked if they could include my family, but we were in the middle of a transition and I didn’t know how it would translate or whether or not it would fit in the project. I wanted to be cognizant of everybody’s feelings and emotional state and yet not ignore what was happening. Or exploit it. Vivvi, and all my kids, understand that family is forever, so it worked out.

Kelli and I are still close. Like many gay families that I know, gay women especially who have children together, we remain friends. Not that heterosexual people don’t or can’t do it, but every gay woman I know is friends with her exes, and they’re involved with their lives in some capacity. Kelli is a big part of what made this family so amazing and what continues to.

You’ve been doing “Rosie Radio” since last fall. Do you miss having a bigger platform like “The View” or “The Rosie O’Donnell Show”?

The radio show is the perfect platform for me. I don’t have to wear makeup, I don’t have to wear a bra. It’s two hours long and there’s no boss. There’s no executive producer trying to slant the presentation. Honestly, although I enjoyed the opportunity to do “The View,” the practicality of trying to talk about really serious, deep subjects in seven or eight minutes, with four other women trying to get airtime, it just was not conducive to anything that felt substantial to me.

I was not looking for a sound bite. I am not looking to be on “Crossfire” and fight with a 30-year-old pregnant girl. I was glad at the time I did it, that there was a woman on TV with a voice of dissent. I found out that the format of network TV is too constricting for me at 47 years old.

One thing you’ve been talking a lot about is how unhappy you are, to put it mildly, about the Jay Leno situation at NBC. What do you think Jay could or should have done?

Listen, Joe Namath had to be told at some point, “We are going to go with another quarterback.” Jay had five years to make other plans. Conan gave 17 years of his life to NBC. I just think it is bad sportsmanship. Jay’s a guy who is not willing to let go.

And I think it is going to backfire on him and bite him. He’s pretending like he had nothing to do with it: “I don’t know what NBC is doing. I don’t know.” What? No. You know. And you are a coward, and if you really think that you still got the goods at 60 years old, if you really think that you are cutting-edge and poignant and that your interview style is so exemplary, then you know what you should do? Go to Fox and compete against Conan. But to have Conan have that . . . [weak] lead-in of him?

It’s like he did everything he could to sabotage him. It’s like worse than “All About Eve,” because he is not an up-and-coming guy. It’s like a guy who fell water-skiing and then refuses to let go of the tow rope. You know, I think it is going to drown him. Frankly, I think if he had any dignity, he would say, “You know what? I am done.”

Any chance you’ll do more “Curb Your Enthusiasm”? I don’t know how you can top the wrestling match.

Larry knows I will do it any time he wants. I don’t even ask what the scene or the subject is. A lot of times you don’t know until you get there. The last episode I did, I literally arrived knowing nothing and he comes up and goes, “OK, so we are at a restaurant. Fight with me about the check.” And we just did it. I didn’t know about his girlfriend in a wheelchair until I was on set with her. It’s the funniest show to do, bar none.

You’ve been doing stand-up comedy again too. Is that something that’s important to include between all your other projects?

Stand-up is like my real life. The radio show too, that’s much more similar to my stand-up and my life than my talk show or “The View” ever was. In fact, when we launched “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” I remember I still had a deal with Caesars to do stand-up, and in 1996 I went back to do my final performance -- and half the audience got up and left halfway through! I was like, “What the hell?” Because I had been a very successful comic and this audience had never seen me do stand-up. They had no concept that that nice woman on TV could actually talk about Woody Allen being an. . . . Now, after years of being off the air, I get to do myself again.