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CNN Larry King Weekend

Encore Presentation: Interview with Rosie O'Donnell

Aired July 06, 2002 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Rosie O'Donnell, amazingly frank, always fun. We're going to talk about coming out, quitting daytime talk, and her partner having a baby. She's Rosie, the queen of nice, and she is, and she's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

She's the author of a runaway "New York Times" bestseller titled, "Find Me," a roaring hit from the day it was released. She's an old friend. She's an industry. She's got her magazine. She's become Oprah and Martha Stewart. There's Rosie. And she joins us from New York, the Emmy Award-winning host of the "The Rosie O'Donnell Show."

First, why are you leaving?

ROSIE O'DONNELL, HOST, "ROSIE O'DONNELL SHOW": Well, Larry, when I took the job, I had a newborn baby and I thought I would do it for four years maximum and then go on to other things in my life and have more time to be an at-home mom. And this is my sixth season. And I knew after season four that I would be done after season six.

So I think once you have $10 million, if you think you need $10 million more, you're doing yourself a disservice. So I was done. I had done artistically what I wanted to do and financially was in a position that I could go.

KING: Is it a tough business to leave?

O'DONNELL: I'm not leaving the business totally, you know, in that I'm going to still, you know, write more books, obviously, and I'm going to hopefully direct a film for Showtime that I just sold to them. And, you know, I have other interests artistically. It just won't be as much in front of the camera as it has been.

KING: Are you going to act again?

O'DONNELL: I don't know. I think I would if the right thing came along, you know. As you know, it's harder for women 40 and older in Hollywood to get roles. But, you know, I think that when I get older, as I get older, it'll be even easier for me to work, not harder, because I can do more of the character roles like the great Colleen Dewhurst or Geraldine Page (ph), you know, phenomenal actresses, that they did. And so that's what I'm looking forward to in my old age. KING: You could always say you were in one of the great baseball movies ever made.

O'DONNELL: That's the truth. And it was the most fun film I ever made, without a doubt.

KING: Now, let's get first things up to date. Tell me how you feel about Kelly Carpenter being pregnant.

O'DONNELL: Very excited. You know, she's wanted to have a baby for a long time. And I'm very happy and I'm very happy that, you know, we're able to do this, and I'll be thrilled to welcome what I consider my fifth child, the fourth one being my foster child who's no longer living in our family but is going to be adopted by friends and we see her on weekends and whatnot.

So I consider this to be my fifth child. I hope to have at least six, maybe eight.

KING: How does it happen in a gay couple? How do they arrange it?

O'DONNELL: Who's they?

KING: The couple.

O'DONNELL: Well, it depends...

KING: How do they work it? It's in-vitro...

O'DONNELL: There's a variety...

KING: What happens?

O'DONNELL: There's a variety of options for people who want to get pregnant who aren't in conventional relationships. And, you know, the basic Internet can tell you all those ways. I think as a person you have to decide what feels right for you and your family and what is appropriate and what's not and stay within those confines. And that's what we did.

KING: Do you know -- does everyone involved know the baby's father?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, this baby's going to have two parents, myself and Kelly, and our family is a family with two mommies. And all the children in my family know that and everybody in our life knows that. And so this child will have two parents as well, me and Kelly, two mommies.

KING: But you also have to know things like the health of the father, anything the father had in a genealogy basis that you would have to look for in the child.

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I adopted three children and actually tried to adopt a fourth, so I had four children whose genetic makeup I was not fully aware of. So I was never really invested in the genes. I'm more a person who believes in, you know, nurture than nature. I believe that a child gets love and consistency and the sins of the father genetically are not handed down to the children. I believe that every child comes with a clean slate. So, you know, I wasn't too concerned with any kind of genealogy.

KING: In the modern societal concept, Rosie, do you at all feel anything about the lack of a male influence? We've been raised to think there has to be a male influence.

O'DONNELL: Well, yes, I think, you know, it's a great thing to have a male influence. It's a perfect thing to have a mother and father. There's nothing wrong with that at all. But the fact that a person is gay should not prevent them from being a parent. I mean, I am just as competent a parent as my sister, who's heterosexual, or my best friend Jackie (ph), who's heterosexual. The fact that I'm gay doesn't at all have anything to do with whether or not I'm able to parent.

So in our family, I think there is a loss, and to acknowledge that there isn't would be, you know, foolish and you'd be in denial. I mean, my son has said to me, he's almost seven, you know, "I wish we had a daddy." I said, "I understand that. I can imagine that you would. And this is the kind of family that has two mommies because that's how mommy got born, that I love another mommy, not a daddy." And he gets it, and he knows that most families have a mommy and daddy and that our family is different and that some people don't think it's right that two mommies or two daddies have children. He knows that as well.

KING: And two gay men with a child would miss a maternal instinct.

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I don't know miss, Larry. You know, I was raised in a nonconventional family. My mother died. My father wasn't very available. We were really children who raised ourselves and were raised by neighbors in many ways. And, you know, I think there are a lot of ways to raise healthy, loving, stable children. And any child today that has two parents that love them is a fortunate child, especially when you consider there are half a million kids in foster care in America and 141,000 licensed foster homes. That's 350,000 kids today with nowhere to go.

So I don't think that, you know, you can say that a two-parent family is less than or more than a single-parent family or a straight family. I understand that there are challenges that come with being in a same-sex couple for the children that don't come with being in a heterosexual couple.

KING: Why'd you write "Find Me"?

O'DONNELL: I've always written. My whole life I've been a writer. And when I met Nora Ephron to do "Sleepless in Seattle" I was very thrown, because writers to me have always been the upper echelon of the show business elite. I always wanted -- you know, when I would read a script I would think, "Who came up with this and how did they visualize that?"

And, you know, words stay with me. I have a photographic memory for stuff that I read that moves me. And I've always written. And it wasn't until I met Lauren Slater (ph), who's a wonderful writer, and her last book, "Lying," I called her up and said, "Listen, I love the way you write. I have some essays. Can you help me?" And she did. And I sent her the essays and she said, "you have a book here." And she told me an order that would work. And there it is.

KING: Was it tough, was it cathartic? What was it like to let it all come out?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I think for me it was very healing, you know. I had been through, you know, a lot of different ways of coping with things, just like every person, every adult who has in some way a troubled childhood. I think everyone, no matter where you're raised, has some issues that they have to get over as an adult. And for me, writing the book was very healing and very -- you know, it sort of for me it aligned my priorities in a way that was definite.

And I loved doing the book. You know, some of my family didn't have the same reaction. They were at first uneasy with it. You know, everybody has a different way to cope. Five children raised in the same family have five different memories of what that family was like, and when one person is famous and they write their version, it becomes the truth for everyone. And, you know, that can be disturbing, and I understand that. So I tried to be as sensitive as I could to the issues of my siblings.

KING: There are some who say in the gay community, why did you wait so long? A lot of other people had come out sooner.

O'DONNELL: Yes. I mean, I never considered it coming out, Larry, to tell you the truth. I never in my life had been persecuted against for being a gay person, although I do understand that gay people go through that on a constant and daily basis. It was not at all my reality.

And until I was persecuted for being gay when I was not allowed to adopt a foster child I had raised in my home for 16 months, a child who had been in the system since she was a baby, who had been in 20 other homes and had never been able to stay, when the state of Florida said to me, "You are unworthy because you're gay," I said it is time for me to stand up and say this law is wrong. And that's why I did it.

KING: Our guest is Rosie O'Donnell, the Emmy Award-winning host of "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." It ends its six-year run next week, May 22. That's next Wednesday. That'll be its final day on the air. And her book "Find Me" is number two on the "New York Times" best- seller list. And as we go to break, here is Rosie with a good friend, Madonna.


MADONNA, SINGER: And you basically, you narrow the passageway in your windpipe, OK? That's a narrowing of the passageway right there.


MADONNA: Anyway. OK, so it sounds like this. Now don't be frightened, because it does sound like you've got a really bad cold or something.

O'DONNELL: All right. Go ahead.


O'DONNELL: Yeah. That sounds like Satan making cappuccino! What is that?






O'DONNELL: While you were filming it in New York, I saw you and they didn't let me through.


O'DONNELL: You were in the car, in the back car, filming like on the upper...

CRUISE: They didn't let you through?

O'DONNELL: No, there was like a whole police thing and the guard, and I am like, I swear, I know him, I have my own show. He knows me. They are like, security, preppy girl, black hair. Take her down. They wouldn't let me through!

My little son was like, my mommy is Rosie O'Donnell. Really, she knows him.


KING: Rosie O'Donnell with one of her favorite people on the planet, Tom Cruise. Why Tom Cruise, by the way?

O'DONNELL: You know, hard to explain. I have to tell you that I saw him first in "Risky Business," and I must have been in my early twenties. I remember thinking he was the most perfect specimen I've ever seen, and he has aged beautifully, and he is as charming in person as I imagined that he would be.

Truthfully, Larry, before my show started, I had this obsession with him, and I did a film with Emilio Estevez and he kept saying to me, you know, you border on being a stalker, O'Donnell, you got to watch it.

So he has been so kind. He could have taken it as, I wish that kid would shut up, but he didn't, and he is a very, very sweet man and I am very fond of him. KING: I remember that Estevez film very well. That was a good movie.

O'DONNELL: Yes, with Richard Dreyfuss.

KING: "Stakeout." Dreyfuss. They canceled Dreyfuss's show.

O'DONNELL: I know. It is a shame now. I feel as though TV is sort of floundering and the networks and the late night schedules, they have no belief in the quality of the programs. It is all about numbers. The day that Disney, ABC -- Walt Disney, the legacy of Walt Disney -- put on "The Bachelor," I thought the TV was going to blow up in my house when I saw that!

It shocks me that anything for ratings will take over quality. I think we are all going to suffer in the end.

KING: When did you know that you liked the same sex?

O'DONNELL: Well, I was a non-sexually active teenager in any capacity. I was very popular in high school, I was the homecoming queen, I was senior class president. I was not at all thinking of dating in any way, shape or form.

It wasn't as though I thought, wow, I might be gay, I better try to squelch this. I just didn't even have a consciousness of it, and then when I got my license, I believe I was 18, I was driving in the car and I was thinking, you know what? I think I'm gay.

And like, I said it out loud to myself. And I was like, I am good at sports, and I think I'm gay. I ride a motorcycle. I'm definitely gay. And so that's really -- it wasn't a big trauma. I always feel bad that I don't have a better coming out story. I always feel like I wish I could tell you that there was hysterics and tears and trying not to be gay, but there really wasn't.

KING: All right, but did you ever say I wish I weren't, based on society alone?

O'DONNELL: I think it is easier in life if you are truly a heterosexual person. Your life is easier. I don't know that easier is better. I mean, I remember thinking once when I was with a man as a young woman in my late twenties, I thought, oh wow, look at this. This is a surprise to me. Here I am in love with a man. I didn't necessarily think I needed to pick a label and define myself.

It wasn't until that I became an adult, that I had children, that I knew that this was where I fit, that I found the person to be with my whole life. And I had heard about it in songs and in movies and read about it in books and when that happens to you, it's a pretty amazing feeling.

KING: How did you meet Kelly (ph)?

O'DONNELL: My brother Danny, who is gay as well, introduced me to her. He met her at a fund-raiser and thought we'd hit it off and we did.

KING: Right away?

O'DONNELL: Right away. I mean, I was a little bit nervous because I had a kid, I had a baby, Parker. I thought it would be weird to date people, you have a baby. But she's an amazing person. And she brings me tremendous joy. I'm very lucky, I feel.

KING: Have you gotten accustomed to the tabloids?

O'DONNELL: You know, the tabloids, to me they come with the territory. They have been saying that I was gay for six years. You got to give them credit, the "Inquirer."

I would call Steve Coz, and to tell you the truth, I have to give him credit for being a good guy, because I would say I'm about to adopt my daughter Chelsea. I don't really need you putting all over the paper some relationship I'm not in. Could you just hold it?

And he would. But they've been saying it for years. I've never denied it. I thought everyone must have knew. I was sort of shocked when they did a CNN poll and 60 percent of the people said they didn't know at all. I assumed everyone knew.

I never pretended to have a boyfriend. I go everywhere with her. You've seen us out together at events. Everybody knew. So I didn't think it would be that big a shock.

KING: Is it much easier now in 2002 than in 1992?

O'DONNELL: Without a doubt. Well, it gets easier every year. You have to credit the people before you. Ellen DeGeneres was unbelievably brave. She was unbelievably courageous to do what she did, and it helped Will & Grace get on the air, it helped, I think, the acceptance.

You know, when I told Diane the story of my family because of the child that I lost based on this prejudice that exists within the law in Florida where I live...

KING: That was Mia, right?

O'DONNELL: Yes, and that's the state that I live, that's where I vote, that's the home that I love is Florida and the fact that that state would say to me, you are not a competent parent is mind boggling to me.

So when I said that, it wasn't even that big a news story. I think because Ellen and all of the other people who have stood up and said, you know, for whatever their motivation, at whatever timing was right for them, this is who I am, and it is okay, has been helpful to people who come after it. KING: Martina Navratilova as well.

O'DONNELL: Without a doubt. I've known these women for many, many years.

KING: Do you ask others to come out now that you're out? Do you say to people watching this show, you're better off coming out?

O'DONNELL: No, I think it is a personal decision, and I don't think -- I always argue with what I call the gay Nazis, like Michael Angelo's (ph) signatory or Michael Mustilda (ph), the radical gay fringe is what I call them, but I recently had lunch with Michael and he actually -- Michael Angelo, and he wasn't nearly as hostile as I anticipated.

I don't think there is a rule, it is not like a sorority where you have to have certain behavior and you have to act this way or else you're kicked out. Be true to yourself. I think when it is safe, and you feel safe to tell people who you are, then you can do it, and when you feel it is right. I didn't want to be in a relationship that wasn't lifelong for me.

I wanted to be certain that I was with the person I was going to be with forever, because gay people cannot get married. Any person that you date, there's the image that, oh -- well, I wanted there to be a commitment for my life before I was to make it public. I wanted to be sure for my children, for my family and for myself. When I was sure was when I wanted to discuss it.

KING: Are there a lot more people that are gay than we think?

O'DONNELL: Well, I guess so. I mean, I think the biggest shock to people is that they think they don't know anyone gay, and part of the surprise to me has been people coming up to me on the show and saying, you know, I'm a Christian, I'm raised in the South, and I never thought I knew anyone gay.

When you said you were gay and I realized I already liked you, I had to rethink what I thought about gays. I said, you know what, that is the best news that I've heard. Because unfortunately in the gay community, oftentimes people that get the most attention are the most flamboyant and loud. And that's not the dismiss them, because drag queens and, you know, leather motorcycle women, they have their place in the gay community as well. But they're not -- they don't define the gay community by any stretch of the imagination.

KING: Rosie O'Donnell is the guest. Her book "Find Me," her autobiography, is number two on the "New York Times" best seller list. Back to more with Rosie after this.


O'DONNELL: I have to say, I don't remember my life without you in it.

BARBRA STREISAND, SINGER: Oh, my God. O'DONNELL: That's the truth.

STREISAND: Well, I thought -- when did you find out about me? I mean, when you were how old?

O'DONNELL: Well, the truth is that you opened -- I can get it for you wholesale, the day after I was born.


O'DONNELL: Honest to god.

SREISAND: I'm that old?

O'DONNELL: No, no. You were so young on Broadway. You were so young. And my mother adored you, and I don't ever remember your music not being on in our house.


O'DONNELL: Every year we decorated our tree to the Christmas album.

STREISAND: Oh, my god.

O'DONNELL: And you're gorgeous, look at you.

STREISAND: I'm gorgeous.

O'DONNELL: You're gorgeous! Hello, gorgeous!






ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: We represent the lollipop guild, the lollipop guild, the lollipop guild. And in the name of the lollipop guild, we wish to welcome you to Munchkinland.


KING: For the benefit of those listening to a simulcast of this on the radio, Rosie's blindfolded and that's Alec Baldwin talking after breathing in a balloon. Did you guess him?

O'DONNELL: I guessed Billy Baldwin, which didn't make Alec too happy. But he said that his voice has never been the same since sucking the air from the balloon on my show.

KING: Was losing Mia the toughest thing in your life? O'DONNELL: It was a very difficult thing. You know, I will say that I do think for her, the family that she's in now is a great family and I'm good friends with them. And I think that she needs the structure.

It is funny because when I talk to her about going, because I didn't want her to be in the midst of a court battle, I didn't want a public custody battle with this young girl who had been in so much. So I wanted to place her in a home that I knew was good that I could still see her. And I said to her where she was going to go live. And we did, you know, a year transition of weekends and whatnot.

And she said to me, you know what, mommy? I think I like that house. I said you do? How come? She goes, only one place. With you, three houses. It is too crazy. So this is a little kid who moved from place to place to place. So on the weekend when I would go up to my country house, it would throw her because she would think she's moving. You know, for her, moving and not having consistency is unnerving. So in a way, it worked out for the best, not that I think our family would have been bad for her because I don't think that at all. In fact, I know that not to be true.

KING: President Bush, you said he's wrong when he said that only adopted -- the only people adopted should be by heterosexual couples. And you also said if he and Laura could spend a weekend with you and your family, he would change his mind. What would he see that would change his mind?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I'm thinking of putting together a documentary that's really a series of home videos because I'm obsessive about filming everything. And I think if people would see the normalcy of our life, you know, I'm not saying that you have to accept, understand and embrace homosexuality.

But you can't deny homosexuals the right to live, to parent, to love, to be free just because you are afraid, because you think that it's wrong. And I know that this is going to send some people over the edge of, you know, what's acceptable behavior and what's not. But I firmly believe that love and respect and dignity and treating each other with respect is what defines a moral family and that is very present in my family.

KING: Did you not say you hope your kids would not be gay?

O'DONNELL: Well, they asked me, sort of a loaded question. They said would you prefer that your kids were straight or not straight. Now, listen, I would prefer my kids be bilingual, 6'2", thin, blond and gorgeous. But, you know, whatever my children are is going to be all right with me.

I mean, I hope that my kids would know or I know that they would know growing up in our family that you are what you are. And when you are able to treat yourself with respect and others with respect, that's the whole goal. So, you know, I would be embracing of whatever it is that they choose to be or that they are. And I hope their journey of discovering it is not a painful one. KING: It will be easier if they're hetero?

O'DONNELL: I think life is easier in general for people who are non-gay because you don't have the social stigma. You don't have people questioning whether or not you have the ability to parent. You don't have, you know, the right wing throwing barbs at your very essence and questioning your humanity.

KING: Do you have a -- obviously, it is a plus. You have $10 million. O'DONNELL: I've got a little more than that.

KING: OK. Well, you mentioned it earlier.

O'DONNELL: No, I was just saying as an analogy that if you have money like this, to keep working doesn't make sense to me.

KING: All right. I got that.


KING: Do you ever think, well, I have a special case, so I can treat my children in a special way? What about those gay couples making $30,000 a year?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I am the major funder of an adoption agency in New Jersey called Children of the World. And oftentimes, when we get a child that is born and the mother or father are suffering from drug addiction or the child tests positive to drugs, nearly all the time we place that baby in a gay family because we can't find a straight family that would be willing to take a baby that tests positive to drugs.

So I have created many, many families, hundreds of families at least since being involved with this adoption agency. And, you know, a percentage of those are gay families. Anyone who passes the test has the license to be an adoptive parent.

We look at them, we interview them and we give each family credence. And, you know, people who want to custom order a baby, a blond-haired, blue-eyed child of college-educated wasps, you're going to wait five years and pay $100,000. If you're open to a child that is in need and know that a parent who gives a baby up is usually in a high-risk area, you know, you can get a baby very easily.

KING: What is the -- we played the clip earlier, but I know this has been written and you've -- the special feeling you have vis-a-vis Streisand?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, my mother loved her so much. And we grew up listening to her. And my mother would cook dinner and have on "A Happening in Central Park." When I wanted to make my mother laugh, I would sing "Second-Hand Rose." And I could recite every line of "Funny Girl." And, you know, it is such a connection to my mom.

And after my mom died, most of her things were removed from the house. You know, it was '73, and my father was a typical Irish guy trying to just to get through. He didn't want to talk about feelings. He just wanted to get through. And he thought removing things would make it easier for the children. Well, it didn't really do that.

But the only thing he didn't remove were the Streisand records because he didn't know that when he was at work, this is what we would do. So for me, it was a way for me to constantly connect to my mother. And when I saw her walk out on the show, it was the accumulation of an entire life of dreaming it. I had lived that moment so many times that it was hard to believe it was coming true.

KING: Was she equal to the moment?

O'DONNELL: She was. And I have to say that it is very difficult to meet people who you idolize. And she even wrote me a handwritten fax about two weeks before and she said, are you sure you want to meet me because there's no way I'm going to be able to equal what you think.

And not only did she equal it, she surpassed it in so many ways because she's kind and she's sensitive and she's caring. And she showed up there on a daytime talk show. She's, in my opinion, the biggest star in the world and the biggest talent in the world, in my opinion.

I think she's amazingly gifted. And meeting her has been a thrill, and I'll never forget it. And she will never understand what it feels like. She's a little shocked when I still -- you know, sometimes she'll call and my assistant will go, it is Barbra Streisand on the phone. And for a minute, my stomach drops, like you are on a rollercoaster. I'm like, oh, my God!. And then I go, OK, you know her. Breathe, you know her.

KING: Also doesn't really know how good she is.

O'DONNELL: Well, that's what I mean. And, you know, she and Bette Midler both astound me in that they have no understanding of the effect that they have had on people's lives, including mine. You know, they'll never be able to grasp that.

KING: Rosie O'Donnell is the guest. Her book, the best-seller, is "Find Me." It's a dandy little book and a beautiful cover they gave her. "Find Me," Rosie O'Donnell, what better way to say it than the way they said it.

Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, one of our favorite people, Mike Wallace returns. Don't go away.


O'DONNELL: We didn't know what to get you, so we just got you a cookie jar. You know, just a cookie jar. But you should open it and see if there's any cookies in there for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love it. I love it. Oh, my gosh. O'DONNELL: You should read that out loud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dear Sara (ph), we at Warner Brothers heard about your lack of funding and the growing waiting list of kids in need. So we're pledging $100,000 so these kids can all enjoy...


O'DONNELL: There you go, Sara. And good for you. And I'm very happy to do it.






O'DONNELL: I have to say that I am overwhelmed. My mother used to take me to this theater with my sister an we sat in the fourth balcony. We ate Lemon Drops. And we watched the "Nutcracker Suite," the Christmas show.

And I feel as though she's guided me in my life. To Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas who made a show that I'd watch with my mother and my grandmother. And to my sister who I love more than anything. I thank you all very much.


O'DONNELL: Oy vey, you should have warned me about that, Larry.

KING: Winning her first Emmy...

O'DONNELL: I never watched that clip.


O'DONNELL: No. I don't like to watch myself cry.

KING: The theater was part of it, right, Radio City?

O'DONNELL: You know, it's sort of an unbelievable thing. When you're a child like I was and you grew up watching the Emmys and the Oscars, and that I was nominated and that the show was such a hit and, you know, that I won. It was overwhelming to me. And my sister was sitting next to me. And I remembered being with my mother up in the fourth balcony, not able to see the stage. And it was an overwhelming moment for me.

KING: Sixty cents to get in, right?

O'DONNELL: Yes, it was way back when. KING: By the way, the Emmy awards are going to be given out this Friday.


KING: Are you confident? How do you feel now, or is it just old hat?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I'm happy that this is the last year that I'll be in them because I really think with the Daytime Emmy Awards, different than the nighttime Emmy Awards, they should choose a show to honor and it should be cyclical, because there's really no way to say, you know, the Regis and Kathie Lee, now Kelly Ripa, you know, is not as good as our show is not as good as Oprah is not as good -- they're all different. And, you know, we all make up the daytime community.

And I've really not enjoyed going against people because, you know, I look at Regis Philbin. This man has given his life to show business. He's an unbelievable performer. He deserves more Emmys than anyone can ever -- and he finally won last year. So I wouldn't be disappointed if I didn't win, I really wouldn't. And I'm thrilled to be able to go for the last time.

KING: What kind of show is your last show going to be?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I'm going to have Nathan Lane and Christine Ebersole, who are two good friends. They're going to sing and I put together some video montages of my favorite moments of the show. And, you know, it's going to be low key. I didn't want to do a big thing because, you know, when Johnny Carson went off the air which was 10 years to the day that we're going off, it was 35 years he drove that bus, 35 years, half his life.

You know, this was six years for me. It wasn't the same thing. So, you know, to me, I want to say thank you. I want to say thank you to, you know, the fans, to the guests who have been there. And I want to really let everyone know that I've appreciated it. But I don't want it to be about me because I had a great opportunity and I took advantage of it and I'm very happy that we're finished.

KING: Do you feel in a sense like you've become an industry with the magazine and the like?

O'DONNELL: You know, in some capacities I guess I have. It's interesting, because when they asked me to do a magazine before Oprah did hers, I thought how am I going to do a magazine? I didn't have any clue what they were talking about. And then...

KING: They asked you before Oprah did hers?

O'DONNELL: Well, yes, for the magazine, the company that I'm with, G&J. But I didn't have any understanding until I saw her magazine. And when I saw her magazine, I realize she took the essence of her show and put it in literary form. And I called them up after I read her magazine and went, I think I get it. So, you know, it's a very different magazine than hers or than Martha's. But it's the spirit, I believe, of my show or of what the show represents in literary form. And it is doing a lot better than I think even G&J anticipated.

KING: How do we view what is now going to be history, "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." It was a show that had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs. I mean, you're standing there with Madonna and you're doing crazy things and Alec Baldwin blowing up a balloon. But you are also taking on the NRA. You're taking on Tom Selleck. So what was "The Rosie O'Donnell Show?"

O'DONNELL: Well, I don't know. You know, I mean, to me, it was the human interest stories that really touched my soul. That woman that you showed that we gave the $100,000 for the vest, it was the summer and I saw her on the crystal cathedral. Can you believe that?

I was in Florida flipping and I saw this woman and I said -- I called up the office and said, go find this woman. She gives vests to children who are terminally ill. So we had everything from the crystal cathedral to the anti-NRA. And, you know, the only thing I regret about the Tom Selleck incident was not about what I said, but it was about really the effect that it had I think on him personally because I'm somebody who doesn't avoid controversy.

I actually -- you know, I grew up with a feisty Irish family. You know, he knew we were going to talk about the movie for the first segment and then the NRA in the second segment. But I firmly believe he had no idea that I was going to be as angry or volatile as I was. And anyone who knows me in real life knew that I would because when I have something like that. You know, after Columbine, it just was so unbearable to me what was happening and what still is happening.

KING: So you don't regret what happened?

O'DONNELL: No, because when you do a show like mine and you have to go on the day after Columbine or the day after September 11 and you have to talk about your life and what you're thinking and feeling. And, you know, I'm a mother. I have small children. I'm terrified when they go to school because of situations like this. And I'm kind of ashamed of the government that doesn't do anything to stop all of the flow of handguns in our society. It's sort of insane, like, you know, would never let -- the government would not sanction heroin out to everyone. This is -- it's killing our kids. It is killing and it is sanctioned by our government. To me, it is unbelievable. The difference is there's a $6 billion gun industry that has a lobby that doesn't want the government to do anything. And, sadly, they're the ones who get to win.

KING: The other day, the attorney general said the second amendment supports the right to own the guns.

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, he would be the only one who thinks that, because every challenge to the Supreme Court has said that that is not, that well-regulated militia is the first words of that amendment, a well-regulated militia. That is the Army. A well- regulated militia. It did not say in the year 2002, 21-year-olds can have machine guns in their house if they just go to a tent show and show a fake I.D. I mean, it is absurd.

We're the only country in the world that allows the amount of guns that we do on the streets and the kind of death toll we have, as you know, compared to the other world is phenomenal. So to me, it's an issue about kids. It's an issue about safety. And I feel the government should do more to protect us against the ramifications of gun ownership.

KING: Rosie O'Donnell is the guest. Her extraordinary book "Find Me," number two on the "New York Times" best-seller list. As we go to break, here is a little bit of that scene with Mr. Selleck.


TOM SELLECK, ACTOR: I can't speak for the NRA.

O'DONNELL: You are their spokesperson, Tom, so you have to be responsible for what they say.

SELLECK: Wait a minute. Don't put words in my mouth. Remember how calm you said you would be. Now you're questioning my humanity.

O'DONNELL: No, not your humanity. I think you're a very humane man.

SELLECK: OK, then just say I disagree with you, but I think you're being stupid.

O'DONNELL: But you cannot say that I will not take responsibility for anything the NRA represents if you are saying that you are going to do an ad for the NRA.






O'DONNELL: What are you wearing?

KATIE COURIC, HOST, THE TODAY SHOW: They told me it was formal.

O'DONNELL: Where did you even get that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you on the footstool?

O'DONNELL: This is for me? A wrist corsage. Katie, I never expected this, truly.

COURIC: Thank you.

KING: Was that a real surprise?

O'DONNELL: Yes, and you know, no one knows how funny she is. It is sad that she has to be a journalist, because she is one of the funniest people I know.

She's really a crack up, and when we go out together she makes me laugh like no one else. I wish that side of her could show more.

KING: Getting back to serious, where were you on the morning of 9/11?

O'DONNELL: I was in makeup at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and John McDaniel (ph) came in to tell me that Glenn (ph), who he lives with down in Tribeca, had seen a 747 go into the World Trade Center. I had the Today Show on, and I said it is impossible, it must be a small plane.

He was crying and Glenn (ph) was crying on the phone. Then we turned on the TV and saw the other plane go in. I don't know that I'll ever be able to adequately describe what that moment felt like. It felt to me as though the entire world shifted, as though my perspective on life and good and evil and Republican and Democrat, everything was shaken up like a snow globe in that moment.

And I still had a hard time believing that it actually happened.

KING: Did you tape a show that day?

O'DONNELL: We did not. I went up to get -- I have two children, Mia and my son at the office with me, and I went to meet Kellie (ph) at my other children's school. We had a houseful because we have a townhouse here in Manhattan and a lot of people who couldn't get out, so we had a houseful of people.

KING: How did you explain it to the children?

O'DONNELL: You know, Larry, it was hard. I kept crying the whole time. I just couldn't stop crying. My son, it was interesting, he asked to go to the firehouse. He was six years old. I didn't know if it would be too overwhelming for him.

But I took him, and there were 15 firemen killed by that firehouse in Broadway. He went over the one of the firemen, a big, big burly man in the corner in his dress blues on his way to a funeral, obviously, and he pulled on his jacket, and I was far away.

He said to the man, I want to thank you for saving us and I'm sorry that your friends are dead. And the fireman started to cry. It was the beginning of my healing, was my fear to not let my son be exposed to such horror ended up arriving at grace.

KING: Like many of us, you are a native New Yorker.


KING: Did that -- do you think that it hit you harder? O'DONNELL: I think it hit everyone hard. Like everyone I knew -- my best friend Jackie's husband works down there, so my first thought was that.

KING: Was he all right?

O'DONNELL: He was able to run, luckily, and he was alive. But boy, it is hard. I don't want to make it like a sound bite, but it still, I have been unable to throw out any of the newspapers or the magazines or the images that I have.

Firemen sent me videos because we were making videos afterwards. Firemen who were down at ground zero sent them to me, and I have not been able to take them off the computer because, I don't know, the whole thing is overwhelming.

KING: Having gone down there, the firemen were amazing.

O'DONNELL: I didn't get to go down there. I felt like I would not be able to, you know, be all right. Everyone has to deal with it in the way that they deal with it. For me, I didn't think I would be able to physically see it.

KING: You write in your book that you hate your body.

O'DONNELL: Yes, I do.

KING: Still do?

O'DONNELL: I'm getting better. Taking yoga every day. Madonna was funny in teaching me that six years ago, she begged me to do yoga, and I was like, shut up.

Now I'm doing it every day as I turn 40. It changed the way I feel about my body, it changed the presence of being inside my body and being connected to my body. For a long time, I think, I was angry and felt somewhat betrayed by my own body. I'm getting to be a little more comfortable in my own skin. That's a wonderful feeling.

KING: Have you always been overweight?

O'DONNELL: No, not really. We have pictures of us before my mother died and we were all normal sized, and then afterwards we all got big.

I didn't really get heavy until after college. I was an athlete in high school, I was very fit. I was not heavy until I went to college and became an adult and all that comes with being an adult. That's what I think made the protection come on.

KING: Do you ever think also that it might be part of your -- charm may be the wrong word. You make people laugh and the total part of you is that, maybe, you know, when Jackie Gleason lost a lot of weight, a lot of people said, Jackie, you're not funny.

O'DONNELL: Yes, they said that to Valerie Harper, too, when she was on Mary Tyler Moore Show and she lost weight. It is not about the weight, it is about the health. I want to be around for my kids. I want to be able to not feel shame. A body is a beautiful and wonderful thing and can provide tremendous pleasure to you just being here and being in it.

I am somebody who wants to ignore it. I want to pretend I don't have it, and doing this yoga forces me to be in touch with it. And I also want it for my children. I want them to see me have a lack of shame about my body, because I know that it is an issue so many people struggle with.

KING: We'll be back with our amazing -- our remaining moments -- I was going to say with the amazing, she is amazing -- Rosie O'Donnell, who winds it up next Wednesday, one week from today will be her last show, and this Friday she will be at the Emmys where she's, of course, nominated again.

Back with the remaining minutes of the author of "Find Me," Rosie O'Donnell. Don't go away.





PUPPET (singing): First be a monster who loves Rosie. Elmo really loves Rosie and he's the luckiest monster in the world.



KING: They're real, those things, aren't they?

O'DONNELL: You know what, I have to say that Elmo's good friend Kevin is one of the most talented men I've met in show business. I think it is brilliant, that whole character, that whole thing, it is brilliant.

KING: Couple of quick things, Rosie, before we wind it up, the problems in the Catholic church, you're Irish catholic, what are your thoughts?

O'DONNELL: I thing I'm very thankful that it is coming out now. It will probably be the demise of the Catholic church as I knew it as I was raised. And I think it is time in a way to change some of those archaic rules and laws. But you know, the fact that nobody in the church has actually apologized that the pope has not apologized, that Cardinal Law is not resigning is astounding to me.

I think it will only get worse. As soon as a few people say, this happened to me, it will spread like wildfire because it is not isolated incidents. Is it a tragedy. And it pained me on a deep spiritual level and yet I was very happy that it was finally being addressed.

KING: Is celebrity -- are you accustomed -- do you enjoy the fact that you are recognized?

O'DONNELL: I have to say that it is more good than it is bad. Because I have access to things that I never would have had access to. If there's a play I want to see or a concert I want to go to, even a world leader that I want to talk to, I have access to unbelievable amount of people and privilege. And I think that because of that it's been tremendously fortunate.

But there's a side to it that is hard to explain to people because it sounds likes sour grapes. And there are people at home will go, I work 50 hours a week and I make $8 an hour and who do you think you are complaining. I'm not really complaining. I'm saying that with the life that I have comes certain challenges as well. It is not all easy street. I'm not saying that it's not easy, because trust me, when you have the kind of money that I have, life is easier. There's no two ways around it.

It is. But the fame part of it, it can get in the way and it can in some ways rob you of your humanity when people don't want to talk to you, they just want you to scribble your name.

KING: When you get to 40, do you pinch yourself over what you have.

O'DONNELL: I don't spend money hardly at all. I have houses, three houses. I'm selling the one in Manhattan. But you know what? I don't really even see the money. It goes to the money guy. What I said to him, who is my brother-in-law, I said to him when we started, Dan at the end of this run, I want to be able to never have to work again. That's what he did for me. So he gave me a great gift. Because I'm lucky I'm not somebody who likes Rolex watches or expensive cars. I drive a minivan, I shop at the Gap.

KING: What is your luxury?

O'DONNELL: I don't know. I would say it is creating a home. I have a great home in Florida. I mean, I love it. When I was a young comic, I used to drive around this island where I live now and I would think, one day I'm going to buy a house here. When I was able to do that and think that I'm able to have that place in what I think is the most beautiful state in the country is amazing to me.

KING: You deserve it all, Rosie.

O'DONNELL: Thank you, Larry, very much.

KING: Always good to have you with us.

O'DONNELL: Thanks.

KING: Continued good luck. Best wishes.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.


KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND.

We'll be back tomorrow, looking back at a very special interview with the late Rosemary Clooney, including some great performances.

For Rosie O'Donnell and yours truly, Larry King, thanks for joining us, and good-night.