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She Used to Be So Nice!

Rosie O'Donnell's magazine partner, Gruner + Jahr, got dumped. Now all it wants is a good cry, a pint of ice cream, and a supportive group of girlfriends -- straight girlfriends, that is.

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Apparently, nobody told Gruner + Jahr that when the woman who once meant everything to you dumps you, you should take pause before sending out a revenge letter. Last week's scathing It's over memo, issued after Rosie O'Donnell pulled the plug on her namesake magazine, had all the quivering-upper-lip indignation of a psycho ex-girlfriend: "It is truly shocking and disappointing [translation: We feel so betrayed!]. . . . It is unfathomable to us [The selfish bitch!]. . . . Rosie cannot simply ignore that obligation [This can't be happening!]."

G+J, the memo went on, felt like it was "caught in the maelstrom of Rosie O'Donnell apparently abandoning her past. She has walked away from her television show, her brand, her public personality, her civility [You . . . you . . . you changed!]." It fell short of saying that she also ditched her standard-issue Florida-mom hairdo, but the subtext was clear: Rosie turned all mean and dykey on us.

The thing is, the lesbian thing really did make a difference. When Rosie came out, G+J hoped that America wouldn't care. But something had to have precipitated Rosie's staggering newsstand decline -- from the 800,000s last year to as low as 200,000 this spring.

When you no longer have a TV show to convey your "brand value" -- cutie-pattootietude -- you become what the tabloids have decided you are. And the tabs decided O'Donnell had become scary.

SEX CHANGE FOR ROSIE? Globe recently asked while critiquing her new lopsided buzzcut. And really, that unfortunate 'do (which I thought the National Lesbian Coordinating Committee had retired back in 1982) signaled that Rosie was set on having an extended fuck you moment. Like many gays who come out late in life, she's finally working through her angry adolescence.

The irony is that the publication that G+J will inevitably launch from Rosie's ashes will certainly be yet another pseudo-lesbian publication -- not in the Sapphic sense but in a world-without-men way. McCall's (Rosie's predecessor) was for women who wanted a reprieve from their withholding worse halves. Rosie, likewise, mostly ignored men. But the fact that O'Donnell reportedly wanted to make Mike Tyson a cover boy suggests that after years of faking a crush on Tom Cruise, she's got a ways to go in figuring out what middle-American women care to discern about masculinity.

When she was closeted, her readers could join in the joke that cookies and kids are way more fun than guys. But now that she's intent on affecting the posture of a loud, rude sexual outlaw -- well, maybe G+J's right: She changed. (Okay, I'm sorry 200 people are out of work, but relieved that she gets to be a real person again.)

In the end, perhaps the most pathetic thing about the Rosie affair is that G+J felt the need to insist that it's still got its shit together. You could almost sense G+J collectively touching up its streaked mascara as it declared that it's "been very successful at attracting a vital audience for this type of magazine."

We're still a smart, beautiful company -- anybody would want us. Except for one Artist Formerly Known As Nice.

E-mail: sd17@aol.com


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