Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Chicago gets Rosie O’Donnell. Why not Madonna or Geena Davis instead?

I’m not about to write an “I Hate Rosie O’Donnell” tirade. For one thing, I don’t care enough about her to say I “hate” her.
A Rosie "moment" I enjoy

For another, I do have to admit enjoying her performance in the film “A League of Their Own” as a ballplayer in the old All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (although even the firm about the league is now some two decades old).

BUT ROSIE IS on our pop culture radar because of the announcement that O’Donnell is about to become a Chicagoan of sorts.

With Oprah Winfrey giving up her long-time daytime talk show that was produced at a studio on the Near West Side so that she can focus attention on developing her own cable television channel, the word is out that Rosie O’Donnell is going to shift her own daytime talk show to being based out of Chicago.

Out of Oprah’s very own studio.

It’s like Rosie wants us to think she is the successor to Oprah – even though Winfrey isn’t going anywhere, and for that matter, O’Donnell’s new talk show will air on the OWN – that’s the channel to be known formally as the Oprah Winfrey Network.

SO I GUESS Oprah is now Rosie’s boss. She works for the “Big Oh” whom we in Chicago have regarded as our city’s very own celebrity – particularly since Michael Jordan actually quit playing basketball for the Chicago Bulls and focused his attention on being management for the Charlotte Hornets (of whom he’s part owner).

Of course, one can claim Oprah hasn’t really lived among us in years, and that the Chicagoans who feel a need to suck up to her image are a tad pathetic themselves. I only wonder if we’re going to start getting a cult of personality that’s going to expect O’Donnell to become some sort of honorary Chicagoan – even though she’s really from the borough of Queens in New York City.

Will we have Rosie sightings at restaurants around town? Will we be on the lookout for traces of her adopted children? Will there be speculation among Chicago’s gay community that Rosie takes on a new partner from among the city’s ranks?

Will we get Rosie leading a march on Springfield to urge the Illinois Legislature to undo the state laws that make marriage between same-gender couples an illegal act? We may have “civil unions” now in Illinois, but there are those who see that as insufficient. Or would she be willing to voice the opposition to the all-too-close Indiana Legislature, which on Tuesday went so far as to vote to amend its own state constitution to make it known that "civil unions" are un-constitutional!

THAT’S JUST THE semi-positive stuff. How  about when someone tries to make an issue of O’Donnell’s weight (personally, my own gut is blubbery enough that I’d feel hypocritical saying someone else is too heavy)? Or someone tries to trash her obnoxious whine of a voice?

I’m sure there are so many more points people will find to nit-pick Rosie O’Donnell with.

Because while Oprah was able to put up something of a sophisticated veneer, O’Donnell is going to give Chicago a loud, obnoxious broad – one who might very well better fit in with her birthplace in Noo Yawk.

Then again, I’m sure Rosie’s fans like her outspoken ways and find that to be her most appealing feature. In short, Chicago will get a taste of all that Hollywood-celebrity type trash talk. We’re going to see our home city turn up on segments of “Entertainment Tonight” or CNN’s “Access Hollywood” program.


That’s not exactly where I want my home city to turn up. Although I’m sure those people who are disgusted with the constant antics of Rod Blagojevich giving our city’s image a black eye might consider Rosie to be effective comic relief.

Something from the Second City other than a corrupt politico or an over-rated Chicago Cub ballplayer.

Now why would I start out this particular commentary by bringing up a film from 1992? Part of it is because it turned up on one of the lesser cable television channels just the other night. I managed to watch most of it, so O’Donnell’s performance (her first in a film) as a third-baseman for the old Rockford Peaches is fresh in my mind.

IT REMINDED ME that O’Donnell is capable of being more than a trivial talk show host who used to go over the top with her infatuation for actor Tom Cruise (unless you actually think her performance as Betty Rubble in “The Flintstones” film based on the 1960s cartoons was actually worth watching).

But thinking of that film, along with the announcement that Rosie is doing Chicago, makes me wonder what if one of the other stars were to take on a project in our city. Geena Davis on our streets would give Chicago a touch of glamour we just usually don’t get, while Tom Hanks would probably create some interesting moments for our citizenry.

Or what if Madonna in all her gaudy glory were to give up her aspirations to be British and decide to “do” Chicago? Somehow, I have a feeling THAT would create stories that would immediately become legendary moments in Chicago history – far more interesting than anything Rosie is likely to be seen doing during her time here.


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