Rosie O'Donnell | Tony Awards | Christopher Reeve  

Rosie: Publisher Rejects Offer to Settle Suit

Gruner & Jahr, the New York-based German publisher, has rejected Rosie O'Donnell's offer to settle their bitter legal battle.

You'll remember that last year O'Donnell pulled the plug on her magazine when the publisher seized editorial control from her.

According to my sources, a recent deposition of Axel Ganz, the head of G&J, was so potentially damaging to the publisher that O'Donnell sent him an olive branch.

In an e-mail from O'Donnell to Ganz, the retired talk show queen wrote (in lower case, à la E. E. Cummings, although I've done some copy editing of my own):

"I heard about your deposition. For the first time, you heard the other side of the story about what happened here to me at the magazine ... your people here in N.Y. took advantage of me."

O'Donnell and the publisher fell out last year when Rosie claimed that G&J had violated specific points in her contract by bringing in a new editor in chief who ignored Rosie's wishes. O'Donnell promptly shut the popular magazine down and remunerated her top staff with severance checks from her own pocket. The result was a lawsuit filed by G&J followed by Rosie's counterclaims.

In her e-mail to Ganz, O'Donnell offered a settlement "on these terms: Pay my legal fees (about $4 million), take the $6 million I invested in our magazine and donate it to a charity we agree on like the public school system in Manhattan or the NYC fire department."

The offer, O'Donnell noted, would expire on Tuesday -- meaning, last Tuesday, June 2. According to insiders, neither Ganz nor G&J responded. O'Donnell noted in the e-mail, which was sent on Wednesday, May 28, to Ganz's private e-mail address: "[T]his is a fair offer, made out of respect for you. If you would rather fight, I have the better case ... This is not a negotiation ... This offer expires on Tuesday. You will not see another one."

What will happen next? The case, which is has undergone motions and depositions, will proceed to trial, where G&J's business, personnel and accounting practices will be scrutinized under a bright light. (This seems all too familiar, and maybe G&J should look at what just happened to Def Jam Records.) O'Donnell's life will, too, although that will be nothing new for the actress and comedian who readily reveals her personal life to the public.

Tony, Tony, Tony!

Inside Radio City Music Hall, the Tony Awards -- although host Hugh Jackman threatened that they might go long -- were kind of a breeze.

The audience was a little amused about how "gay" the TV audience must think the New York theater community is, especially since in the first few minutes of the broadcast show a male couple kissed, etc. But then things calmed down, and the show was much like all the other awards shows.

Some highlights in the seated audience included comic Bill Maher, whose date was underdressed to an alarming point. Brian Dennehy, dressed in black, brought all of his kids -- ages 10 to 42, which was kind of disarming as well.

Many of the stars stayed hidden in a green room that was separated from the audience, but Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave were very much front and center, as were Bebe Neuwirth, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bernadette Peters, Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Caroline Rhea, 'N Sync's Joey Fatone, Rosie Perez, Christine Ebersole and John Lithgow.

Best line of the night: Jackman observing, "Don't you like it? An awards show sponsored by Ambien?" Ambien is a prescription sleeping pill, something no awards show needs, frankly.

Best performance of the night: Bernadette Peters, whose "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy was 100 percent better than on the opening night of the show and literally raised goosebumps everywhere. Peters got a standing ovation throughout Radio City for a reason: This was her best performance as Mama so far. It's too bad her regular performances haven't been that good. She would have won the Tony easily. As it is, she proved her critics wrong last night.

You never know what's going to happen in the world of live television.

Christopher Reeve Is Under Illusions

The big star of the Tony Awards last night? It had to be Christopher Reeve and wife Dana, who made an heroic appearance toward the beginning of the show.

I caught up with the Reeves when they came off stage. Chris has never looked better. We joked that with his shaved head he now looks more Lex Luthor than Clark Kent. In the time since he made his first public appearance post-accident, Chris has made remarkable progress.

When we spoke last night he was off his breathing tube most of the time. His voice is no longer raspy, but quite strong. He looks healthier too, so much so that you can't believe he's still in a wheelchair. But for the Reeves, there is no wheelchair. Nothing stops them.

So what's he up to? "I'm going to direct a feature film version of Richard Bach's novel, Illusions," Reeve told me. "It's very much of the '70s, so we'll update it. I'm going to be interviewing screenwriters soon."

Bach, who also wrote the bestselling Jonathan Livingston Seagull, called Reeve out of the blue when he saw the director's In the Gloaming on HBO.

In the meantime, Chris hopes to reprise roles he had this season on both Smallville and The Practice on TV. He will also join Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney's HBO series, tentatively titled K Street, when it starts shooting in the fall.

That would be enough for most people who aren't fighting a daily battle, but Reeve has more on his plate. He says he writes or calls at least four people a week who've been in paralyzing accidents, to give them courage and support.

"And I can give them so much encouragement," he said. "When I had my accident, there was no one and nothing." His Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation is booming, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for research. "Stem cells are going to be the next big debate," he told me.

As for Dana, who is quite the hero herself, she just finished appearing in a play at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven and starts another one in New York shortly. Chris is her ardent fan.

"I like to go at the beginning of the run and then at the end to see the progress," said Chris, who is in the middle of his own long run. He is absolutely remarkable.