Rosie O'Donnell is walking away from "The View" the undisputed winner of what has been a nightmare situation for ABC. Rosie already has had offers from NBC and CBS for daytime shows to counter "The View," sources say.
Not only that, Rosie can pretty much write her own ticket, whether it's a no-holds-barred show on HBO or a syndicated program similar to her previous hit talk show.
What's clear, though, is that O'Donnell is leaving a leaking, if not sinking, ship at "The View." And don't believe rumors that Roseanne Barr will succeed her at the desk next fall. If you thought Barbara Walters had trouble tolerating O'Donnell, believe me, a few weeks of Roseanne would send her over the edge.
Some people have asked me in recent days what exactly happened at "The View" that caused all this trouble. So, I will recap the basic story as it was reported here.
On Jan. 10, I reported that O'Donnell decided to leave the show because Walters did not defend her to Donald Trump. Indeed, Trump maliciously announced to the press during that time that Walters had expressed her unhappiness with Rosie to him.
Over the Christmas holiday and leading up to Rosie's return in early January, Walters didn't even call O'Donnell to express her support. Rosie, who viewed Barbara as a mentor and icon, was shaken and disappointed. Walters had let her down.
O'Donnell, who has millions of dollars and a happy family at home, decided then that she didn't need this kind of headache.
At that point, ABC stepped in. They offered, sources say, to buy out Walters from "The View," give O'Donnell the show and have Walters make guest appearances. But Walters would not agree to this deal.
ABC offered Rosie a three-year contract to stay with the show. Rosie asked for a one-year deal and $10 million. ABC execs, perhaps looking for stability because they knew Elisabeth Hasselbeck was pregnant, wanted a guarantee from Rosie. They couldn't get it. O'Donnell decides to leave in June — easily making her the victor in the standoff.
But there's more: O'Donnell leaves, having made some changes in the show. One of them is that the women no longer wear earpieces and take direction while the show is live. O'Donnell got rid of the "IFB" devices, allowing the women on the stage to drive the show on their own, sources tell me. Of course, this is what terrified Walters about O'Donnell in the first place.
I still stick to my theory, which I posted in January, that a mid-December segment of "The View" is what set Walters off against O'Donnell. The show aired around Dec. 13, 2006.
The argument began as Rosie told the audience that going to an apartment like Walters' on New York City's Fifth Avenue was like "being in a museum." There was a discussion of Walters' dinner guests, people like Henry Kissinger and "the president of Czechoslovakia." There was the suggestion that Walters' dinner parties required name cards at each place setting as well.
"You make me sound like I'm elite," Barbara told Rosie, who just didn't get it and could not back out of it.
Walters was furious. As you can see from a clip on YouTube, there is a long moment of close-up when Walters looks like she would do anything — even kill — to stop O'Donnell's train of thought.
"It's not like I have Picassos or Miros on the wall," Barbara says at this point.
Walters, according to those who know her, has quite a large art collection, some of which she bought through Barbara Guggenheim, who is the wife of Hollywood agent Bert Fields.
At one point in the early 1990s, she owned several American impressionist paintings including some by John Singer Sargent. The collection could be worth millions.
Rosie, usually perceptive, didn't catch on. What Walters doesn't want the audience to think about is that she is rich, lives an elite life, hobnobs with world power brokers and would not be caught eating peanut butter and jelly for a million bucks.
I remember back in 1991 when I interviewed her for a Vogue article that she had killed before it was even written, Walters used Kissinger to help negotiate her then-expiring contract with ABC News. It was quite a scene, as the late Roone Arledge, who was head of ABC News at the time, tried and failed to ease Walters into a smaller role at the network.
Walters doesn't like her public to think of her this way. Thanks to Rosie, though, fans of "The View" know a little bit more about the near-octogenarian than they ever did.
"Spider-Man 3" star Tobey Maguire does plan to wed his long-time girlfriend, Jennifer Meyer, with whom he has a child. He told me that last night at the wild Hollywood-like premiere of the latest installment of his superhero saga.
This news should make his sort of father-in-law, Ron Meyer, the menschy head of Universal Pictures, very happy. His eldest daughter is the apple of his eye.
Meyer even showed up last night with his family to help Tobey and Jennifer — who nearly stole the night in a Marc Jacobs original gown that was outta sight — celebrate the film's launch.
The entire "Spider-Man 3" cast was present, in fact, including James Franco, Kirsten Dunst and Bryce Dallas Howard (10 weeks after the birth of her first child).
Director Sam Raimi also had some news: There will be a "Spider-Man 4." Well, of course, there will be. It's not clear which cast members will return, but as Raimi said, "It's all about getting a script."
And the feeling is, among Columbia Pictures insiders and everyone else who helps make these films, that "Spider-Man" will go on and on like the "Star Trek" series, with or without this cast.
This may be problematic for one cast member, whose character appears to die on screen. I won't tell you which one, but the actor or actress who plays this character did say to me later, "It turns out I may not be completely dead." So, we shall see. One person who says he will not be along for the next ride is legendary scriptwriter Alvin Sargent.
"It's time for someone else to do it," he told me.
More "Spider-Man" movies also depend on the response to the third installment. Although it's a bit long, "Spider-Man 3" never ceases to delight and dazzle audiences. It was fun seeing it again last night with a big crowd.
The first time I screened the film, I was alone in a big theater. The audience goes crazy for the special effects, for the drama and for the comedy. They love a big marching band playing the old "Spider-Man" theme song while the superhero gets the key to the city. I love Peter Parker's Aunt May making sarcastic remarks about his ghastly apartment.
And who did we see last night? Susan Sarandon with her brood. Producer Scott Rudin with his. Sean Combs brought his two sons, Justin and Christian. Dunst got a birthday cupcake from a member of the press and then celebrated inside at the glamorous after-party held across the street from Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens (Peter is from Queens, you see, so 1,000 were shipped out there last night for a premiere that looked like the Oscars.)
I also spotted: Petra Nemcova; Bill Paxton and Ginnifer Goodwin from HBO's "Big Love"; Sir Howard Stringer; Drew Nieporent of Nobu fame; Tribeca Film Festival founders Craig Hatkoff and Jane Rosenthal; Cindy Adams with her two dogs. The dogs sported custom jackets for the occasion, natch. Only in Queens, kids. Only in Queens.
P.S. It's "Spider-Man" Week all week in New York. Check out all the events at the Tribeca Film Festival's Web site.