A little after noon Wednesday Rosie O'Donnell put her magazine out of its misery. She folded Rosie which used to be called McCall's, telling publisher Gruner + Jahr in effect that they didn't have the right to publish under their co-venture agreement unless she had editorial control.
It was a bold move and a brave move as far as I'm concerned. McCall's was a failing publication when Rosie took it over. The publisher knew the downside of working with her: She was an outspoken lesbian who was going to retire from television. Knowing that, G+J went ahead and started Rosie. They knew what they were getting into. And they should have known that Rosie wasn't going to take any nonsense from them.
In the Villard Room of the Palace Hotel, Rosie spoke eloquently and succinctly to a large group of journalists who'd been pulled together literally at the last minute. Outside of this column, only the Wall Street Journal online and Adweek.com wrote advance stories that O'Donnell was ending the tug-of-war between the two sides.
Rosie looked unusually glamorous today. Her short hair cut was done beautifully, her makeup was very becoming, and she wore a tailored suit. It's obvious that she's been on a successful diet of some kind. She held her head high through the whole proceeding, with former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, now O'Donnell's lawyer, sitting beside her.
She worked hard to read a prepared statement without editorial comment or inflection. A couple of times she looked as though she might crack wise, but legal sense prevailed.
"My integrity and my name are at stake, and that price is too high," she said. "I cannot have my name on a magazine if I cannot be assured that it will represent my vision and my ideas."
In closing Rosie, O'Donnell has not left the magazine's staff high and dry. Unlike many magazine publishers who've closed their doors, Rosie wrote to every staff member individually. She also sent them checks -- some as high as $10,000 -- to compensate them until they find new work.
O'Donnell did not take reporters' questions, but she did confirm a report from this column several weeks ago that she's producing Boy George's musical on Broadway. She also said she'd seen Hairspray five times, that she's happy spending time with her family, and that she and her partner are expecting their fourth child in December.
She did not refute tabloid reports of a sex change, but I don't think that was necessary. O'Donnell handled herself like a great lady today. Let's hope G+J can be men about it, and let this terrible mistake go. McCall's is not a magazine anyone is pining for nostalgically. Bringing it back now doesn't make much sense. They've blown their chance for a real place on newsstands. Now let it be.
Nothing succeeds like success, and that's what CBS is hoping for. The Tiffany network has made a deal with Brillstein-Grey Entertainment and most of the participants in the smash sleeper hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, for a TV version of the movie. I am told that Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of the movie, will reprise her role as Fotoula Portokalos and that she's already worked on scripts. Greek Wedding is set as a mid-season replacement series and could be on the air as early as February.
Many of the other actors from the film, including Michael Constantine, Lainie Kazan and Andrea Martin are also set for the series version. The one question, according to sources, may be John Corbett, who has other commitments.
"The deal is for six episodes, without a pilot," said my source. "We're just waiting to see which of the new fall shows falls out."
My Big Fat Greek Wedding is on its way to becoming one of the most profitable movies of all time. It's already made over $100 million and should clear $140 million before its run is over. This is all good news, by the way, for Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. The couple optioned Vardalos' one-woman play of the same name and Wilson was largely responsible for getting the movie made. Maybe we'll see her turn up on the series as well.
Vogue has outrun Vanity Fair by picking Oscar-winner Halle Berry for its December issue. This weekend, Berry shot her Vogue cover with world-renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. I'm told the pictures are classy and upscale, quite a difference from the stock photos Vanity Fair used of Berry in its September issue from the new James Bond movie, Die Another Day.
Berry, in fact, has so far been shunted aside by Vanity Fair -- which calls itself the "Hollywood Bible." Last month that magazine featured glamorous shots of Jennifer Connelly on the cover, while Berry rated only inside coverage, in black and white, wearing a bikini.
"Halle wanted to be inside," said a Vanity Fair spokesperson. "We wanted her, but she turned us down."
For Vogue, a black woman on the cover will not be that big of a deal. They've had quite a few. But Vanity Fair has had only a handful. Since Graydon Carter has been the editor of Vanity Fair, only Chris Rock, Will Smith, Michael Jordan, and Denzel Washington (the latter some seven years ago) have appeared solo on the cover, representing African-Americans. A few have turned up on shared covers -- Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice with President George W. Bush last winter, for example.
Is there a problem with putting African-Americans on the cover of Vanity? On front of the 2001 Hollywood issue were ten "legendary" ladies of Hollywood, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, and Penelope Cruz -- legends in their own short time. There was no sign of real legends like Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, or Angela Bassett. (Bassett, who had been nominated for playing Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do With It, did merit an inside panel years ago for an Oscar issue.)
Oprah Winfrey, the wealthiest woman in show business, has never been on Vanity Fair's cover. Neither has Tina Turner during Carter's time. Pop superstars Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, or Alicia Keys haven't graced the cover either. Or Bill Cosby. Or Chris Tucker, who starred in the biggest comedy hit ever, Rush Hour 2.
Carter refuted his magazine's lack of minorities last March, when The Ottawa Citizen newspaper asked him about a Fox 411 column on this very issue. "Mr. Carter ... dismissed reports from a gossip columnist that Oscar winners Halle Berry and Denzel Washington snubbed the Vanity Fair Oscar party in favor of other galas, reportedly because the magazine does not feature black performers on its covers. Mr. Carter lashed out at the columnist and said he was wrong to say black performers do not appear on his magazine, when in fact, they do."
Carter's spokesperson Beth Kseniak also reminded me yesterday that several black musicians have appeared on group covers for the magazine's music issues. Next month, Barry White, Alicia Keys and Eve are scheduled to join Sheryl Crow, Gwen Stefani and others for the annual music issue.
Meanwhile, Premiere magazine had no trouble putting this year's male Oscar-winner Denzel Washington on its new 10th anniversary cover. In fact, Washington is the common ground in the rare portrait that also gathers together Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks. Each of them has been in a movie with Denzel -- Julia in The Pelican Brief and Hanks in Philadelphia.
This is the kind of great photograph that Life magazine used to do, but has become almost impossible to do in the era of publicists. Congrats to all the players involved. I know it wasn't easy.
Chrissie Hynde has signed her Pretenders to the small, but daring Artemis Records, run by Danny Goldberg and Daniel Glass. This is after 25 years with Warner Bros. Records. Why? For any older act, traditional record companies are no longer the solution. Carole King and Peter Wolf are on Koch International, as are The Kinks. Many smaller labels have become home to former million-selling pop stars, who are still better than ever but can't be expected to sell 'N Sync-type numbers. Good for Chrissie and good for the business. The Pretenders' great new single can be found on the Artemis Web site, and it's a harbinger of good things to come.