Rosie Saga | 'Love Actually'
You can forget all the stuff you've heard about Rosie O'Donnell as the über-witch editor.
Rosie O'Donnell, telling the story of how Gruner + Jahr lied to her and let her down, got laughs and lots of appreciation Thursday at the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
Her testimony came after a rocky morning session for Gruner + Jahr's CEO Daniel Brewster , who got nailed in cross-examination by one of O'Donnell's lawyers.
Brewster flailed around for answers and was unconvincing when memos were produced by O'Donnell's team, which showed the publishing company had lied about the Rosie magazine numbers in anticipation of a contract deadline.
O'Donnell had an exit clause in her contract that she could leave the magazine without penalty if the circulation numbers had not met a certain criterion by June 30, 2003.
G+J execs, knowing this, actually sent memos to each other that discussed how they would pump up their announced sales so it would look as though the magazine was doing much better. This would mean O'Donnell would be held to her deal.
Brewster did not come off well in the questioning, often claiming he didn't know the answers to certain questions. Judge Ira Gammerman did not look impressed, often interrupting Brewster to correct him.
But it was O'Donnell who painted the most vivid picture of life inside the German-owned publisher. She told the judge that when she first met Brewster, he fretted that she would be a "controlling bitch like Martha [Stewart] or Oprah [Winfrey]."
"I said, 'They're pretty successful controlling bitches, though, aren't they?'" O'Donnell recalled.
O'Donnell also said that Brewster entreated her to do the magazine — an offer she initially turned down — by trading on his father's name.
"His father was a Democratic senator. I never knew anyone whose father was a senator," O'Donnell said.
Daniel Brewster, Sr., was a U.S. senator from Maryland from 1963-69. He was disgraced when he was indicted in 1969 on charges of accepting an illegal gratuity while in the Senate. He pleaded no contest in 1975.
O'Donnell's testimony, which will continue Friday, stopped halfway through her account of the hiring of a new editor-in-chief at Rosie, People magazine's Susan Toepfer.
In O'Donnell's memory, Toepfer had been described to her by Brewster and others at G+J as the "Michael Jordan of magazines." When she said that, someone in the crowded courtroom let out a large guffaw.
Toepfer, who was forced out of People after many rancorous years, is the wife of controversial "Sleepers" author Lorenzo Carcaterra. I reported in New York magazine back in 1995 that Toepfer had let Carcaterra regularly review thrillers and mysteries in the pages of People, only to turn around and ask the authors of those books to give "Sleepers" favorable quotes.
O'Donnell testified that in her first meeting with Toepfer, before she was hired, the "Michael Jordan of magazines" disliked all of Rosie's ideas for the magazine. Instead, she said, she thought Jennifer Aniston should be on the cover.
"My response was that Jennifer Aniston had been on 19 magazine covers and wasn't what I had in mind," O'Donnell told the judge. "Kelly [O'Donnell's significant other] said, 'I'm concerned she wants to make it more like People."
Nevertheless, O'Donnell said she was persuaded to hire Toepfer — a decision she quickly came to regret.
The only other testimony today came from G+J's financial guy, Dan Rubin, who presented the court with a list of expenses he said the publisher had incurred because O'Donnell had shut down the magazine.
But on cross-examination Rubin conceded that many of the receipts he'd included were for items that either the company would have needed anyway, or for things that had nothing to do with the shutdown of Rosie.
These included magazine subscriptions Toepfer requisitioned months after Rosie closed, and three VHS tape copies of "The E! True Hollywood Story" about O'Donnell, also ordered in March 2003, many months after O'Donnell exited her deal.
More Saturday in a special Fox411 all about the trial.
Almost no new films shown to premiere audiences in New York get standing ovations. Last night, Richard Curtis' romantic comedy, "Love Actually" got just that, from a discerning audience that didn't know what hit them.
Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson and Laura Linney star in this ensemble piece written and directed by the author of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill." It's an exuberant, wonderfully ebullient two hours poised to be the sleeper hit of the Christmas season.
Watch for Bill Nighy, a British actor unknown to us here in the States, as a Rod Stewart-like rock star. Nighy (rhymes with sigh) steals the movie, which isn't easy.
And guess what? When we met him at last night's star-studded premiere at the Metropolitan Club, he introduced us to his wife. She's Diana Quick, the beauteous Brit actress who co-starred with Jeremy Irons in the famed BBC mini series "Brideshead Revisited."
Also, coincidentally, the "Love Actually" soundtrack on J Records includes Wyclef Jean's great song, "Take Me As I Am." Who knew? Go see this movie this weekend. You'll be very happy you did.