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Interview with Rosie O'Donnell

Aired January 17, 2012 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: One year ago tonight we launched this show with an extraordinary interview with Oprah. Tonight, who better to sit down with on my first anniversary than the other one-name talk show diva, Rosie.

She's outspoken.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, COMEDIAN, ACTRESS, TALK SHOW HOST: We're a backward nation in many ways, to think that you can turn on the presidential debate and you can have people actually say that they think that being gay is wrong is shocking.

MORGAN: Outrageous and very, very funny.

O'DONNELL: I'm going to crawl over the table and try to seduce you in a few minutes.

MORGAN: And tonight, Rosie O'Donnell tells all. Her all.

O'DONNELL: I think I have an image of me being like a bossy tiger, like a Tony Soprano, you get over here, you don't say goodbye to -- no, I'm like a little cuddly love me, hug me, hold me.

MORGAN: Her loves. That's properly in love.

O'DONNELL: I've been properly in love I would say three times.

MORGAN: And Donald Trump.

O'DONNELL: I made fun of him and it seemed to upset him in a very, very intense way.

MORGAN: Rosie O'Donnell, for the hour. This is the PIERS MORGAN interview and it will be outrageous.

For the last year, I've waged a relentless Twitter war with Rosie O'Donnell. She's always vowed never to come on this show because she said that if she ever did, I would simply stare her in the eye and say what I always say, how many times have you been properly in love?

But she has, like most women, finally succumbed to my advances. She's here tonight.

And so, Rosie O'Donnell, I suppose the most obvious opening question. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MORGAN: How many times have you been properly in love?

O'DONNELL: Only with you. You, Piers. And like Chelsea Handler and Kathy Griffin, I'm going to crawl over the table and try to seduce you in a few minutes.

MORGAN: Why have you finally succumbed to me?

O'DONNELL: Well --

MORGAN: You've always said you'd never do this show.

O'DONNELL: Yes. Initially when you banned Madonna, I thought it was such a blatant PR misuse of your power or lack thereof.

MORGAN: It was.

O'DONNELL: That I felt like, OK, well, then I'm going to ban you.


O'DONNELL: And now here I am because well, everybody comes around.

MORGAN: What changed your mind?

O'DONNELL: No, actually, I watched your show since day one and I -- you know, have been admiring it. At the beginning, I was quite annoyed when you asked that horrible question to everyone as if you just thought of it. It was bad enough you'd asked it to every one but then you would be like, you just --

MORGAN: Now they want me to ask, how many times have you been properly in love?

O'DONNELL: OK. I've been properly in love I would say three times.

MORGAN: See, that's fascinating.

O'DONNELL: Is it to you?

MORGAN: Yes. Who with?

O'DONNELL: Well, the most recent and the most -- you know, the one I'd like to talk about.

MORGAN: Your fiance.

O'DONNELL: My fiance, that's right, I'm actually engaged. And --

MORGAN: Your ex-wife would be the second. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MORGAN: Who would the third be?

O'DONNELL: Someone when I was much younger. And she knows who she is.


O'DONNELL: I was much younger. You know that you have one relationship, I think, in your life that's kind of crazy and out of control a little bit that usually doesn't last very long but it takes you into the deep water, into the rough waves, right?

MORGAN: The first time your heart really breaks.

O'DONNELL: Exactly.

MORGAN: You remember it?

O'DONNELL: Well. Vividly. I almost have a, you know, remote control in my brain, I can hit the DVR and hit play and remember the feeling.

MORGAN: And who broke whose heart?

O'DONNELL: I was always the heart -- the first one, I got my heartbroken badly. And it was the first time. But that's what allows the light in, right? When you crack something, the light can get in. So you have an idealism when you're a kid about what romance and family and forever means. And I think at 28, 29 years old, you're ready to step into a mature kind of love. And so that's what got me there, was having a broken heart at 28.

MORGAN: What did getting your heartbroken at 28 do to you? How did it change you emotionally?

O'DONNELL: I think, first of all, it opened me up. I was not as afraid as I was before, falling in love. And also I realized that I was capable of risk taking, which -- you know people have thought that I had a wild kind of personal life and that I was out there with -- tomcatting around, not really. You know I could count on both hands all of the relationships I've had in my life.

MORGAN: Isn't the reality of being -- I mean you've been such a huge iconic kind of star in America for many different reasons. But isn't the reality is, when you scale those dizzy height a lot of fun, though, a lot of it is, it can be a quite lonely existence, can it?

O'DONNELL: Totally. It's like you climb to the top of Mt. Everest, you -- what you do when you get there is you have to put your flag and come back down. There's no air up there and you're by yourself. So you climb when you're trying to become an entertainer and do your passion and your art and be accepted and loved, have success, but you get there and you go, this is nothing like I thought it would be. And it's hard to explain to the audience, because they, too, believe that there is some sort of utopia that you arrive at, some destination of success and stardom that's going to fill you up emotionally and it doesn't. And that was a shocking revelation for me.

MORGAN: Present company excepted, have you ever been in love with a man?



O'DONNELL: His name is Mike, and I've lived with him for about two years.

MORGAN: You didn't cite him as one of the three times you've been in love.

O'DONNELL: No, but I think --

MORGAN: Or properly in love. That's why I say properly because --

O'DONNELL: Yes, I think --

MORGAN: -- love takes many guises.

O'DONNELL: It's true. I loved him very much and he was very helpful to me in my life. And with -- when I was with him a lot of stuff about my childhood was revealed. And he was quite helpful in kind of mending my -- a lot of wounds from my childhood. So he's a guy that I have very close feelings about inside but I don't know.

You know, I think I knew I was gay my whole life. I think that there was a brief period where I thought I fell in love with him, and I thought well, this -- maybe I'm not gay. Right? I hadn't had a lot of relationships before I met him. I had only had, like, two. Then I met him, I thought OK, well, this is it. And there was something really glorious about being in a relationship at the supermarket with your partner getting stuff for the football game on Sunday and having the cashier say, how long have you guys been dating?

Now when you're there with a woman, your same-sex partner, no one asks, no one assume, nobody -- may be different today, but then, you know, in the '80s, when I was in my 20s. So there was something very intoxicating about --

MORGAN: About convention, conventional relationships?

O'DONNELL: Well, about the societal approval that you got to have just by virtue of the fact that it was a heterosexual relationship.

MORGAN: Even now, is having a lesbian relationship, is it -- does it lead to constant conflict on a daily basis? I mean do you always -- are you always aware of an element disapproving of you? Do you feel defensive more than you would normally?

O'DONNELL: Not for me, I don't think. But when I see the presidential candidates using it as a platform, I am kind of stunned. Right? That hurts in a way I think that the politicians don't really realize. So I don't feel it personally because many people in the country, probably all the people in the country, know that I'm gay. When I came out, it was in such a large way that it's not as though ever people are surprised.

MORGAN: So it is a weird thing. You've mentioned politics there. In Britain, my home country overseas, no politician right or left would ever come out with anti-gay comments.


MORGAN: Here in this election race, quite a few of the Republicans at various stages have been transparently, you know, anti- homosexuals.

O'DONNELL: Yes. And the three top ones are no longer in the race, right?

MORGAN: Yes, it's interesting to me that they're not.


MORGAN: I was quite shocked by the kind of virulence of their rhetoric.


MORGAN: That today that could still happen.

O'DONNELL: I agree.

MORGAN: Even in a country where I guess they're doing it because they believe a lot of their core conservative vote would want them to say that. But I was still quite taken aback. Because it's -- there aren't many countries actually, certainly not in Europe, where a politician could say those kind of things and get away with it.

O'DONNELL: Yes, well, we're a backward nation in many ways. And that's one of the ways that's most evident, I think, nowadays especially with the election. To think that you can turn on the presidential debate and you can have people actually say that they think that being gay is wrong is shocking in 2012. It's shocking to me.

MORGAN: What do you make of the GOP race generally?

O'DONNELL: You know, it's a sad lot of contenders. It's not the Republican race -- the Republican Party that, you know, I grew up believing was one of the two viable ways to lead the nation in this -- in America. It just seems to be almost too much entertainment and to -- no one qualified. That's what -- that's the saddest thing. There doesn't seem to be anyone qualified. And I wish that there would be a real contender so that there could be real issues brought up and not everyone sidetracked with these absurd, you know, anti-gay rhetoric or whether or not evolution is real.

MORGAN: Let's play a little clip from your show on Oprah's OWN network. This is about politics that's relevant.


O'DONNELL: Let me just tell you something. Nobody would choose to be gay. You get ostracized. Presidential hopefuls tell you you're not worthy in their ads. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine, people who want to be the president saying how dare you want to marry the person you love?


MORGAN: It's from the "Rosie" show, which is great -- it's great to have you back doing that kind of thing.

O'DONNELL: Thank you very much.

MORGAN: I think a lot of people missed it. But I was interested, before the show started, you were kind of like, I don't really want go political on this show and then you did because I think you felt this sort of absolute pressing need to do so.


MORGAN: Because you felt so affronted by what these politicians are saying.

O'DONNELL: Yes. Yes. Especially that Rick Perry ad the weekend -- that was the day after the Rick Perry ad ran, and I remember being home that weekend, and having just announced that we were engaged and being around in Chicago, and getting this overwhelming support from everyone. And then watching this ad of this man who basically said, well, I just don't believe that you people have the same rights as other people in this country.

And that's not what America was founded on. And it was hurtful and shocking. And, you know, in the wake of all these teen suicides and gay bullying, and -- I just don't understand why politicians or anyone thinks they can get away with that.

MORGAN: I instinctively feel that despite the rhetoric of some of these politicians, they're actually -- since I've been in America, for example, New York has now sanctioned same-sex marriage.


MORGAN: And joining a number of other states, these are big, big moments for America, aren't they? In the same way that Barack Obama became the first black president. O'DONNELL: Well, when you think where we have come in 20 years as a nation, right, if you would imagine like even when my show started in '96, no one even asked me if I was gay. There was no Internet, Perez Hilton, there was no TMZ, it was a whole different culture, and homosexuality was something that wasn't really talked about.

People knew that you were gay if you're in show business. You knew they were gay but it wasn't really spoken of. To see that we've come from here to here where celebrities are out and starring in sitcoms, and you know, when Ellen did that, her show crashed and burned and she was publicly ridiculed for so long, and she knocked down the door for so many people, including me, but look at them.

Neil Patrick Harris, right, hosting the award shows and having a number-one show. It's changed a lot. And we have to catch up as a society really to how quickly rights for gay people have come into fashion in America.

MORGAN: There are still a lot of big stars who are in the closet and everybody knows that. Why do you feel there's still this fear of being open about sexuality in modern America?

O'DONNELL: I don't know. I think that there aren't any -- a lot of people have said to me, you know so-and-so, you know so-and-so, are they gay? Is it -- I personally don't know a star who I have come to know -- you know, intimately friendly with in my life who is living a false -- I don't. I really don't.

MORGAN: Really?

O'DONNELL: I don't.

MORGAN: I'm surprised by that.

O'DONNELL: Well, people say to me all the time Tom Cruise is gay. I've been around Tom Cruise a lot. Tom Cruise drives race cars, Tom Cruise is -- I do not think Tom Cruise is gay. I have never thought Tom Cruise is gay.

MORGAN: You can be gay and drive a race car.

O'DONNELL: Listen, what he does for fun --



O'DONNELL: Who he is in his life is not to me -- I've been around --

MORGAN: Do you think mythology builds up about certainly celebrities?

O'DONNELL: Yes, I do. I think that -- I don't know. I haven't seen it, is all I can say. And also I know that there are some people in my life who are not famous who have a very hard time dealing with their sexuality internally. Whether or not that's religion that they were raised in that they would choose to have a life that is non consistent with their feelings because they feel it's easier than living the ridicule and/or the shame that comes from national politicians, from the Catholic Church, from some elements of society, to tell you you are less worthy. That's a hard thing to take on.

MORGAN: Let's take a break. Let's come back and talk about family. Because we've got a lot in common.


MORGAN: Our fathers were both born in -- part of southern Ireland.


MORGAN: We're both raised as Catholics and we're both impossibly good looking and talented.




O'DONNELL: Hey, you know what these things are? They're foosballs. Right? And when we got written off in a review in London, they said, you have annoying habit of sinking hairy rubber bands at the audience. Hairy rubber bands if you're in London. If you're in the U.S. it's a foosball.


MORGAN: That was in the "Rosie O'Donnell" show and they are rubber bands. And it's a terrible English accent you have there.

O'DONNELL: Really? I thought it was pretty good.

MORGAN: Terrible.

O'DONNELL: I tried to get on "Harry Potter" with that British accent.

MORGAN: I can do my Rosie accent.

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, sometimes you can't even understand what the British people are angry about. And there are sometimes when you hear a British person speak no matter what they're saying, you're actually moved because there is something eloquent about your phraseology.

MORGAN: Tell me about joining about Oprah network. I'm a huge fan of Oprah. She gave me a massive break when she did my first show ever a year ago. So I know about the pressures of launching a new show on a network. O'DONNELL: Yes.

MORGAN: That was a particular pressure going completely into the unknown. Nobody knew how this network was going to go. And you've taken some flak and you've had great plaudits. The general view is the show is great but the network is still struggling a bit. Obviously Oprah, now doing her own show, is doing well.

What's your overview now you've been in there a few months?

O'DONNELL: Well, I think that any new cable start-up takes about five to 10 years to really hit. Including CNN. Including Bravo. All of the networks that do. And when Oprah Winfrey announced that she was going to do a network, I knew, if I was going to go back on TV, that's where I wanted to be.

So my initial deal was with NBC, and I was about to sign, I kept telling my agent, please call there and just let them know that I'm interested. I didn't know if she would want me and I didn't want to assume that she would want me. You know? So then I did get a call and she came over and we signed the deal and I'm thrilled to be there.

MORGAN: But when you two are together, these titans of American television, fire brands in many ways, trailblazers, what's the relationship like between you?

O'DONNELL: I feel like she's the smarter, prettier, older sister that you want to be like.


O'DONNELL: You know, listen, it's intimidating to be around her. She is the most powerful woman, really, in our lifetime.


O'DONNELL: She's the most successful woman ever in the history of media.


O'DONNELL: She has a reach that is undeniable. It's like she has a satellite that everyone receives and her authenticity, her truthfulness is unparalleled. I think --

MORGAN: No, I found her completely real. I was stunned by how nice she was to me. She had no reason to be at all. And I've said this a few times on the show, but, you know, it's my anniversary week this week, and you're a great guest to have. And I remember that first week, the pressure was on to me. Oprah didn't just give me an interview, she went out and sold the interview. Told people it was great and I was -- and I thought, why are you doing this? I couldn't work out and do anything for her, really, but I so appreciated it.

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, Gayle is a big supporter of yours, right? Was a big fan of yours. They're very good friends. And she said, do him a favor. I think that's how it went down, right? She's a nice person innately.


O'DONNELL: Right? And to be on her team, to have her say, I choose you --


O'DONNELL: -- in the kickball at the school is a pretty big thing. I wasn't sure I could do it again, to tell you the truth, Piers. You know, I'm going to be 50 in March. I don't know. I don't have the hunger that I had at 33. I had a newborn baby. And that was this. And I was like, let me go do this so I can stay home and have the kid in the same room every day.

And I had a hunger and now at 50 I don't have that same hunger that I did or at least it switched to a different way. It manifested in a --

MORGAN: Are you enjoying it?

O'DONNELL: A lot. But it's been a challenge. You know? I want to succeed for her, for myself, and for everyone. But I really want to do well for her.

MORGAN: And what's (INAUDIBLE), when the heat is on, as it has been, and a lot of stake for her reputation and for you indeed, you know, what is she like under pressure? Because that's always a test of people when their leader is under pressure, I think.

O'DONNELL: Well, I've never seen her under pressure. You know she has said to me from the beginning, follow your instinct. You know what to do, and you know how to do it. Go do it. You know?

MORGAN: Let's turn to your family.


MORGAN: Your ever expanding family. Four children.


MORGAN: Parker, Chelsea, Blake, Vivian.


MORGAN: How are they all?

O'DONNELL: They're good. Teenage years is much different than I expected. You have teenagers, you know.


O'DONNELL: Yes. And you have boys which I think are easier than girls.

MORGAN: My brother has got four girls and my sister has three, and I think that's definitely true.


MORGAN: It's much -- it's a much simpler thing. You basically talk about sport.


MORGAN: That's all you have to do.

O'DONNELL: Which for you works well.

MORGAN: Yes. My 18-year-old and 14, they'd just message me all day long about football.


MORGAN: And Arsenal, which I know you love because you follow me on Twitter.

O'DONNELL: I un-follow you when the games are on because you're so annoying. You get so upset. And how about when you threaten to kill yourself?


O'DONNELL: I'm going to jump out this window.

MORGAN: I know, I did.

O'DONNELL: You did.

MORGAN: I threatened to throw myself off Santa Monica Pier.

O'DONNELL: I remember that.

MORGAN: We lost 8-2 to our better rival.


MORGAN: It was a shocking day.

O'DONNELL: Yes, it was hard for me, too, that day.

MORGAN: What was more shocking was the sheer volume of people encouraging me to do that.

O'DONNELL: To jump.


O'DONNELL: Don't listen to those people. They're never right.

MORGAN: Do you like Twitter?

O'DONNELL: I do. I think it's a great way to interact with friends and fans.

MORGAN: Let's have another break. I want to come back and talk to you about you as a mother.


MORGAN: And you as a wife. And you're about to become a wife again.


MORGAN: I want to know whether you think any good either.

O'DONNELL: All right.

MORGAN: I suspect you are.

O'DONNELL: I think I am.

MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE) your husband.

O'DONNELL: Piers, I'm not --



ROB LOWE, ACTOR: Piers, happy anniversary. You have the best theme music in all of television. You have the sexiest male accent in all of television. I salute you. I congratulate you. You are my favorite.



MORGAN: Back with my special guest, Rosie O'Donnell.

You've been behaving quite well so far.



O'DONNELL: What were you expecting?

MORGAN: I was expecting mayhem.

O'DONNELL: Really?


O'DONNELL: I think you like the female comics to flirt but you know being I'm a lesbian, I just don't think it would go.

MORGAN: Everyone could turn. O'DONNELL: You think?

MORGAN: I've always thought that in different circumstances, you and I could be quite a hot couple.

O'DONNELL: Well, we do have that sexy picture.

MORGAN: We do.

O'DONNELL: We should put that up.

MORGAN: That was a hot picture.

O'DONNELL: It's on my Twitter.

MORGAN: I think that's when you began to melt towards me.

O'DONNELL: It was true. I did bump into you and your very pretty pregnant wife. And we did sit down and cuddle. It meant a lot to me.

MORGAN: It was a nice cuddle.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.

MORGAN: You're quite cuddly.

O'DONNELL: Thank you very much.

MORGAN: But not as cuddly as you were because you're disappearing.

O'DONNELL: I'm losing weight.

MORGAN: How much weight have you lost?

O'DONNELL: Sixteen pounds.

MORGAN: In what period of time?

O'DONNELL: Is that a stone? What is that? Is that a stone?

MORGAN: Yes, it's a stone.

O'DONNELL: I just know.

MORGAN: In what space of time?

O'DONNELL: November 6th was the day I --


O'DONNELL: Yes. I was like, yes, no.

MORGAN: Two months, 16 pounds? O'DONNELL: You know, working out and eating healthy. It was actually my fiance, Michelle, who said, I love you, and I do want to marry you, but I want you to live. Every day, every other day, she has me do the treadmill for as long as I could do. Initially, I could only do 20 minutes and now I can do 45 minutes which is two miles for --

MORGAN: That's good.

O'DONNELL: Yes. For me. And resistance with the weights. And honestly, you know, she makes a healthy dinner. And when I'm -- let's say we go out to dinner, and I look and I look at something and I think, I'll have the cheeseburger deluxe, I'll say to her, honey, what do you think would be -- she's, well, if I were you I would get this kind of fish and that -- and I do it. Right?

MORGAN: You're very obedient then.

O'DONNELL: It is kind of shocking but I am.

MORGAN: Have you learned to be obedient in a relationship?

O'DONNELL: No, I am always sort of obedient in a relationship. I am not the aggressor, I'm not the -- I am much more submissive than anyone would ever believe.

MORGAN: Really?

O'DONNELL: I really do follow orders. I do. It's shocking. People think -- I think I have an image of me being like a bossy tiger, like a Tony Soprano, you get over here, you don't say good-bye to -- no. I'm like a little cuddly, love me, hug me, hold me.

MORGAN: Really?

O'DONNELL: I am. Yes.

MORGAN: I'm shocked.

O'DONNELL: And Michelle was shocked as well. You know we had a long courtship via e-mail because I was in Chicago working and I was away and she was --

MORGAN: You met in a restaurant?

O'DONNELL: We met at a Starbucks actually.

MORGAN: Starbucks.

O'DONNELL: Yes. She was holding a little puppy and I was about to get another little puppy.

MORGAN: You capitalist romantic you.

O'DONNELL: I didn't think she was gay in a million years.

MORGAN: Really?

O'DONNELL: Million years. Have you seen her?

MORGAN: She's very attractive.

O'DONNELL: Very attractive. I just didn't -- you know, I didn't know a lot of lesbians who wore high heel Pradas. I just didn't.


O'DONNELL: I saw them on the L World, I thought it was all fantasy.

MORGAN: So how does lesbian love happen in Starbucks? Tell me.

O'DONNELL: Well, I thought she was very, very beautiful. She looked to me like Ann Margaret or Julianne Moore, right? And she was very smart, and fun and so well-dressed. And so as the conversation went on, I said --

MORGAN: She is a cracker.

O'DONNELL: She's beautiful. And I said to her --

MORGAN: You've done well.

O'DONNELL: Thank you.


O'DONNELL: I don't know how. And I do say that to her often, too. Are you sure, honey? Are you sure? I didn't know to believe it or not. I thought to myself, really? Like I'd look for Ashton Kutcher from "Punk'd". I was like, seriously, you know? And then we just -- we have been talking for -- so we sat down for a little bit and then I got her e-mail, she got my e-mail, and then we started e- mailing.

And about three weeks later, we went out on a date and then a second date, and then we had a few months apart where we really actually fell in love, so the first time we ever spent the night together we were already in love. And it was sort of a beautiful way to do it. I had never been in a relationship in that kind of way before.

MORGAN: Who proposed to who?

O'DONNELL: We had talked about it, you know, getting married, but I actually bought the ring and asked the question. And was quite nervous and had never imagined doing it. You know if you grow up a gay girl, you're -- I knew I was gay when I was little, I thought, you know, definitely not going to have a marriage, not going to have a wedding, you don't ever put that image in your head.

And sometimes going to weddings of friends you almost feel cheated, right, that you can't have that dream. So when marriage was legal in New York and my brother Danny is the state assemblyman who proposed that bill.


O'DONNELL: We're very proud of him for that. I thought I want to do this and I want to do it right. And she's a girl who loves jewelry and loves -- you know. So I bought a ring and I asked her and she said abso-freaking-lutely.


MORGAN: It was her exact word?

O'DONNELL: Well, it was freaking, but you get the point. Yes.


O'DONNELL: And I was like, that's the best answer in the world. And then of course, I cried, I'm like a baby, I'm a wuss. I cry a lot. Nobody knows that but I'm -- ask Cindy Burger (ph).

MORGAN: I bet you are pretty emotional.

O'DONNELL: Dear lord. And my kids, they can't stand it. You know they do anything, I'm like -- I know. If I tell my children I love you, you know what their reply is? I know. I say to my son, Blake, hey, buddy, I love you, I know, mom. Like, you know, it's almost I over "I love you" them.

MORGAN: Do any of them have any problems with you being gay that you picked up on or has it all worked out in a better way you could ever have imagined?

O'DONNELL: I think it's worked out better because I'm a public figure and they didn't have to sort of tell their friends, or come out at school, everyone sort of just knew. But when Parker was a little boy, you know, in school, the second grade or third grade, kids would say to him, you're gay because your mom is gay, you are gay. And he goes, what do I say, mom?

I said, the next time they asked if you're gay, ask them if they're looking for a date. So he started making jokes, right, back. I think it's a challenge to have parents who were gay in a society that's not always accepting but I think it's worked out really well because of my fame. I think that they'll have their own stories to tell when they get older about what it actually felt like.

MORGAN: As a Catholic, obviously you went to this big high- profile marriage before that didn't work out. Is that a big regret to you that it wasn't successful? Obviously, you've now moved to a very happy place. But when you actually split up and divorced and so on, I mean, after all the high-profile attention it received, it must have been a bit of a blow to you? Wasn't it?

O'DONNELL: It's humiliating and it was probably the most difficult thing that I ever went through in my adult life. It really was hard. I don't know about you when you got divorced, but I felt shame.

MORGAN: I bet you feel all sorts of -- all horrible emotions actually.

O'DONNELL: Horrible. And I never thought it would happen. You know the O'Donnell family on the whole, no one has ever been divorced, even at the extended family of cousins, right? My father is one of many children. It just is not in the -- you know, you get married it's forever and you stay, even if you're miserable. You've seen those old Irish couples, right? They hate each other, they don't -- but they'll stay together and go to mass on Sunday. That's sort of what I was raised with.

MORGAN: What was the moment for you when you realized it was irretrievable, that you were definitely going to have to split up?

O'DONNELL: When she said -- when she said that. Because I was sort of the one saying, you know, let's work through. Let's keep trying -- you know, it's difficult I think when you're in the public eye to have a marriage go south and then try to work it out and have the publicity kind of come in while you're in that stage of can we make this work.

But we realized that neither of us were as happy as we should be, and that the children even have said in hindsight -- like I hear sometimes Vivvy talking to Michelle. And she'll say, this is better because Mommy Kelly is happy with Ann and you are happy with mommy. And everybody is always laughing in both houses. So it is better.

But I was that type of person who wanted to just hold on forever.

MORGAN: How do you get along with Kelly now?

O'DONNELL: Really well. She's happy. She's with a lovely woman who's a singer here in the New York cabarets. And she's still doing her cruise line.

MORGAN: Did you invite her to your wedding?

O'DONNELL: I probably would invite her. I think it's really good for us to have separate lives. Like when she has the children, I try not to call and interfere. When I have the kids, she tries to do that same thing. I would invite her.

I don't that know it would feel right for either of us, in the same that when she and Ann get married, I don't think it would be right for me to be there. But I love her. I will always love her.

I don't know if you know this, but most lesbians that I know are friends with all their exes. It's a cultural thing, really. You go to a party -- how do you guys know each other? Oh, I was with her for three years. They stay connected in each other's lives. So I think we'll always be a family in that way.

MORGAN: Let's take another break. I want to talk to you about your upbringing, because the most extraordinary thing, the tragic loss of your mother when you were very young, and your dad having to bring up five kids and all that followed on from that. I think it's an extraordinary part of your life and story.

O'DONNELL: All righty.


MORGAN: Back with my special guest, Rosie O'Donnell. Four days before your 11th birthday, you lost your mother to breast cancer. You're one of five children. And as you said many times in the past, your father wasn't really geared up to bring up five kids on his own. So a cataclysmic moment in your life.

Take me back to that period, from what you can remember now.

O'DONNELL: I remember that she got sick around Thanksgiving. They told us she had Hepatitis. I went and looked it up in the school dictionary and it said a disease get from sowing -- from needles. I thought it was from sewing, because she sowed our clothes on the sewing machine.

I didn't know what it was. I knew something was happening. She was home for Christmas, but very thin. Then around the beginning of March, she went in to the hospital.

I was at my neighbors playing, and the mother answered the phone and went into the other room and said, Roseanne, you have to go home. She never told me to go home. I practically lived there at my friend Jackie's house.

So I went in and there were all these cars that I had never seen, like 30 cars. And I walked in and there were people I didn't really recognize. My father sat us all down at the kitchen table and said, mommy passed away.

I remember saying, what does that mean? I didn't know what passed away was. They said mommy died. Then it was just like screaming and yelling. And the story that they tell -- I don't remember this too well -- was that I locked myself in my room for a couple of days.

Now I don't remember that, but my brother Danny says that's what happened. The sad thing was the funeral was on my birthday. So all the people who came to the funeral brought gifts.

My brother, Timmy, was born the day before me. So everybody walked in with presents for me and for Timmy. And it was such a --

MORGAN: Weird thing.

O'DONNELL: Yes. To this day, I'm very adverse to gifts on my birthday. I'm very like -- it just feels odd. It was like almost ruined, in a way.

MORGAN: What do you remember about your mother? O'DONNELL: She was the president of the PTA. She was very funny. She was the head of the parish council at church. She used to make waves. The priest used to always say to her, Roseanne, don't make waves, because she would stand up for what she believed in.

And she was adamant about justice, about everyone's rights. She instilled that in us at a very early age. We would talk about civil rights at the dinner table. We would talk about politics, about George McGovern, about Nixon, about Watergate.

So I do have very specific memories about her as a passionate, politically involved woman, who loved John Kennedy in a big way, and loved the Democratic party, and was a diehard Irish -- you know, she was so proud of being Irish.

MORGAN: What do you think she would have made of how you have grown up?

O'DONNELL: I don't know. You know, I often think that my life would be totally different had she not died. But I don't know in what way. When someone dies, you tend to sanctity them. And they become in your memory almost like a movie.

I think if she were alive today, we'd be great friends and we'd be going out together to events. But I don't know, because many of my friends have turbulent relationships with their parents. Most of us, right?

But when a parent is gone, for whatever reason, you can make up something in your head about her.

MORGAN: You haven't seen your mother in 40 years now.


MORGAN: An amazing statistic, I should think, when you actually get it down to that. When you see people who have very close relationships with their mothers, do you feel like you've had this huge void in your life?

O'DONNELL: Always.

My friends always say to me, you're such a suck up to my mom. I can't believe that you're -- I'm so solicitous of my friend's parental approval. I was in school as well. After my mom died, when I was in school, I wanted to make the teachers laugh, especially the female teachers. I didn't want to make the other students laugh.

I won class clown, but it wasn't at the expense of the teachers. It was trying to include them. And I was very fortunate that I had public school teachers come in and love me as if they were a mother, and take care of me and raise me as their own kid, which -- you know, public school teachers in America don't get the kind of credit they deserve for saving little children one at a time, as they did me.

I know when I turned 40 -- I'm about to be 50. When I turned 40, every time I would catch myself in the mirror, I would see her face, because that's the last image I had of her, was at 39.

MORGAN: Really?

O'DONNELL: So I would look in the mirror and I would be like, wow. I don't know. I didn't have a plan on how to live the second part of my life because I never had a template.

MORGAN: You said this really poignant thing. You said, when I first held Parker, it hit me the most; oh, my God, she felt this, you put your hand on your heart. And the she knew she was dying, and leaving five children with a man who I think she realized was incapable in many way.

What must that have felt like for her?


MORGAN: And that's -- it's an agonizing thing to have to contemplate, isn't it? Because she would have felt awful, I would think.

O'DONNELL: She did know that she was dying, because she taught us each to make one meal. So she taught me to make London Broil. And she taught my brother to make spaghetti.

So when she died, each of us had to cook one night for the whole family.

MORGAN: Really?

O'DONNELL: So she was aware. And as an adult woman, to be her age and to know that she knew that, to have my son placed in my arms and have that overwhelming amount of maternal love that happens, I can't fathom what she was going through.

MORGAN: Can you still cook it?

O'DONNELL: Yes, I do. In fact, it was with Viva Italian dressing. That was the marinade, right. You stick the fork in it. It's funny, the four meals that we -- each kid cooked -- my little brother, Timmy, was only five. I don't like to have them now as an adult.

MORGAN: Brings back too many painful memories?

O'DONNELL: Yes. And I don't like anything that reminds me of my childhood really around in my life.

MORGAN: That's sad, isn't it?

O'DONNELL: It is sad.

MORGAN: How did your father deal with it in reality?

O'DONNELL: You know, not very well. He had his own issues and demons. He had a very tough childhood, an alcoholic abusive father, and never really got the help that I think every person needs when they have lived through that as a child. The worst thing that can happen to anyone is to become what you loathe.

And I think that he had a lot of problems to deal with in his own life, never mind being faced with raising these five small children. He did get a lot of empathy or sympathy from the local people in the town. Like, we'd go to church and they would all be like, there's that O'Donnell, such a good man that he's doing -- he got a little bit heralded, you know, as this widower who was doing this great job raising the kids.

MORGAN: Now that you've had four kids yourself, have you been able to look back on him in a more favorable light, given the enormity of what was suddenly thrust upon him?

O'DONNELL: In some ways, I do. But there was some -- there's some unforgivable things I think that -- as a child, the statute of limitations, I think, has to wear off, right? You get to be 50 years old, you can't still be angry at what your father did in 1970. You have to work it out yourself and then find a place for it in your own life and not rehash it forever.

MORGAN: Have you reached that place?

O'DONNELL: I have. I've reframed it. And I --

MORGAN: Have you forgiven him, in your mind?

O'DONNELL: I have. And he knows it. And I have told him that. He's still alive. I think he's still suffering. That's a sad thing to me. Because no matter what, at the end of the day, every child loves their dad and their mom. They do. It's innate.

I would go to McLaren Hall, which was a place that was open in L.A. for abused children in protective custody. First time I went there, there was a little boy and his hand was bandaged. I said to him, hey, buddy. How are you doing? He said good. He was like six.

I said, what do you want for Christmas. He said, only to see my mommy. I said, I'm sure you will, little man. When I walked out, one of the social workers said to me his mother held his hand to the stove and burned his fingers off. What that child wanted was his mother.

So no matter what, every child wants their parents to love them and to be in their life. And I think it's a very hard thing when stuff occurs that makes that almost impossible.

MORGAN: Let's lighten the load a little bit.

O'DONNELL: All right.

MORGAN: After the break. I want to talk to you about two men that I think you'll have strong opinions on, Ricky Gervais and Donald Trump.

O'DONNELL: (INAUDIBLE): Here we go. Cheers. Cheers, Piers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL ROKER, "THE TODAY SHOW": Piers Morgan, congratulations. I mean, the idea that after a year, you're retiring and getting out of the business is -- I'm sorry. Congratulations on your year anniversary. That's fantastic. I'm so thrilled that you're going to be continuing this fine broadcast tradition.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's see if Oprah left a car under here.

O'DONNELL: I have a daughter and I know you sometimes say (EXPLETIVE DELETED) things to her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have no idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me. She doesn't exactly have a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) halo over her head.


MORGAN: Some of these celebrity guests from "The Rosie Show" on the O Network. Back with me now. The Osbournes, you have to love them.

O'DONNELL: I love them, so much, from day one.

MORGAN: Love Sharon. Love Ozzy.

O'DONNELL: When that show went on the air, people were like, oh, that's horrible. I was like this is the greatest gift to everyone. You couldn't understand one word he said. I thought the love that you saw there, in spite of the dysfunction, was inspiring.

MORGAN: They are the most brilliantly dysfunctional family.

O'DONNELL: I agree.

MORGAN: And one of the most loving families.

O'DONNELL: That's the thing. There's no cookie cutter of how it's supposed to be. And how they do it, everybody loves each other. And I think it's a beautiful thing.

MORGAN: I totally agree with you. Now talking of beautiful things and everyone loving each other, Ricky Gervais at the Globes, as outrageous as ever. What do you think of this basic premise of this snarky Brit standing there basically causing offense to the whole of Hollywood.

O'DONNELL: I remember last year watching it, being shocked, as everyone else was, only because you never see that kind of comedy at an awards show. Having hosted the Grammys a couple times and the Tonys, it's not an easy gig. I presented at the Oscar's, which is similar to the Globes. And it's terrifying.

And you look out and there's all these luminaries. So I thought it took a tremendous amount of Chutzpah. And he's one of the funniest guys in the world.

MORGAN: Are you surprised they invited him back?

O'DONNELL: Shocked. And I was so happy that he said yes. And I thought wow, this is going to be either the most amazing thing you have ever seen in your life or the most amazing thing.

MORGAN: When I had him on the show last year after the Globes, it was a great interview. But what I found fascinating was when he watched himself offending the celebrities, he didn't laugh at the joke, at everyone else laughing. He laughed about a second before, because he knew what was coming.

In other words, for him, all the excitement came from that moment just before the offense hits home, which I found hilarious to watch.

O'DONNELL: It's so hard to be funny on those shows. It's three hours, first of all. It's a thankless job. You get ripped to shreds the next day. And he did it better than everyone had ever done it.

MORGAN: He is a genius.

O'DONNELL: And we have seen comedic legends die on those shows, a horrible death, right? So I'm impressed by him. I got to tell you, he makes me laugh.

MORGAN: Talking of men that you find impressive and that make you laugh, let's turn to Donald Trump, your old friend.

O'DONNELL: If we must, Piers.

MORGAN: I love Donald Trump.

O'DONNELL: You do?

MORGAN: He's done me a lot of favors. I entered his show. I won the show and everything else. So I won't hear a bad word against him. So you're probably not the best person to talk about Donald Trump with. But I'm going to give you a little chance. I don't know, a little peace offering.


MORGAN: A little olive branch for the Donald.

O'DONNELL: Listen, I seem to upset him no matter what I say. So it's probably better not to go into it. But I don't want to try to avoid it. Listen, I made fun of him on "The View," which was the show we were supposed to do, talk about politics, talk about pop culture. And I made fun of him. And it seemed to upset him in a very, very intense way. He's held on to it since 2006. And he has said horrible things about me every chance he gets.

MORGAN: Last time I asked him on the show about you --

O'DONNELL: I remember, I saw it.

MORGAN: He said nice things about you.

O'DONNELL: But then, again, it all changed a few weeks --

MORGAN: He did try. The olive branch was extended. If Donald is watching this -- and I'm sure he will be. He watches religiously.

O'DONNELL: He does?

MORGAN: Say something nice. Look down the camera and say something nice to Donald.

O'DONNELL: I think you were wonderful on "The Oprah Winfrey" show when your whole family was there. And it was an enjoyable hour to watch.

MORGAN: See, that didn't hurt.

O'DONNELL: Is that all right? I don't have a lot of thought about him other than --

MORGAN: I feel like I'm helping here.

O'DONNELL: Is he here? Is there a surprise guest?

MORGAN: I feel like Kofi Annan.

O'DONNELL: Really? There could be peace in the Mideast and you could bring it to everyone.

MORGAN: I suspect there will be peace in the Middle East before there is peace between --

O'DONNELL: I just I hope I get really, really thin, so he's not able to call me fat anymore, so he can just say, you know, she's low- class, not fat.

MORGAN: Now. We're going to have a little break and come back and talk about one screen moment that you probably wish you could forget. Fortunately, I'm not going to let you.

O'DONNELL: I can't even imagine.

MORGAN: Prepare to be humiliated.


JIMMY FALLON, LATE NIGHT TALK SHOW HOST: Congratulations. One year on the show. You're a rock star. It's been such a great year. Congratulations, Larry.



O'DONNELL: Do you have the confirmation?


O'DONNELL: Yes, a confirmation?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I wasn't given one.

O'DONNELL: Well, guess what. I was. Your loss. Get with the program. You with me now.

Get up. Take off the robe. I like that thong thing. Walk tall. Tell me I look gorgeous from behind.


MORGAN: That is from the 1994 film "Exit to Eden," which has so far taken seven million dollars in a lifetime gross. Gross is the appropriate word because it was one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my entire life.

O'DONNELL: I think that you're right.

MORGAN: How do you feel about being involved in one of the really appalling films ever made?

O'DONNELL: I'm happy I did it for two reasons. Number one, it's Gary Marshall. How do you go wrong with that?

MORGAN: Who is great.

O'DONNELL: He's the greatest guy, and one of the most successful film makers. And the second thing is Gary first wanted Sharon Stone for that part. And she said no. So they offered it to me.

When I heard that, I thought, I'm taking this role. When is the chance that is ever going to happen again. Can't get Tom Cruise. Let's get Gilligan. You know, I don't know how that happened.

So I was happy to do it just for that. I will tell you, it helped me a lot in terms of my own body image. I was at a thin peak there. That was as thin as I have been as an adult. And I had that S&M outfit on. And I was so self conscious.

And the first day, like, I took it off and the robe was on. And all the grips -- all the guys were like, hey sweety, you look good in that. I felt -- all of a sudden, I was like, I do? I started wearing it -- they're like, we're not shooting that scene today. I know, but just in case.

It really did help my self image, in terms of my body image. MORGAN: It wouldn't be right if I didn't end it asking my other favorite question.

O'DONNELL: Which is?

MORGAN: Which is if I could let you relive --

O'DONNELL: One moment in your life, what would it be?

MORGAN: What would it be?

O'DONNELL: It would be this interview, Piers.

MORGAN: That's not what you really think.

O'DONNELL: No. I don't know. I have heard you ask that question a million times before?

MORGAN: Admit. You've grown to like it.

O'DONNELL: A little. I would say it would have to be something when my mother was home. That's what it would be.

MORGAN: Can you remember a particular moment?

O'DONNELL: I remember on time we were driving home from Rainbow Ranch, which is where she would take my nana and herself to get dresses that were on sale. Her foot was on top of my foot. And my foot was on the gas pedal.

Remember in the old days, there was just a bench, no seatbelts. And I didn't tell her, because she wasn't overly affectionate, like Irish generally are not. But I loved the closeness of her foot being on my foot.

When we got home, she realized. She said, Roseanne, why didn't you tell me that my foot was on your foot? And I was like, I liked it. There was that moment that we had where we sort of looked at each other. I was about eight years old. I don't know, it's one of the sweetest memories I have of her.

MORGAN: I think he would have been incredibly proud of you.

O'DONNELL: I certainly hope so.

MORGAN: The way you have developed in adulthood without her. I think she would be really bursting.

O'DONNELL: I do wish that she could have met my children. That's my biggest regret of my life.

MORGAN: Rosie, it's been -- to my massive surprise, it's been a real pleasure.

O'DONNELL: I know. When I didn't crawl across the desk and try to -- I'm hetero now. do that again. I think I'm hetero. MORGAN: It's never too late. The brilliant Rosie O'Donnell. That's all for us tonight.

Tomorrow, I'll sit down for an extraordinary anniversary week hour with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Roslyn. That's tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern.

"AC 360" starts right now.