03/20/01
Happy Birthday to Rosie
    by John Cech

That's Rosie O'Donnell doing stand up in the baby ward for the other newborns, from her HBO special, "Kids are Punny." Tomorrow is Rosie O'Donnell's birthday. There are few people working in the entertainment industry today who have been more of a public champion of children and the child-spirit, than Ms. O'Donnell. Her popular, day-time television program celebrates kids like few, if any, adult programs ever have. Children are regular guests on her show, they send her thousands letters and jokes, which are a constant source of humor on the program, and have led to two best-selling books -- Kids are Punny and Kids are Punny II. And every day Ms. O'Donnell seems to have a new squishy toy or some other kind of plaything that gets tossed, or flipped, or pitched into the audience, or to her guests. Hers is the least placid, the least formal, the least self-conscious, and one of the kindest show on television -- no wonder she has the adoring fans she does.

She was born and grew up on Long Island in the 1960s, the middle daughter of five children. As she tells her biographers, her Irish-American mother, Roseann, was her early model because of the quick, witty energy that her mother brought to life. "She did the equivalent of stand-up at PTA meetings," Rosie told one reporter, and people loved to be around her. Roseann also passed on to Rosie her complete devotion to musical theater, movies, and television -- passions that have since become part of Rosie's singular vitality, especially because of her astonishing, encyclopedic memory for the most obscure details of entertainment lore.

"I knew when I was four years old that I wanted to be in show business," Rosie told one biographer. "There was no choice for me." And many of us might want to add: Thank Goodness!

Copyright 2001 by John Cech

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:23:50 EDT


"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for the Study of Children's Literature and Media and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."