Thursday, September 26, 2002

'It's my name'

Rosie's leaving no surprise

        Tiger Woods spent six months checking out the dimples on Nike's solid-core ball. He studied the spin rate. The trajectory. Oprah read the books. Anthony Munoz sits on the couches he hawks.

        Otherwise, they might wake up one morning like Kathie Lee Gifford, who rented her name to Wal-Mart only to discover her clothing was being made in sweatshops.

        “Every one of us — from the entertainer who lends her name to the consumer in the stores — has an obligation to know how and why a garment was made.” Ms. Gifford later said, tossing the hot potato back in the laps of buyers she'd recruited.

Not a dabbler

        Not that anybody would buy a magazine on my recommendation (other than my mother), but I wanted to know what Rosie O'Donnell had in mind before I agreed to write for her magazine. “Real stories about real people,” a senior editor told me when I was asked to do an article on Francie Pepper's work for the YWCA's shelter for battered women.

        When I suggested talking to a woman at the shelter as well, the editor said, “Terrific. Just what we had in mind.” Later I was told “She likes it.”

        Meaning Rosie herself. Although she wasn't around the office much, her influence was mighty.

        She's not a dabbler.

        When I visited a Florida agency for abused children, kids there said Rosie “comes here a lot,” bearing money and merchandise. Her concern for children is not shtick. It was a continuing theme in her magazine.

        Before I was sent to Littleton, Colo., to interview a survivor of the Columbine High School massacre, the memo said “RO doesn't want much on the shooters.” No surprise. “RO” has made her views on guns abundantly clear.

        In a heated TV interview, Tom Selleck protested, “I'm not a spokesperson for the NRA.” Rosie replied, “But you can't say you won't take responsibility for anything the NRA represents if you're going to do an ad for the NRA.”

        It's hard to believe that publisher Gruner + Jahr's executives were “shocked” she was leaving the magazine and taking her name with her. But I can believe they were “saddened.” Advertising dollars were up 79 percent in August and circulation was at about 3.8 million, according to the Magazine Publishers of America.

        When editor Cathy Cavender was replaced by a former People magazine editor in July, the scuttlebutt was that G+J thought newsstand sales had suffered from Rosie's choice of covers with “second-tier” celebrities.

        So, instead of Laura San Giacomo talking about her son's cerebral palsy and Fran Drescher's uterine cancer, I wondered if we could expect stories on Britney's navel surgery. And the new editor was not Rosie's choice.

        You'd have to have your head in a vat of ink not to notice that if you push Rosie, she'll push back. “It's my name,” she said. “And if you want to use it, I have to be involved.”

        So, December will be the last issue. And a reminder that some celebrities — whether they're putting their imprint on golf balls or furniture or books or magazines — still think a name comes equipped with an actual person.

        E-mail or phone 768-8393.



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