As the host of her eponymous daytime talk show, Ellen DeGeneres chatted up film and television actors, pop musicians and even heads of state.
Noticeably absent from DeGeneres’ couch during the show’s 19-season run, however, was Rosie O’Donnell. Appearing on “Watch What Happens Live” Thursday, O’Donnell shared the reason she never made an appearance.
“We had a little bit of a weird thing,” she told host Andy Cohen. “After my show went off the air and hers was coming on the air, Larry King was on with Ellen and he said, ‘Whatever happened to Rosie O’Donnell? Her show went down the tubes! She came out as a lesbian and disappeared!’”
She continued: “And Ellen said, and I’m quoting, ‘I don’t know Rosie. We’re not friends.’ I was in bed with [my ex-wife] Kelli [Carpenter] and I went, ‘Did I just hear that, or was that a hallucination?’ No, that’s what happened. It hurt my feelings like a baby, and I never really got over it.”
Watch Rosie O’Donnell’s “Watch What Happens Live” appearance below.
O’Donnell’s claim may surprise some fans, given that she and DeGeneres have had similar personal and professional trajectories. Both are daytime TV veterans who got their start on the stand-up comedy circuit before parlaying their talents into successful acting careers.
The two women also used their public platforms to come out as lesbians and went on to become outspoken LGBTQ rights advocates at a time when queer visibility in Hollywood was considerably rarer than it is today.
Interestingly, DeGeneres was a guest on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” in 1996, where she proclaimed herself to be “Lebanese,” a wink at the media speculation regarding her sexuality.
The interview aired just months before “The Puppy Episode” of the ABC sitcom “Ellen,” in which DeGeneres’ character, Ellen Morgan, came out as gay. DeGeneres herself would do so in an issue of Time magazine published to coincide with the episode.
Interestingly, O’Donnell said producers did eventually invite her to be a guest on DeGeneres’ talk show to promote her Showtime series, “SMILF,” which wrapped in 2019 after two seasons.
“I wanted to bring someone with me because I thought it might be a little less awkward, and they didn’t want to do that,” she said. Still, she harbors no hard feelings toward DeGeneres, adding: “I wish her all good things in her life and that she should be well. So, there you go.”