Rosie O’Donnell didn’t curse this time.
After serving as host of the Matrix Awards four years ago, when she sparked controversy for launching an f-bomb, blasting Rupert Murdoch and colorfully picking apart Donald Trump, O’Donnell was on her best behavior at the 2011 Matrix Awards at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York on Monday, when she presented an award to her publicist, Cindi Berger of PMK.
This story first appeared in the April 12, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“She told me the [New York Women in Communications] staff needed to see my speech, hoping to fulfill her goal as publicist and protector as well as friend,” said O’Donnell, with the room bursting into laughter.
“I figure I’m safe since Arianna already said keek azz,” she continued, referring to Arianna Huffington’s Greek-accented description of another honoree, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.
O’Donnell closed out her remarks on Berger by saying, “Without her, I wouldn’t be around. I would be on a macadamia nut farm with Roseanne Barr wearing overalls, going, ‘What the’” — she paused for emphasis since she didn’t say the dirty word — “‘happened?’”
After Berger accepted her award, another client of hers, John Legend, took to a balcony in the far corner and performed two songs, “Shine” and “Ordinary People,” which earned the loudest applause and shrieks from the audience eating lunch down below. Other honorees this year included PBS’ Gwen Ifill, A&E chief executive officer Abbe Raven, Broadway performer Idina Menzel, advertising executive Robin Koval, 89-year-old actress Betty White and Gina Sanders, ceo of Fairchild Fashion Group, WWD’s parent company.
“I believe it is exactly the sense of adventure and the unknown that makes our business so exciting and — dare I say — fun,” said Sanders in her acceptance speech, after being introduced by Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president of The Estée Lauder Cos.
“It’s wonderful to be a role model at 89 — it’s wonderful to be anything at 89,” said White upon getting the award, speaking via satellite from Los Angeles, where she was presented her Lifetime Achievement Award by former co-star Valerie Harper.
The awards ceremony was hosted by More editor Lesley Jane Seymour after original host Sandra Lee pulled out after a relative of hers fell ill. Seymour apologized that the audience was going to miss Lee’s “juicy bits” on her sex life with her boyfriend, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
But the event didn’t go entirely without the f-word. The final award went out to “Wicked” star Menzel, who concluded her remarks by saying, “Last thing, for Rosie, if you are ever in your life getting some award and you think, Why me, just keep moving and say ‘Why the f–k not?’”
O’Donnell pumped her fist triumphantly.