The Rosie Trial | Day Six

ROSIE O'DONNELL'S FINAL DAY OF COURT TESTIMONY

Wisecracks, Anger and Publishing Naivete

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- "And here we are," said Rosie O'Donnell from the witness chair of Friday's courtroom proceeding.
Photo: AP
Rosie O'Donnell said she removed family photos from her office to protect them from the bad vibrations of Gruner & Jahr CEO Dan Brewster.

Previous Courtroom Stories:
G&J EXEC REBUTS ROSIE O'DONNELL CLAIMS
Says There Was No Apology for Breast Cancer Insult
THE STAR TAKES THE STAGE AT THE ROSIE TRIAL
Ms. O'Donnell Begins Testimony About a Magazine Deal Gone Sour
ROSIE'S CHIEF ADVERSARY TAKES THE STAND
CEO Dan Brewster Fiercely Defends Gruner & Jahr Actions
GRUNER & JAHR EXEC BREAKS DOWN ON WITNESS STAND
CMO Describes Breast Cancer Insult by Rosie O'Donnell
ROSIE'S COURTROOM DAY 3: LEGAL LUMPS AND HIGH ABSURDITY
Gruner & Jahr Appears to Strengthen Case on Editorial Control Issue
ROSIE O'DONNELL'S BATTLES WITH EDITORS DETAILED
Testimony Describes Screaming Matches, Struggle Over Magazine Focus
ROSIE O'DONNELL AND GRUNER & JAHR TRIAL OPENS
Opponents Flail Each Other Over Who Did What at 'Rosie' Magazine

"And here we are. That's right," countered her foe, Martin Hyman, an attorney for Gruner & Jahr Publishing USA.

During its sixth day of courtroom proceedings, G&J vs. Rosie O'Donnell was dominated by "The O'Donnell Show," as testimony from Ms. O'Donnell swallowed up the morning and testimony from her brother Ed, a top marketing executive at NBC, ended the day.

Subdued
Ms. O'Donnell appeared for the most part subdued and controlled, save for the odd wisecrack and flash of anger or anxiety. At times during Mr. Hyman's cross-examination, Ms. O'Donnell's publicist, Cindi Berger, nodded slowly at the star from her perch in the gallery's front row, as if to encourage or reassure her. If attorneys for her onetime publishing partner had banked on Ms. O'Donnell's temper flaring while on the witness stand, they left for lunch disappointed.

Still, Mr. Hyman, G&J's lead attorney, caught the star in some contradictions. He began by asking her, "You have said the truth always wins, have you not?" and then demanded to know if she ever exaggerated. To which Ms. O'Donnell parried: "As a comedienne, that's sometimes part of my job." But Mr. Hyman immediately forced Ms. O'Donnell to admit that she told G&J's chief marketing officer, Cindy Spengler -- a breast cancer survivor -- "that people who lie get cancer." Ms. O'Donnell had denied in a People magazine article and, more critically, in a pre-trial deposition having made the statement.

'Sopranos' cover
Just before, though, in her direct examination, Ms. O'Donnell made light of G&J's portrayal of her as volatile and abusive. She spoke of her reaction to a proposed Rosie cover photo showing her flanked by two stars of The Sopranos. Unlikely as it may sound on its face, this cover disagreement has emerged as the pivotal point at which the relationship between Ms. O'Donnell and G&J irrevocably soured. She testified she delivered a tirade at editor in chief Susan Toepfer that, in part, expressed her extreme displeasure at appearing "in the center with my [expletive] face and my [expletive] ugly [expletive] stomach." She also told Ms. Toepfer: "You need to understand this is not your magazine."

"Mind you, it was much louder when I said it," she added.

Dabbed her eyes
Ms. O'Donnell dabbed at her eyes around one part of her testimony in which she admitted to severing contact temporarily with her business manager and brother-in-law, Dan Crimmins, as troubles with the magazine mounted. "Sometimes during a war, people are killed in friendly fire," she said. She also admitted to directing the magazine's creative director, Doug Turshen, to remove her children's photos from her office after Mr. Brewster held a meeting in it. "I no longer felt it was a safe place for me or my family," she said, referring to Mr. Brewster's access to her office. "I didn't want his vibrations anywhere near my children's spirit."

Few warm feelings surfaced during her cross-examination. "I felt there was a coup d'etat," she said, when asked about the issue of editorial control that is at the heart of her breach of contract charge.

A moment of celebrity weirdness came when the cross-examination revealed that for a time, e-mail sent out from Ms. O'Donnell's address was actually composed by other people cutting and pasting pre-produced chunks of text that seemed sufficiently O'Donnell-esque.

Serious naivete
Another came when Ms. O'Donnell revealed some serious naivete about the magazine world. In response to a question regarding a Vanity Fair article about the troubles at Rosie, she said, "No Vanity Fair celebrity profile ever comes out well" -- a statement certain to puzzle those familiar with that magazine's puffball celebrity features. She went on to liken that article's writer, Judith Newman, to "the nebbishy Jewish girl who worked for the [audiovisual squad]" in high school.

Judge Ira Gammerman told the courtroom he wants the trial to end Nov. 10, and has informed attorneys they will not deliver oral closing summations. It's expected it could be months before he reaches his verdict concerning G&J's and Ms. O'Donnell's competing $100 million breach-of-contract claims

G&J's attorneys may have failed to upstage Ms. O'Donnell, but the same might not be said about her brother Ed, whose testimony was arguably funnier and whose allegations against G&J were potentially more damaging, if not in the courtroom then in the world beyond its doors.

Overstated newsstand figures
He said Ms. Spengler, the chief marketing officer, told him G&J submitted overstated newsstand sales figures to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which tracks magazine circulation, and reassured him "everyone does it all the time."

Mr. O'Donnell, senior vice president of marketing for NBC, also recounted a meeting that both he and Mr. Brewster testified reduced Ms. O'Donnell to tears, and said he reassured his sister the matter was no big deal: "I work in marketing. People tend to be mean sometimes." He testified he told Ms. O'Donnell that what she perceived as Mr. Brewster's extreme insensitivity toward Mr. O'Donnell only qualified as "medium-level meanness."

Lost money?
As a long week in court drew to a close Friday, Judge Gammerman expressed amazement over the business condition of the magazine. "This magazine lost $18 million in 16 months? Is that right? Because there was some income," he asked of the attorneys.

The unvoiced thought-bubble hanging over some heads in the courtroom: "Welcome to the magazine business, Judge Gammerman."

In light of Judge Gammerman's wonderment and the magazine's dollar-draining ways, ironists will note with pleasure a letter placed in evidence that Ms. O'Donnell wrote to her partner, Kelli Carpenter, in which the star stated: "I have never taken a job for money (except this [expletive] magazine)."

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