Rosie O’Donnell takes the stage at the Levity Live Comedy Club inside the Palisades Center – a mall in Nyack, NY, where Rosie used to live – to share hilarious insights about her life as a newly remarried wife and a mother of five children, and to offer a deeply personal recounting of the heart attack she survived over two years ago – an experience that opened her eyes and drove her to become a women’s heart-health advocate.
Displaying the signature candor that’s made her a household name, Rosie boasts that she was at this very same mall the day it opened 18 years earlier adding that she was not there as a celebrity – that honor fell to “Arthur the Aardvark.” Today, she’s a mom with five children, each of whom has provided her with special joys and (especially the four teenagers) patience-testing challenges. There’s 18-year-old Parker, who’s pursuing a military career and constantly pushes her buttons; 11-year-old wannabe performer Vivian, who once proclaimed to her mother, “Why can’t you be more like Ellen?” (not realizing Rosie was Ellen before Ellen was Ellen); and the most recent addition to her family, 15-month-old Dakota. Rosie also touches on her undying love for Barbara Streisand (who once stayed as a guest in Rosie’s house in Miami), her attitudes towards male genitalia and her second chance at romance with current wife Michelle, a “Lipstick Lesbian” she met at Starbucks.
When Michelle convalesced after beating a rare illness a few years ago, Rosie admits to being a little jealous when Streisand, Cyndi Lauper and Penny Marshall called – not to console Rosie, but to chat with Michelle. Not to be overlooked, Rosie had the last word when she had her own health crisis in August 2012. After helping an obese woman exit her car at the hospital following one of Michelle’s checkups, she experienced hot sensations and severe pain in her shoulders. Refusing to believe it was serious, Rosie put off medical treatment for over two days before eventually visiting a cardiologist – who told her she’d had a serious heart attack. Rushed to a hospital in an ambulance, Rosie was surrounded by nurses who chatted her up about A League of Their Own, and prepared her for a difficult surgery that few with her condition had survived. She made it through the surgery. Looking back, “I didn’t know I had a heart attack,” she admits, “so I thought maybe the reason I didn’t die is because I have a public voice and I can share the facts with everybody.”
Grateful to be alive, Rosie ends the show by sharing a useful acronym of her own creation with the audience: HEPPP, intended to help women remember the symptoms of a heart attack: Hot, Exhausted, Pain, Pale and Puke. Between the pathos and laughs, Rosie leaves her audience a critical message about heart disease and staying alive: “Please call 911, know the signs, and save yourself.”