Why Rosie O'Donnell disappeared from Hollywood

From 1996 to about 2010, Rosie O'Donnell was everywhere—TV, Broadway, even on the ocean with her cruise line. Then it all came crashing down. What happened, where did she go, and what is she up to now?

She left her hit show to focus on personal matters

Since its inception in 1996, The Rosie O'Donnell Show was one of the highest rated daytime TV shows of all time. The series launched everything from the popularity of the infamous Tickle Me Elmo toy to O'Donnell's own nickname, "The Queen of Nice." The program nabbed five Daytime Emmys for best talk show and was still growing in popularity when O'Donnell walked away in 2002.

The show's namesake announced in 2000 that she would not renew her contract when it expired, claiming she wanted to focus on her charity work and family life. Because she left at her peak, the series was remembered fondly, yet O'Donnell was unable to maintain her momentum after the exit.

She alienated audiences and advertisers

O'Donnell came out as gay in 2000, cut her hair, and seemed to unveil a new, more authentic self. People reported that her comedy material became more abrasive, and she began referring to herself as "a b**ch who ain't so nice and just a big-mouthed fat lesbian." Unfortunately, it seemed society wasn't ready for an outspoken lesbian on television, and her popularity took a hit. She also grew increasingly vocal about her liberal politics, which further alienated parts of her fan base.

Advertisers and even O'Donnell's employers struggled to accept her evolving persona. Gruner + Jahr, publishers of O'Donnell's Rosie magazine, said in a statement, "She has walked away from her television show, her brand, her public personality, her civility—and now her fans, the advertising community, her business partner and her contractual responsibilities."

She has no filter

With time, audiences adjusted and O'Donnell found a prestigious new home on The View. One of the reasons she was great on the talk show's panel was because she was so outspoken. Unfortunately, her lack of a filter ended up landing her in hot water more than once. Her biggest misstep was in 2006, when she used "ching chong" to describe Asian people on air. Her televised apology was almost as offensive as the off-color joke itself:

"This [joke] apparently was very offensive to a lot of Asian people," O'Donnell said on air (via People). "So I asked Judy, who's Asian and works here in our hair and makeup department. I said, 'Was it offensive to you?' And she said, 'Well, kinda. When I was a kid people did tease me by saying ching-chong.'" She added, "So apparently 'ching-chong,' unbeknownst to me, is a very offensive way to make fun, quote-unquote, or mock, Asian accents. Some people have told me it's as bad as the n-word. I was like, really? I didn't know that. I never intended to hurt anyone, and I'm sorry for those people who felt hurt or were teased on the playground," she continued. "There's a good chance that I'll do something like that again…not on purpose."

She feuded with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck

During her first stint The View in 2007, liberal O'Donnell locked horns with conservative co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck. It turned personal when O'Donnell and Hasselbeck locked horns over the Iraq War. Their heated on-air tiff made national headlines. O'Donnell opted not to renew her contract after the incident, but the New York Daily News reported that the funny lady said she was actually fired from The View by creator and co-host Barbara Walters.

She fought with co-host Rosie Perez

The Daily Mail reported that O'Donnell beefed big time with one-time close pal Rosie Perez during Perez's brief tenure on The View. The co-hosts argued about almost everything, particularly the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby. Sources told the Daily Mail that after O'Donnell mocked Perez's views on air, Perez approached ABC brass and demanded O'Donnell be fired. ABC reps denied rumors of any such feud.

She didn't get along with Whoopi Goldberg

Insiders told Variety that O'Donnell and fellow The View co-host Whoopi Goldberg often butted heads, especially during O'Donnell's second stint on the panel. At that time, Goldberg had essentially taken over O'Donnell's previous spot as the show's moderator.

O'Donnell allegedly felt that Goldberg wasn't open enough to opposing views and didn't enable "candid discussion" about the Cosby rape allegations. Sources claimed O'Donnell also took issue with Goldberg occasionally arriving late to morning meetings.

The duo often argued on-air too (despite both being on the left side of the political spectrum), particularly about race. The Daily Mail reported that the pair almost came to blows during a heated argument in September 2014, which was witnessed by the entire studio audience.

"I think Rosie and Whoopi together was not peaches and cream," co-host and creator Barbara Walters told Vanity Fair in May 2015. "And I don't think we needed the two of them together. It was not a combination that I would have thought was a natural."

She feuded with other staff members on The View

Her co-hosts weren't the only View staffers who had issues with O'Donnell. Page Six reported that Senior Producer Jennifer Shepard-Brookman "brashly berated" O'Donnell so badly during her 2015 tenure on the show that O'Donnell, her co-hosts, and other staffers reported the incident to ABC's human resources. Shepard-Brookman got the boot.

The incident led to a lawsuit. According to the Daily Mail, Shepard-Brookman claimed she was actually the victim of O'Donnell's brutal temper—an allegation O'Donnell and her legal team fiercely denied.

Her health was in trouble

O'Donnell told The Hollywood Reporter that her health played a role in leaving The View for the second time. The stress of the show reportedly took a toll on her wellbeing. She suffered a heart attack in 2012 and has been cautious ever since. "[My health] got a little bit worse right before the holidays—[my doctor] was kind of concerned," said O'Donnell. "I can't really fix [my personal life] right away, but I can fix [my job]."

She got a divorce

In February 2015, O'Donnell filed for divorce from her second wife, Michelle Rounds, after three years of marriage and four years as a couple, citing that the marriage was "irretrievably broken." The pair had separated months earlier. The split led to a custody battle over daughter Dakota, who Rounds and O'Donnell adopted together in 2013.

A source close to O'Donnell told Page Six that "Rounds [was] using the baby as a weapon" in order to get more money from a divorce settlement, despite the couple having an "iron-clad prenuptial agreement" that regulated the pair's finances in the case of a breakup.

An insider told Page Six the split was rooted in issues within the couples' families. "Rosie has four older children [with first wife Kelli Carpenter], but Michelle was never really present in the family," the source said.

Rounds' attorney denied the claims, saying she was a devoted mother and that her custody requests were for the welfare of Dakota; not for financial gain.

In September 2015, TMZ reported that Rounds suffered an overdose of prescription pills. O'Donnell reportedly counseled her through the incident, despite the acrimony of their divorce proceedings. A month later, Entertainment Tonight reported that O'Donnell and Rounds settled the divorce and agreed to joint custody of Dakota, though O'Donnell would later tell fans that Rounds was no longer in Dakota's life.

She lost her father

In August 2015, amid the drama of her divorce from Rounds and her exit from The View, O'Donnell faced another terrible loss. Her father passed away.

Page Six reported that O'Donnell's father, Edward, had been battling cancer when he died at age 82. O'Donnell's relationship with her father was a rocky one, but they'd made amends not long before his passing.

She told CNN's Piers Morgan in 2012, "He had his own issues and demons… You get to be 50 years old, you can't still be angry at what your father did in 1970… I have forgiven him."

Edward's death left O'Donnell an orphan. Her mother passed away from breast cancer in 1973.

She had issues with her daughter

One of the reasons O'Donnell left The View was to deal with her troubled daughter, Chelsea. In August 2015, Chelsea was reported missing, only to be found at the New Jersey home of a convicted heroin dealer that she'd reportedly met on Tinder. That October, Chelsea blasted O'Donnell as a "pot-smoking phony" in an interview with the Daily Mail.

Chelsea and O'Donnell reconciled by summer 2016, but Chelsea's problems were far from over. In September 2016, Chelsea was hospitalized for an alleged drug overdose.

In May 2017, Chelsea gave another interview with the Daily Mail, accusing O'Donnell of being verbally abusive and of threatening her with physical violence. Chelsea said she secretly married boyfriend Nick Alliegro after discovering she was pregnant. When the couple suffered a miscarriage, Nick claimed O'Donnell "never seemed to care or even asked any questions, like it didn't matter to her."

O'Donnell denied Chelsea's allegations, telling the Daily Mail, "Chelsea is mentally ill. [She] has been in and out of hospitals most of her life. Born addicted to heroin. She has had a tough road. As for her comments, I assume you are paying her, which is why she is selling these tales to you… She is very sick. She is not capable of truth or reason." O'Donnell added, "As a mother, my request is that you not pay her and leave her alone… It is comforting to know she is still alive, so thank you for that part."

She may have been a homewrecker

O'Donnell was accused of having an affair with former Broadway star Dana Caruso Schiff, allegedly leading to the actress' divorce from husband David "Scott" Schiff and even playing a role in the estranged couple's custody battle. Sources claimed Scott was concerned about Dana's alleged relationship with O'Donnell because of the drama in O'Donnell's family life, particularly the conflicts with Chelsea.

"Dana's late-night escapades became so frequent that even their [Upper East Side] building's doormen began to suspect that she was having an affair," a source told Radar Online. "[Dana] stopped wearing dresses, and cut her hair short. I think she was trying to look different because of her new relationship with Rosie."

O'Donnell's reps denied those claims.

She was romantically linked to another celeb

In September 2015, it was revealed that O'Donnell was "romantically involved" with troubled actress Tatum O'Neal. People reported that the couple had a bi-coastal relationship and were "crazy about each other." The pair supposedly called it quits just four weeks after news of their alleged romance hit the press.

"In their four months together, they went through a lot: Rosie's father died, her daughter [Chelsea] ran away," a source told People. "There was a lot of of tumult. It was too much."

O'Donnell's reps denied she and O'Neal were ever more than friends.

Her feud with Donald Trump made her feel unsafe

O'Donnell's beef with President Donald Trump is longstanding and warranted. He has attacked her in the press for years, and his politics don't align with hers.

She compared Trump supporters to Nazis and encouraged her Twitter followers to play a game in which users can throw Trump off a cliff. That said, aside from Twitter, she's been keeping a lower profile since her former television nemesis is now the leader of the free world.

In May 2017, O'Donnell told audiences at a comedy show (via Page Six), "This is the second time I've been in public since he's been elected because I go to the mall sometimes and Trump people go, 'Hey f**k you.'" She added, "The boys in public school in New Jersey said to my 14-year-old daughter the next day, 'Tell your mom I'm gonna grab your p***y.' [The feud with Trump] has affected my entire life and my entire family for a tremendous amount of years—over a decade."

Her ex-wife committed suicide

O'Donnell's ex-wife was found dead in her apartment on Sept. 11, 2017. Rounds was 46 years old and apparently committed suicide, according to TMZ.

"I am saddened to hear about this terrible tragedy," O'Donnell said in a statement. "Mental illness is a very serious issue affecting many families. My thoughts and prayers go out to Michelle's family, her wife and their child."

She can make a comeback...if she wants to

Though O'Donnell's recent forays into television haven't been too successful—her revamp of The Rosie O'Donnell Show on OWN lasted only one season—don't count her out.

She's charitable (having donated close to $100 million to causes she believes in), hilarious, and still has a lot of name recognition (especially with Trump as president). Her best bet would likely be to kickstart her stand-up comedy career again, using the platform to raise awareness for her pet causes, such as LGBTQ rights.

It would also be great to watch O'Donnell act again. Her ensemble parts in A League of Their Own (1992) and Now and Then (1995), as well as her recurring role on The Fosters (2013-), were memorable. Acting may allow her to be creative without stretching herself (or her audiences) too thin.