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Ms. O’Donnell’s latest media venture

As part of this past weekend’s Athena Film Festival, Barnard Bearoness Maddie Stearn attended the premiere of Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Stand Up on Saturday afternoon. She laughed, she cried, she learned about heart disease – just as one would expect the life story of Ms. O’Donnell would go.

When I sat down to watch Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Stand Up, I had no idea how much of a treat I was in for. Someone else apparently did, however, because it seemed like there were cameras everywhere. Official-looking people in suits and heels ran around looking busy while I decided that I should probably stop looking at my phone in case I missed anything. Pretty soon a large group of people started filing into the row that was taped off with signs saying, “RESERVED” with the HBO logo.

When the HBO crowd was seated I had my first Rosie O’Donnell sighting of the afternoon. I proceeded to take horribly blurry pictures of her. In hindsight I feel pretty bad about violating her privacy like this. However, I will share one picture in which it looks like she is giving me some well-deserved side eye. In reality she wasn’t actually looking at me. (See bottom of post for this amazing photo.)

Confession time: before Saturday my Rosie O’Donnell knowledge was pretty limited. I loved A League of Their Own and Sleepless in Seattle and I enjoyed Tarzan as a kid, but those are the only items on her resume that I can remember. I once received a picnic blanket of hers as a gift (I’m dead serious) from my mom’s friend who won it at a Broadway charity auction. The blanket lives in my car. I sat on it once at an outdoor movie and once used it to get my car unstuck when I accidentally drove over a concrete parking stop. 

After seeing A Heartfelt Stand Up I decided I should remedy my lack of O’Donnell knowledge because she seems like a kickass lady. Her comedy is amazing and she somehow managed to find a funny take on the near-fatal heart attack she suffered in 2012. She even coined a new term to describe the symptoms of a heart attack in women: “HEPPP,” which stands for: “Hot / Exhausted / Pain / Pale / Puke.”

Apparently this was the best variation because all of the others had too many consonants. Barnard’s very own DSpar hosted the panel afterwards. The guests included Rosie O’Donnell, Dr. Alison Spatz, Dr. Holly Anderson, and British Robinson (CEO of the Women’s Heart Alliance). The conversation focused largely on women and heart disease, sharing little-known facts as well as raising awareness. Here is some of the most striking information that the panelists shared:

  • Over 70% of women do not call 911 when exhibiting signs of a heart attack
  • 90% of men do call 911 when exhibiting signs of a heart attack
  • 30,000 women die each year from breast cancer; 300,000 women die each year from heart disease
  • Heart disease is the number one killer of women
  • The symptoms of heart disease are different in women (see HEPPP)

Needless to say I left convinced that my death is imminent. At the same time I was still pretty content because Rosie O’Donnell managed to convey the seriousness of heart disease while continuing to be absolutely hilarious. Some of my favorite quotes from the panel were:

  • “You’re making me nervous.” – DSpar
  • On Sheila Nevins pitching the documentary: “When Sheila says do it, I do it. And I now have to bring every potential spouse to her for screening. She made me promise that before today’s event.” – Rosie O’Donnell
  • “We put [the documentary] through a bunch of doctors to check that everything I said was accurate because sometimes, like Brian Williams, I forget.” – Rosie O’Donnell
  • While riffing on Brian Williams: “I wrote and directed A League of Their Own. Wait a minute! I was just in it. Shit, I forgot.” – Rosie O’Donnell
  • “And now we’ve got Brian fucking Williams saying, ‘I discovered electricity!’ Will that deflect from my divorce, do you think?” – Rosie O’Donnell

When the panel finished everyone either shuffled out or tried to get a picture with Rosie O’Donnell. I just kind of stood near her, hoping to catch more bits of wisdom. As she was leaving I blurted out, “Can I shake your hand?!” Luckily she did not hear my embarrassing outburst and was quickly ushered out by her Handler. As I exited Miller I received a handy bracelet reminding me what HEPPP is and made a mental note to call my mom to make sure she learns about HEPPP, too.

Rosie O’Donnell: A Heartfelt Stand Up will premiere on HBO on Valentine’s Day. All of you should watch it.

For more information on women and heart disease visit the Go Red for Women website.

Rosie paparazzi: