The bitter breach-of-contract trial between Rosie O’Donnell and her onetime magazine publisher, Gruner + Jahr, didn’t so much wrap up Wednesday as it just seemed to fizzle into the damp, rainy Manhattan air.
New York State Supreme Court Judge Ira Gammerman said that G+J’s case against Rosie was “ill-conceived” and made it clear that neither side was likely to be awarded substantial damages, according to reports.
The jurist’s “ill-conceived” remark was based on the fact that there was no reasonable certainty that Rosie magazine would make any money for the publisher in the first place, reports Reuters.
G+J sued the former TV talk show host for $100 million, saying she breached her contract by walking away in September 2002 over editorial differences. The publisher also tried to paint O’Donnell as a changed woman, morphing from Queen of Nice to uber-bitch — who outed herself as a lesbian as soon as her daytime talk show ended.
O’Donnell, 41, countersued for $125 million, saying the publisher took away her editorial control by booting the editor she had originally approved and hiring another without her input.
During the course of the two-week trial, O’Donnell also did what amounted to stand-up comedy routines for reporters outside the courtroom, charming the TV cameras until she finally lost her patience, asking the press if it didn’t have better stories to cover.
Gammerman said Wednesday that it was unlikely he would award substantial damages to either side but that he would withhold final judgment until he received fact and law findings from both parties.
Lawyers said they would be submitting their briefs in about a month.
On Monday, O’Donnell, when she was speaking to the press outside the courthouse, said she would abide by whatever Judge Gammerman decides and that she had no plans to appeal.
On Wednesday, during a type of victory party in a Manhattan bar, O’Donnell told The New York Times: “When things went wrong, I offered them peace, that we could both walk away, and help in putting out the last two issues of the magazine. They responded by suing me.”
The entertainer certainly has her hands full these days. Thursday night on Broadway, her $10 million musical “Taboo,” which she is financing by herself, will open for the public and for the critics. Advance word has been decidedly mixed, and there have been news reports that box-office sales have been sluggish, despite a glut of news coverage about the show and its producer.
Last Friday, the night before the event, O’Donnell canceled as auctioneer of the Juvenile Diabetes Promise Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria, PEOPLE reports. The call came from Rosie’s rep, Cindi Berger, who said O’Donnell was exhausted from the trial and too stressed to attend.
The charity did go on, however, with a professional auctioneer and Lorraine Bracco, of “The Sopranos.”
Local NBC News anchor Chuck Scarborough, Saturday’s emcee, announced Rosie’s cancellation to the more than 600 guests at the beginning of the dinner, and joked that her absence had a silver lining.
“It’s okay,” he said, “because we’re filing a $125-million breach-of-contract suit against Rosie.”