Rosie O'Donnell Talks Girlfriend, Gaydar, Oprah and Replacing Tom Cruise as No. 1 Crush

Returning talk host sits down with Nightline in advance of her OWN debut, and opens up about her personal and professional growth

By Gina Serpe Oct 10, 2011 2:59 PMTags

Sorry, Tom Cruise. Rosie O'Donnell still wants her lawn mowed and a glass of lemonade poured, but there's a new celeb she wants doing the handiwork.

And he just so happens to be the first guest on her new talk show, debuting tonight on OWN.

"He's replaced Tom Cruise, he has, and Tom knows, I sent him a little text, I said, 'Tommy, I'll always love you, move over, Russell Brand is in.' "

And while that's a cutie-patootie revelation, Rosie revealed way more personal information in her sitdown with Nightline ahead of tonight's premiere…

Starting with how she feels about the current love of her life, Michelle Rounds.

"So I walked into a Starbucks in the summer and she was holding a little puppy, and I was about to get another little puppy for Chels," she said, referring to her daughter, in a preview of the ABC interview airing tonight. "There's a 4-pound Pomeranian in her arms, and I thought she as a 28-year-old heterosexual girl, because that's what she looked like to me, and she's a 40-year-old gay woman."

"My gardar was way off," she laughed. "But I think if I had known that she was gay, I wouldn't have been brave enough to talk to her."

And while she's now happy with Rounds, a corporate IT headhunter in NYC, she still feels the pain of her divorce from Kelli Carpenter, whom she divorced in 2007 after three years together, and with whom she has three children.

"Dear God, yes, it was probably the most humiliating thing I've ever experienced in my life," she told Nightline when asked if she felt like she'd let gay people down. "And the most painful and the most humbling. To this day, still, part of me feels like, oh dear God no, why did that happen, how did this happen…

"It seemed to me like something inconceivable and the fact that it occurred was the hardest thing I've ever dealt with as an adult."

Harder, even, than passing Oprah's crazy check.

Prior to offering her the OWN gig, OWN chief—and Rosie's new boss—Oprah Winfrey visited O'Donnell at her home. Before leaving, she asked the returning host, "Are you in?" Rosie replied, "I'm all in."

And all there.

"Tell me the truth," she asked Oprah on her way out,"did you come here to see if I'm insane?

"You have a brand new network, you want to see, is this woman going to be screaming at anyone or is she very upset and can't keep her mouth shut? Is this woman a little off? I can't blame her, I would've done the same thing."

Oprah, meanwhile, also took time out to praise her new successor.

"As a producer, you're looking for people who are going to represent an authenticity and a connection to the audience, and I would say that in this business there are only a couple people who fit that description, and Rosie is at the very top of that list."

The Rosie Show debuts tonight on OWN.