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2006-04-09 23:47:49

"All Aboard" With Rosie O'Donnell And Crew

Rosie O'Donnell has traded being nice for doing good.

For six years, she was daytime TV's "Queen of Nice," a moniker she says she never chose and wouldn't use. But since the show ended in 2002, O'Donnell has become an outspoken advocate for the parental rights of gay couples - an issue that strikes close to home for O'Donnell, her partner, Kelli, and their four children.

She's back on TV, as advocate and parent, in HBO's "All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise," a documentary that premiered Thursday about a cruise organized by Rosie and Kelli O'Donnell for gay parents and their kids.

Though gay single cruises have been common for years, O'Donnell says, her "R Family" vacation charters are the first to focus on gay families, "a subset of a subset." In their normal lives, O'Donnell says, gay families constantly face people who have opinions about their families. What she and Kelli hoped to create was a loving, nonjudgmental environment where people could just be themselves.

O'Donnell says she was touched by "the amount of gratitude people had for making a place where they can come together."

The sheer joy so many took in this escape was a surprise to her, she says, because fame and wealth shield her from many of the day-to-day assaults of homophobia. "That exists in a way that doesn't have a lot of resonance in my life."

Though the cruise was an O'Donnell family affair, she says, Kelli did all the hard organizing work. Rosie's role was to be "sort of Mickey on the Disney cruise." Walk around, do a show now and then.

Of course, that also meant she had to accept facing an HBO camera crew everywhere she went. "I told them they could only have three cameras and they had 27, but other than that, it was all fine."

Viewers also will get to see the O'Donnell children (Parker, 10, Chelsea, 8, Blake, 6, and Vivienne, 3).

BY ROBERT BIANCO, USA TODAY

 
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