Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Meeting Rosie

Last month while discussing the View, I made reference to having actually met Rosie O'Donnell once before. So, since I've got time, here's the full story.

It was the first week of September in 1984 (23 years ago from this week in fact). I was nineteen at the time and back in college at RIT in Rochester, NY, to start my sophomore year. Of course, I hadn't been away all summer. I had come back for at least one of the long weekends during the summer to help out as part of the Student Orientation Service (SOS).

SOS was a group of volunteer students who helped make the transition to our college for incoming freshman and transfer students a little more enjoyable. During the summer, we did two weekends for freshmen (and their parents) and one weekend for transfers. As part of those weekends, we helped them with their academic scheduling, provided tours of the campus, put on skits to ease the minds of parents of first time college students, and generally were there to help answer any questions we could about their upcoming RIT experience. We stayed on the floors in the dorms with the students or parents (we really worked hard to separate them for the whole weekend as each group were looking for different answers and such) and we were encouraged to sit down with groups of them in the dining halls to again give them a welcome feel.

Of course, after long days of information overload, we wanted the kids and parents to kick back a bit in the evenings. Some of us were scheduled to socialize with the parents in the Ritskeller, the campus bar. Others were handling events like on-campus films, dances and comedy shows.

What we did for the summer weekends we also did, in part, in the Fall. This was usually during the week prior to the school year starting. Any students who didn't make a summer program could take part in the Fall ones. And we still had social events in the evening too, and that's kind of where Rosie comes into the picture.

At that time, Rosie O'Donnell was still a stand-up comedienne who was known mostly in the New York State area. This was before her big national exposure on Star Search. Our social activities committee had seen her in a Rochester club earlier that Spring and booked her as a comedy act for our Fall orientation. Since she herself was just beyond the college age, it seemed like a great fit. And she was clearly someone our budget could afford. Anyway, I can say how her act was at the time - I wasn't working the comedy show (I was on duty to work the dance that evening).

After the dance and other events ended for the evening, we had to do our usual tasks (clean up, breakdown of the dance floor, etc.). By 1:00am and a long exhausting day, it was time for the SOS crew to unwind like we always did. We headed back to the dorm buildings and down to one of the activity rooms in the basement of one of the dorms. There we proceeded with that evening's After-Hours Party. Yup, hard working volunteer college students took some time to have some snacks and drinks and chill out a bit. So, we're all just hanging out, some of us playing some drinking games, and in walk some of the committee members with someone in tow. Lo and behold, it's Rosie. They had been talking to her after the last comedy set and invited her to hang out with us. Lots of us had a chance to talk to her that evening, and she was happy to be in a number of pictures snapped that night. She seemed to fit right in, again due to the whole close age thing. And of course, she was funny. That was definitely one After-Hours party for the books.

Of course, none of us knew then how big of a celebrity she would become. Some folks stayed in touch with her after that night, and she soon let us know that she'd be on Star Search (hosted by Ed McMahon). Naturally we all watched to see how Rosie would fair. After that, her career exploded to the level of fame/infamy she is at today. But three dozen or so SOS members can say "I remember Rosie when...".

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