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Rosie O'Donnell, comedian and television talk show host, was born the third of five children to Edward and Roseann O'Donnell. She was born and raised in Commack, New York, on Long Island. Her mother died of cancer when she was 10 years old, which she describes as the defining event of her life. Her mother's death was a mystery to her as she was not told what her mother died of until she was 16. Her father was emotionally ill-equipped to raise his children, according to O'Donnell, and she dealt with his detachment by immersing herself in television shows. She is currently estranged from her father.

O'Donnell attended both Dickinson College and Boston University, but she dropped out to pursue her career in comedy. She had first taken the stage at 16, pirating a show she had seen Jerry Seinfield perform. She was later told she would have to write her own material. She toured comedy clubs from 1979-1984 before becoming a five-time comedy champion on the television show "Star Search." She was one of very few women doing stand-up comedy at the time. She drew enough attention as a comedian that she was asked to become host and executive producer of "Stand-Up Spotlight" on VH-1.

O'Donnell has appeared in several films, such as A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, and BEAUTIFUL GIRLS. She has typically been cast in supporting roles as a best friend or confidante to the lead. After adopting her first son in 1995, she traded Hollywood for her own television talk-variety show, "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," so that she would be home for her son. The show had the highest premiere ratings of any talk show of the past decade. She won an Emmy for best talk show host in the show's first season and has won several since. She has adopted two more children, and unlike many show business mothers, she raises them without the help of nannies. O'Donnell currently lives in Nyack, New York, in the Helen Hayes Mansion.

CHRONOLOGY

1962 She was born in Commack, New York (March 21).

1972 Her mother died.

1979 She began touring comedy clubs.

1980 She graduated from Commack South High School.

1986 She appeared as Nell Carter's neighbor on the sitcom GIMME A BREAK. She was asked to host and produce "Stand-Up Spotlight" on VH-1.

1992 A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, film; STAND BY YOUR MAN, television series

1993 SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, ANOTHER STAKEOUT, films

1994 THE FLINTSTONES, EXIT TO EDEN, films; GREASE, Broadway musical

1995 NOW AND THEN, film; She adopted her son, Parker Jaren.

1996 BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, HARRIET THE SPY, A VERY BRADY SEQUEL, films; "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" first aired (June 10).

1997 She adopted her daughter, Chelsea Belle. She received an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host; She hosted the Tony Awards.

1998 WIDE AWAKE, film. She received an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show and tied with Oprah Winfrey for Outstanding Talk Show Host.

1999 She adopted her son, Blake Christopher. She received an Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show, Outstanding Talk Show Host, and Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Special.