Behind the Scenes

Ex-cop Bernie Young runs the show as Rosie O'Donnell's right-hand man

doing this but I never focused on that. I focused on being the best, period. Also, this was a job I could do mostly over the phone or [by writing] a letter. As for my clients, they didn’t care about race. What they cared about was that I made them money.

The money was important to me, too. I wanted to make a lot of money, but wealth, to me, is not just about money. I wanted to be wealthy in the sense that I wanted to have a viable business that I’d be able to enjoy and raise a family [on] and still be able to leave something behind when I’m gone. I have walked away from plenty of money at times, and I always felt good doing it. A perfect example is Andrew Dice Clay. Before he made his mark, I would get a phone call from him everyday, begging me, “Bernie, c’mon man. We could make a lot of money together. I’m gonna’ be big.” I said, “Dice, I believe you, but there is no way I’m the guy.” My thought was, there’s no way I can represent his act. Now, it was an act, a persona, and, on a personal level, I happened to like Dice. But people believe that he is his persona, and that he’s a sexist and a racist. That didn’t prevent him from making money hand over fist when he hit [it big]. But I don’t care how much money is involved. I can’t represent an act that offends blacks and women. There’s always somebody else out there who’s got what it takes to hit it big. For me, that turned out to be Rosie.

I met Rosie and saw her perform on Star Search in 1983. I watched her deal with the backstage crew, with Ed McMahon, and all these up-and-coming performers, and I knew that she was a winner. She wanted to be big in this business and she clearly understood, even at 19, what it took. We just needed to make sure that the right things happened in her life and career.

First, her stand-up career started to grow4that was my area4then movie career, which she had other agents for. she was in a [string of] movies from 1992 to 1994 (A League of Their Own, Sleepless in Seattle, and The Flintstones). Although she wasn’t the star of any of them, we still parlayed that into bigger stuff. We were doing [shows in] Las Vegas and Atlantic City, New Jersey, and [had an appearance on] VH-1 and an HBO special. She could have made a lot of choices at that point, but she said, “Bern, maybe I’ll do a talk show.” So, she and her agents cut a deal with Warner Brothers [television division], and in April 1996 she moves to New York to start the show. It took off like a rocket and put her in a whole other league.

Rosie had been in New York about two months when she

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