Interview: City's love affair with Rosie O'Donnell advances to 'nice to meet you' stage

Rosie O'Donnell

Talk show host Rosie O'Donnell attends Michigan Avenue magazine's party at the Horseshoe Casino December 8, 2011. (Tim Hiatt/Getty Images)

Rosie O’Donnell still isn’t used to the reaction she’s been getting on the streets of Chicago. The talk show host, who began taping “The Rosie Show” in the West Loop in October, said it’s far different from the reaction she gets in Los Angeles and New York.

“Nobody comes up to me and says ‘Can I have your autograph?’” O’Donnell told me at Thursday’s Michigan Avenue magazine party at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. “People come over and say ‘I’m so happy you’re here,’ and, ‘Are you enjoying the city?’ And if you grew up in New York, you’re not used to people being that nice.”

O’Donnell, who appears on the cover of the latest issue of Michigan Avenue, said the welcome she received in her adopted Lakeview neighborhood was just as warm. Local merchants filled a kayak with gifts and sent it to her five-bedroom home.

And then there are the free meals around town. O’Donnell, who splits time between New York and Chicago, has dined everywhere from Naha and Paris Club to the Rain Forest Cafe and Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse and said she rarely ever sees the bill.

“My children say, ‘Mommy, why is everything free?’” O’Donnell said. “I’m like ‘People are just happy were doing a show here.’ (The kids are) like, ‘Let’s live here. Let’s go to the Rain Forest Cafe every day. They gave us free stuff at the gift shop.’

“As a New Yorker, who was born and raised in New York and lived in Los Angeles for 10 years, I never imagined living anywhere else. But I could totally see myself living here. It’s very relaxing and family-oriented. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever been.”

Twitter @aboutluisgomez

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