A Subdued Rosie O’Donnell Returns to Matrix Awards

Rosie O’Donnell was back at this year’s Matrix Awards, but she wasn’t the f-bomb-dropping emcee of 2007, when she took shots at Rupert Murdoch and ranted about Donald Trump before telling the real estate mogul to “eat me!”

O’Donnell apparently got a memo to tone it down at this year’s awards ceremony, at which highly accomplished women in communications were honored over lunch at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria. The event, put on by New York Women in Communications, also recognizes its young scholarship recipients.

O’Donnell, who, fittingly, presented an award to her own publicist Cindi Berger, joked that this time she had to have her wardrobe and speech preapproved. “I figured I’m safe because Arianna Huffington already said, ‘Kick ass,’” O’Donnell quipped. (Huffington had just presented an award to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.)

The comic went on about her friendship with Berger and the debt she owes to her, saying, “Without her, I would be on the macadamia nut farm with Roseanne Barr, wearing overalls and going, ‘What the [pause] happened?’”

The audience in the packed grand ballroom was also treated to lifetime achievement award recipient Betty White, who appeared via satellite. White said she was grateful to be acting at age 89, adding, “It’s wonderful to be anything at 89.” Speaking of White, Sandberg told a story about how the actress didn’t know what Facebook was until fans used it for a grassroots campaign aimed at getting her to host Saturday Night Live. Her reaction, according to Sandberg, was, “God, it’s a waste of time.”

In another lighthearted moment, Mark Burnett, the TV producer behind shows like Survivor and The Apprentice, poked fun at his own product, saying, “We have to work with people we certainly wouldn’t be socializing with.” Honoree A&E Television Networks CEO Abbe Raven, whom he was introducing, remarked, “After being in this business for many years, I feel a little bit like I’ve won Survivor.”

Other awards recipients were journalist Gwen Ifill, Kaplan Thaler Group president Robin Koval, Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel and Fairchild Fashion Group president/CEO Gina Sanders.