10/08/2011 11:24 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016


Attention gay people and others: Rosie O'Donnell is coming back to television. So let's make some noise.

No, really. I can't hear you.

You know those friends who sometimes drink too much at the piano bar and sing along to "If My Friends Could See Me Now" a little too loudly? Those friends you constantly have to defend to other people after that one thing they did at your Aunt Kathy's wedding? "You just have to get past that stuff," you say. "Mike is actually a lot of fun!"

That's been my relationship with Rosie O'Donnell for the past few years.

My love for Rosie started way back in the A League of Their Own era -- simpler times, before daytime talk-show feuds and magazine lawsuits, the time when Rosie O'Donnell was just some talented lady Penny Marshall really liked and I was still wetting the bed.

During the era of Harriet the Spy, those Kmart commercials with Penny Marshall and her daytime talk show, I had an inclination that this funny lady I'd never met was somehow linked to me across the borders of time and space, in a weird, less-creepy-Della-Reese-on-Touched-by-an-Angel sort of way.

There are those people (sometimes they are celebrities) with whom, even though you've never met them, you somehow feel a strong, true connection, and you care about them and feel the need to constantly defend them anytime someone makes a joke at their expense.

And that's how I feel about Rosie.

I've had this strange investment in Rosie all along. I remember driving home from school one day to my aunt's house, and the afternoon radio DJ was spouting off Hollywood gossip. One of his pieces of info was that daytime talk sensation Rosie O'Donnell just might be gay. This was long before she officially came out and ages before that Macaulay-Culkin-in-Party-Monster haircut.

My cousins snickered, and when we went inside the house, I overheard one of them in the living room say to their brother, "Did you hear Rosie O'Donnell is gay?" They started laughing, and out loud, to no one in particular (except maybe Della Reese), I said, "Me, too." It was the first time I'd ever actually admitted that to myself out loud.

I know it's not just the gay thing that draws me to Rosie. It's something else. It's the manic, obsessive love of things and people, whether it's the new, underwater FlipCam or some Ethel Merman impersonator she saw performing in a New York City basement the night before. It's the openness with her feelings, whether it's flattering or not -- the boldness to scream if she needs to scream, to cry when she needs to cry, and not be afraid of the public's perception.

Maybe I'm just a manic-depressive mess who likes seeing his own mess reflected by an über-successful multi-millionaire because it makes him feel better about himself, or maybe I'm right in thinking that Rosie O'Donnell brings something truly one-of-a-kind to this world.

I'm hoping we all give this new show on The Oprah Winfrey Network a shot. I am hoping we all let go of funky-haircut Rosie, the Rosie we got mad at for coming out after Ellen, the Rosie who feuded with Donald Trump, the Rosie who butted heads with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and even the Rosie who hosted that critically despised NBC variety show with Liza Minnelli appearing from a trap door (and what's so wrong with that, by the way?).

Let's all remember the Rosie who inspired a generation of people (like me) to love things proudly, to dream big and to be themselves. And while we're at it, let's remember the Rosie who did those Kmart commercials with Penny Marshall, as well; she was pretty great, too.