From a secret child to a public crotch grab, Roseanne Barr has always made news

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Roseanne Barr holds her fingers in her ears as she screams the national anthem between games of the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds doubleheader in 1990. She was booed loudly, and she made an obscene gesture and spat when she was finished. (Photo: AP Photo/Joan Fahrenthold)
Roseanne Barr holds her fingers in her ears as she screams the national anthem between games of the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds doubleheader in 1990. She was booed loudly, and she made an obscene gesture and spat when she was finished. (Photo: AP Photo/Joan Fahrenthold)

Roseanne is back — on the tube and in the headlines.

You may have heard that her show’s reboot, which premiered earlier this week, earned big ratings. And the Trump lover — both onscreen and off — even got a call from the president himself to congratulate her on her success.

Lest you think we’re seeing a kinder, gentler Roseanne Barr this time around — she’s 65 and a grandma — think again. She’s the same spirited, opinionated button-pusher that she always was. And, make no mistake, she was always a spirited, opinionated button-pusher, which has made for a lot of headlines through the years, like these. …

Roseanne leaves her husband for Tom Arnold.

Roseanne was married to Bill Pentland with three children (Jessica, Jennifer, and Jake) to Bill when her comedy career started to take off. Bill was very much a part of it, often helping her with her standup and later as a consultant on Roseanne. Both were friends with Tom Arnold, who also helped with the writing for Roseanne, and as her marriage began to fall apart — and therapy didn’t work — she found herself falling for Tom. “After four years of this, I went, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t have to be married forever and be real unhappy. Neither does he,'” she told People magazine in 1989. “So I kind of was the one that made the decision for both of us. Plus, more and more I was talking to my best friend Tom Arnold and crying on his shoulder in parking lots and in delis, and more and more I came to feel that I should be with him.” (In the same article, she detailed their first sex romp: “They got calls and complaints about us. … There was like nothing left standing in the room after.”)

Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold on their wedding day in 1991. (Photo: Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold on their wedding day in 1991. (Photo: Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

It took Roseanne a long time to finalize her divorce (a lot of money was involved), but after she did — in 1991 — she married Tom just days later. While they had big plans as a couple, including kids, they were a train-wreck match. For one thing, they were everywhere — talking about their weight loss and his trips to and from rehab; he sold some stories about her to a tabloid to buy drugs; they were mud wrestling in a magazine photo shoot, and they mooned fans at a World Series game, revealing matching tattoos on their backsides. The Washington Post called them “one of Hollywood’s most unpredictable couples.” That was polite.

Roseanne leaves Tom Arnold.

It was bound to happen, right? When Roseanne filed for divorce from Tom in 1994, even their publicist didn’t know whether it was a forever decision. (“She has filed for divorce, and what’s going to happen next, I don’t know,” said uber-publicist Pat Kingsley. “It may or not be the end of it.”) There were allegations of physical abuse by Tom against Roseanne, for which she received a restraining order. They split after they had a fight on the set of Roseanne, which he was a writer for at one point; he then got his own show and was barred from the set. And somehow, their “attractive young assistant” — one who “joined the couple in a make-believe three-way” — as a prank the year before, was involved. Roseanne changed the locks on their house and cut up his credit cards. To this day, they still don’t like each other and sometimes fight on Twitter. Arnold recently reviewed the Roseanne reboot, which Roseanne’s son wasn’t thrilled about

Roseanne comes out as an incest survivor.

In 1991, the TV queen — whose marriage to Tom was in full swing — made a surprise appearance at a Survivors United Network event, attended by adult incest survivors and therapists, and made a brave confession: “My name is Roseanne and I am an incest survivor.” She went on to speak for 30 minutes about being sexually abused during her childhood, revealing that she suppressed the memories until two years earlier.

Roseanne Barr spoke about being an incest survivor in the Oct. 7, 1991, issue of <em>People</em>. (Image: People)
Roseanne Barr spoke about being an incest survivor in the Oct. 7, 1991, issue of People. (Image: People)

“It’s a secret I didn’t even know I had until two years ago,” she told People soon after. While Tom was in a drug treatment facility, “He called me and told me about an incident that happened to him as a child. It was a story of horrible and painful abuse in which he had been sexually molested by his babysitter. Immediately after hanging up, I began to shake and sweat. Pictures started to appear before my eyes — surreal and frightening, looming large, then crystallizing into my mother’s face. I remember being abused. I started to scream and cry, and I called one of my sisters. I got into my car and drove to the hospital where Tom was. I told Tom and a therapist what I had remembered. I cried and cried until I was dry.”

Roseanne said that her mom abused her “from the time I was an infant until I was 6 or 7 years old. She did lots of lurid things. She hurt me psychologically and physically.” As for her father, she said, he “molested me until I left home at age 17. He constantly put his hands all over me. He forced me to sit on his lap, to cuddle with him, to play with his penis in the bathtub.”

She later said on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show that her father also molested her daughter, Jessica.

Roseanne backpedals on ‘incest’ claim.

Her parents immediately denied all the allegations through a lawyer, and took a lie detector test, publicly sharing their passing results. Her sister Geraldine, who was supposedly the inspiration for the character Jackie, denied that Roseanne was a childhood incest victim. While she wrote in her book that there were problems at home — their father had anger issues — she said there was no sexual abuse and called out Roseanne for generally irresponsible behavior throughout her life. (It’s important to note that the sisters had been feuding, and Geraldine was fired from her job on Roseanne.) The family appeared on 60 Minutes to say that Roseanne fabricated the story. They sued her for libel.

In 2011, Roseanne was on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and said she regretted making the allegations against her parents public. “I think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “It’s the biggest mistake that I’ve ever made.” When Oprah asked if the mistake was going public with the allegation or labeling it incest, Roseanne replied, “Well, both of those things.”

She continued, “I think what happened was that — well, I know what happened — was that I was in a very unhappy relationship,” referring to the one with Tom. “I was prescribed numerous psychiatric drugs. Incredible mixtures of psychiatric drugs to deal with the fact that I had — and still, in some ways, have and always will have — some mental illness. And the drugs and the combination of drugs that I was given, which were some strong, strong drugs — I totally lost touch with reality in a big, big way. I didn’t know what the truth was. … I wish that some of the people around me or one of them had said, ‘Roseanne, you really should wait until your therapy’s completely over [before] you go public.’ I wish I had done everything that I did in a different way.”

She said her mistake was in the wording, not the sentiment. “I say in [my] book I was mistaken to use the word incest,” she told Oprah. “But I can’t really think of another word, and when I do, I’ll use it. … I want to say that nobody accuses their parents of abusing them without justification to do that,” she said. “I didn’t just make it up. A lot of things were true and abusive and horrible things that happened to me that my father did.”

In her book Roseannearchy: Dispatches from the Nut Farm, she wrote, “The word incest conjures ideas of sex, but there was never any sex between my father and me. There was violence, humiliation, inappropriate words, ‘jokes,’ and grotesque displays that never should have occurred between a father and his daughter, but there was no actual sex. For someone like myself who dealt with words and the power they have, I should have chosen them more thoughtfully, more carefully, but I didn’t really think things through at all, and I was definitely not careful, and I just didn’t care anymore about anything but striking out. I was miserable then as a person could be.”

She added that ultimately, “no excuse worked to get me off the hook. I made a terrible, poorly conceived decision that caused an incredible amount of pain and shame for my parents and siblings.”

Roseanne “sings” the national anthem.

More like shrieked. Then she grabbed her crotch and spit on the ground.

She still maintains it wasn’t so bad, adding that she did a better job than Fergie.


Roseanne battles ex-husband over support.

Roseanne followed up her marriage to Tom with another one — to her bodyguard, Ben Thomas. Through the magic of IVF, they welcomed a son, Buck in 1994, and tied the knot on Valentine’s Day in 1995. (Buck is the one who live-tweeted the Roseanne premiere.) But marriage just isn’t for Roseanne, and they parted ways in 1998 after a big New Year’s Eve fight in which cops were called. This was also an eventful divorce (which seemed to take a long time because they were officially married until 2002), as all of Roseanne’s splits have been, and as recently as 2011 they were in the news fighting over child support. Roseanne had since moved to Hawaii after finding love again, and she was paying for Ben to fly there once a month to visit their son. The glitch was that Ben wanted Roseanne to also pay for the ladies in his life to fly with him, and Roseanne had a problem funding what she called their monthly “honeymoons” to Hawaii. Roseanne had colorful words about his relationships after their marriage, saying he often visited the Philippines and returned home with different new wives.

Roseanne Barr and Ben Thomas at the 1994 MTV VMAs. (Photo: Getty Images)
Roseanne Barr and Ben Thomas at the 1994 MTV VMAs. (Photo: Getty Images)
Roseanne secretly gave up a daughter for adoption.

We really could go on and on, but we’ll leave you with just one more. Around 1989, Roseanne learned that a tabloid had dug up the fact that as an 18-year-old, she had given up a child for adoption. They were going to track down the girl, so Roseanne did it herself first — with the help of a private investigator. Roseanne reached out to the girl and the girl’s family, who, oddly enough, were friends of her family (though she didn’t know that when she gave the baby to them.)

Roseanne opened up about the hard decision she made in an interview with People that year, saying, “At first, I wanted to keep the baby. I got on welfare and rented a room for 50 bucks a month. I turned on the water, and cockroaches came out of the spigot. Outside, there were drunks. I just couldn’t go on there, so I went away to Denver and moved into a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers. My family wasn’t too supportive. I gave my baby up to the Jewish Family & Children’s Service in Denver. They said they had a couple that had waited seven years for a Jewish baby. But the day they came to take my baby away, I whispered to her, ‘You remember this, I’ll see you when you’re 18.’ I always knew that. I always knew we would get back.”


Roseanne and Brandi Brown had a sweet reunion at a hotel in L.A. (the girl’s mother was there too) and Roseanne has gone on to develop a strong relationship with her.

Soon afterward, they met in person at an L.A. hotel. “I turned around and felt this powerful magnet,” Roseanne said. “We looked at each other, Brandi jumped out of her seat, and we started running toward each other. We embraced and wouldn’t let go of each other, hugging and crying.”

These days, as we noted, Roseanne has been living in Hawaii on a farm with her boyfriend of more than a decade, Johnny Argent. It seems pretty chill — or maybe we’re just reading too much into it after watching some episodes of Kannabis KitchenHer five children have given her six grandchildren, and some time away from Hollywood has quieted down her life a bit — except from the occasional (daily) Twitter rant. Now that she’s back in the mix of things, we’ll see whether things stay that way — or whether her life starts becoming tabloid fodder once again.


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