To: MIT.EDU!witchhunt Date: Sun, 23 Oct 94 17:20 EDT (c) The Chronicle Publishing Co.; The
From: romulus.ehs.uiuc.edu!m-net.arbornet.org!aaron (Aaron Larson)
Date: Sun, 23 Oct 94 17:20 EDT
(c) The Chronicle Publishing Co.; The San Francisco Chronicle
October 17, 1994, Pg. E1
The Wrath of Roseanne's Baby Sister; Media Weary Geraldine Barr
Writes Her Side
By Leah Garchik
Answering the telephone in the living room of her sunny flat in
San Francisco, Geraldine Barr, who looks almost exactly like her
big sister Roseanne, is fluent in the lingo of celebrity.
"I'm doing an interview," she says to one caller. "I'll need hair
and makeup in the morning," she informs another.
"Welcome to my life," she tells a visitor, with the slightly studied
air of someone finding reassurance in every ring of the phone.
As she moves into the kitchen and sits down at the red Formica
table to talk, her sincerity is so convincing that it blurs the
contrast between what she's saying and what she's doing.
"WE FEEL EXPLOITED"
A few days ago she had the distinct un-pleasure of seeing herself
portrayed in a made-for-Fox-TV movie that dwelt on her sister's
accusations that her parents abused her. "We all have seen what
fame is about," she said of herself and her family. "We feel really
exploited. It has caused all of us to become really protective of
our own lives."
But her suitcases are out and she is preparing to go on national
tour to promote her own tell-all book.
"I'm tired of the media," she says, pouring a cup of coffee for
herself and a reporter. "I think they're rapists and idiots."
For 10 years, writes 37-year-old Geraldine in "My Sister Roseanne"
(Birch Lane Press; $ 19.95), she plotted, conspired, produced,
managed and orchestrated the fabulous career of her sister Roseanne.
Roseanne's success was the result of meticulous strategy and
planning, writes Geraldine, from early comedy club appearances to
the Big Break on Johnny Carson, to the conception of the TV sitcom
heroine, wisecracking household goddess of blue-collar women across
Enter Tom Arnold, the barely successful comedian who found fame
when he became her sister's second husband.
"He is the embodiment of evil," says Geraldine, describing her
former brother-in-law as a cocaine-addicted Svengali out to dominate
her sister for his own reasons. Much to her dismay, she says, Tom
and Roseanne never signed a prenuptial agreement; the divorce fight
over money hasn't even begun yet. "It's going to be horrible,"
Her comments in the book are much more personal: The lovers got a
charge out of rough sex, she reveals; oh, and Roseanne told her
that Tom has a small penis.
It was during Tom's treatment for cocaine addiction that therapists
uncovered the fact that he had been abused as a child. Geraldine
implies that his recovered memory led to her sister's climbing on
the abuse bandwagon.
Roseanne's "memories," as related to Sally Jessy Raphael and Leeza
Gibbons, begin with her mother fondling her genitals when she was
6 months old. Every member of the family denies that such improprieties
"I love my mother and father," says Geraldine. "I do not believe
they are pedophiles. She has done all this in the guise of healing,
and that is where my rage is."
As she writes and talks about her big sister -- five years older
-- Geraldine emphasizes that her grievances go way beyond the abuse
issue. When Roseanne fired her as manager, she charges, she fired
every other person who had helped make her a success, in order to
have free reign to reinvent herself as a celebrity talk-show guest,
"As a sister," says Geraldine, "I want to tell her, have some
reality. You're famous, but you're still the one who stole my
Barbie doll, and I don't give a s---. I've got to make sure you're
Although Geraldine says she loves her life in San Francisco, where
she has lived for years with her partner Maxine Epstein, she feels
discarded by the woman her book calls her capital-S Sister.
After she was fired, Geraldine sued Roseanne, claiming that she
was owed money for her role in her sister's career. The suit was
thrown out because it was six months past the statute of limitations.
It's easy for Roseanne, the star, to get on a talk show and spill
her story, but Geraldine says that it's been nearly impossible for
her to respond. Birch Lane Press agreed to publish the book only
on the condition that she accept personal responsibility for the
defense of any lawsuits that might be filed by the Arnolds.
$ 25,000 IN LEGAL FEES
Geraldine says it cost her $ 25,000 in legal fees to respond to a
suit filed by Roseanne and Tom based on the publisher's catalog
description of the book.
While writing the book, says Geraldine, she held down a variety of
jobs, doing accounting, working for insurance companies and temporary
Time will pass, and Roseanne's career is likely to ebb and flow.
Will it be possible for the Sisters to mend this rift?
Barr responds at first with a dignified literary anecdote: She's
been reading a biography that describes an encounter in Paris
between Gertrude and Leo Stein, long-estranged brother and sister.
Wordlessly, says Geraldine, the siblings stopped, faced each other
and bent their bodies forward, each bowing deeply in a gesture of
silent respect. The moment passed; they walked away. Brother and
sister never made contact again.
"I'd like that," says Geraldine, pausing for a moment before
recalibrating her facial expression into a smile.
"I could meet her at Caesar's in Vegas. I would train for six
nights. Girl fights are so much fun. We'd get in the mud and
After Geraldine was fired, she recalls, she met with Roseanne in
a hotel room, in hopes of ironing out some financial settlement.
Roseanne was adamant about refusing to give her any money but the
two found themselves locked in a sisterly embrace.
In the Las Vegas mud wrestling ring, says Geraldine, "That hug
would happen at some level.... And then I would kick her a--."
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank