Reporting Vince Gerasole
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CHICAGO (CBS) – First Oprah Winfrey, now Rosie O’Donnell.
Less than a year after launching her talk show on Winfrey’s OWN Network, and taking up shop in Winfrey’s Harpo Studios in the West Loop, O’Donnell appears to be moving her show to New York.
As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, Chicago apparently isn’t O’Donnell’s kind of town.
If “The Rosie Show” is indeed moving to the Big Apple, O’Donnell’s staff won’t confirm it.
But, with its ratings challenged – along with other programing produced for the Oprah Winfrey Network – there’s now speculation about whether there will even be a Harpo Studios in the West Loop much longer.
Rosie O’Donnell joked outside Harpo Studios last year when she and Oprah Winfrey unveiled a sign touting her new talk show, shouting to fans “I was Betty Rubble!”
Stepping in to the Oprah facilities, The Rosie Show debuted last October to impressive ratings; but ratings quickly faded, and the tweaking began, starting with the elimination of a studio audience.
The show was scaled back to a more intimate format, and staff was laid off.
Following the sale of her Wrigleyville home, published reports indicate O’Donnell is moving the show, and its jobs, to New York.
The program has kept employees working at Harpo Studios, but a spokeswoman wouldn’t verify how many employees still work there, saying “we do not comment on rumor and speculation.”
Elzee Simpkins, owner of Maxima Barber Shop in the West Loop, said that, before Winfrey opened her studio there, the neighborhood “was like Skid Row. We used this (Madison Street) only to get to the bulls games
The newer businesses and condominiums of the gentrifying West Loop sprouted after Winfrey located her studios there. It’s now peppered with dozens of pleasant restaurants, like Ina’s Restaurant.
Owner Ina Pinkney said, “the impact came when Oprah came to this neighborhood, and stabilized the neighborhood, and built that facility.”
There’s speculation Harpo Studios might even be sold, turned into anything from a concert hall to a grocery store.
Nearby business owners said, even without O’Donnell their future is still rosy.
“Rosie’s coming or going doesn’t have a thing to do with our successes,” Pinkney said.
According to a few staffers who spoke off the record, no formal announcement has been made regarding a possible move. Talk shows can come and go, but the thing to watch out for next is whether Winfrey’s company, which has considerable resources, will look for a replacement project for the facility, or pull up stakes altogether.