Rosie O’Donnell Blasts Backlash Over Ricki Lake Burning Man Rescue


Rosie O’Donnell has hit back at suggestions by social media users that her friend Ricki Lake was promptly rescued from the Burning Man festival because she’s a celebrity.

The annual gathering attracts almost 80,000 people to the Nevada desert to dance, make art and enjoy being part of a self-sufficient temporary community. This year’s event began on August 27 and was scheduled to run through September 4.

However, tens of thousands were left stranded after flooding from storms swept through the desert, turning it into a sea of sticky mud. After a death was reported, organizers closed the festival to vehicles and ordered attendees to shelter in place.

More than half an inch of rain fell overnight on Friday, according to organizers, and there was more rainfall on Saturday and Sunday. Festivalgoers had been told to stay in their camps and preserve food and water.

Rosie O’Donnell (L) on February 19, 2023, in Pasadena, California. Ricki Lake (R) on March 31, 2022, in New York City. O’Donnell defended Lake from criticism over her recent rescue from Burning Man.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images;/John Lamparski/Getty Images

As the news unfolded, O’Donnell shared a video on TikTok in which she expressed concerns for fellow actress and former talk show host Lake, who had traveled to the festival with her husband, Ross Burningham.

“Do any of you have friends at Burning Man? Because wow, that looks like it’s crazy-ville there,” O’Donnell said in her video. “Ricki Lake, my good friend, is there, and her husband, Ross. I know they rented an RV, but I’m worried about them. And then I keep texting obsessive compulsively because I have a little OCD. And I know I’m just worried, you know. I worry a lot, I have to say.”

In a later update, O’Donnell announced that Lake and her husband had been rescued from the chaos and were on their way home.

“I just heard from Ricki Lake,” said O’Donnell in the seconds-long clip. “She and her husband are fine. Some guy with a big truck let them get in the truck and they’re on their way home. So Ricki Lake is rescued from Burning Man.”

While O’Donnell appeared elated to share the news, a number of other TikTok users suggested that Lake’s early rescue was made possible because of her celebrity status.

“So glad the famous got rescued but everyone else is stuck!” one social media user quipped in response to O’Donnell’s clip.

Hitting back, the A League of Their Own star countered that Lake and her husband were rescued by “a random kind stranger, [who had] no idea it was Ricki Lake.”

In a separate comment, O’Donnell said that Lake and Burningham “walked in the mud and were offered a ride when a truck saw them [and] stopped—no one knew she was famous.”

As other TikTok users expressed surprise that Lake was at the Burning Man festival, O’Donnell said her friend was a “veteran” attendee. The comedian also expressed well wishes for those who said they had friends and relatives stuck in the Nevada desert.

For her part, Lake shared images of herself and her husband enjoying the festivities at Burning Man, while also vowing to return.

“It was crazy. It was dusty. It was muddy. It was magic and we will be back,” the Hairspray star captioned one carousel of photos on Instagram.

On another collection of images taken before the heavy rains, Lake described Burning Man as “the greatest place on earth. It was wild. It was magical. It was hard. And I can’t wait to go back. Turns out—Ross is a burner! He loved it.”

Newsweek reached out to a representative of Lake via email for comment.

Meanwhile, comedian Chris Rock joined music producer Diplo on a miles-long trek out of the main festival area after rains left attendees stranded. The stars were eventually given a ride by a fan in the back of his pickup truck.

Diplo—given name Thomas Wesley Pentz—documented the experience on his social media. He later made his way to Washington, D.C., for a scheduled show.

Victoria’s Secret model Kelly Gale and her fiancé, Suicide Squad actor Joel Kinneman, also got stuck at the festival.

Gale wrote in an Instagram Stories post at the time that she was “getting to safety.” She described this year’s Burning Man festival as “interesting.”


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