Ellen Enchanted

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A Sense of Destiny

"I won't make things up," Betty retorts, but I can see the gleeful calculation going on behind her round spectacles: What can I get away with here?

"Was it you who gave Ellen her sense of humor?" I ask.

"If I had my mother's sense of humor I'd be Don Rickles," Ellen says. "She's sarcastic."

"That's true," Betty says.

"Did you have a sense of destiny about your daughter -- who she was, what she might become?"

"No! How could you know?" But in fact, Ellen was both a wit and a lover of mischief, if not a clown. "I remember she had a blind date with another couple, and they were out in the car. He came and rang the bell, and she answered the door. He said, 'Ellen?' and she said, 'No, she lives two doors down.' And he said, 'Oh, I'm sorry,' and then went to hunt down the 'real' Ellen."

These days there's no question who the real Ellen is, or that this is her home. She gives me a tour, and while I ooh and aah -- omigod! a koi pond! -- she talks about the future, when she finishes with her talk show, perhaps 10 years down the road. "I don't need to be on camera," she says. "I'm not a workaholic. I love to spend time with my wife, my family, my animals."

Though her Beverly Hills home is vast, DeGeneres dreams of a more pastoral setting. "We're looking for the right place to have a farm," she continues. "Someplace like Massachusetts or Nantucket, with seasons. We could get an 1800s farmhouse with land and rescue animals. Then I'm done."

DeGeneres is particularly eager to show me one part of the house: the art studio. "Isn't it amazing? Portia just decided one day recently she would paint -- and look." She watches where my gaze finally lands. "I did that one for Portia," she says a little shyly. "I'm just playing around." It is a small, nondescript, gray canvas. On it words have been painted, then scratched into the paint with a palette knife. There is emphasis and urgency in the rendering. The painting reads: "I will always love you."

Continued on page 4:  Animal Magnetism


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