Comedian Roseanne Barr was full of contrition at a crowded press conference Friday as she told how panic set in four notes into her now-legendary screeching of "The Star Spangled Banner" before the start of a San Diego Padres baseball game Wednesday night.
Barr said that she and her husband, Tom Arnold, called the press conference at the Beverly Hilton to put a stop to the furor, likening her predicament to what she described as the political "witch hunt" over Jane Fonda's controversial junket to North Vietnam.
Barr still showed flashes of her trademark feistiness. Told that President Bush had said earlier Friday that her performance was "disgraceful," she shot back: "Well, I'm sorry I didn't sing so good, but I'd like to hear him sing it."
Barr, whose "Roseanne" show on ABC passed "The Cosby Show" this season as the most-watched series on television, said that the slumping Padres' owners, coaches and players all thought the promotion in San Diego would be "fun."
"Tom Werner (co-executive producer of her TV series and an owner of the Padres) said: 'We need something to turn this team around. Maybe you coming down, maybe that'll do it,' " Barr said. "You know, I figured that everybody knew that I wasn't the world's greatest singer."
Once she started singing, Barr said, "I thought I was OK in the beginning because it was 'Working Women's Night,' you know . . . and I sang about four notes and I thought I was OK. And then everybody started booing me and I really went through this panic thing and for a minute I thought about, 'Well, can I just get out of here? Can I just turn around and just quit?' "
"I knew I couldn't and I knew I had to finish it," she said. "So I just did the best I could. I'm not looking to apologize for doing it. It was the wrong choice for all of us. But nobody anticipated that it would be this negative."
She said that no one is feeling worse than she is, " 'cause nobody's (been) treated worse than me."
Friday's session started out more like a circus than an orderly press conference. A crowd of 100 people showed up, including 13 TV and film camera crews, 20 still photographers and several Los Angeles-based foreign correspondents representing media in Japan, Greece, Germany, France and Egypt. Many were attending a press interview down the hall with director Spike Lee for his new movie, "Mo' Better Blues."
Arnold appeared first, sternly asking all representatives from the tabloid press to leave. When none complied, one writer told Arnold that photographer Kip Rano, standing nearby, sold pictures to supermarket tabloids.
Barr and Arnold had announced earlier this week that they are preparing to sue the National Enquirer in an unrelated case.
Arnold, flushed with anger, ordered Rano to leave. When he refused, Arnold taunted him, yelled several profanities and threatened to call off the press conference unless he departed.
The tirade lasted about 20 minutes until hotel security called Beverly Hills police. Three officers eventually arrived, among them Officer Paul Kramer, target of the celebrated slap by actress Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Rano, who runs a free-lance photo service in Beverly Hills, said he was negotiating with People magazine for his photographs of Barr during her ill-fated ballpark appearance and was at Friday's press conference for an English paper and "an anonymous client." He said that the police officers treated him nicely and let him go with only a warning once he was outside.
Before the press conference ended, Barr admitted that she would think twice about singing the national anthem in the future.
But she added: "I represent a certain part of America that probably nobody else represents. And I came out of someplace, and got someplace, and I've got a right to sing the song."
SUMMER SCANDAL: Jack Mathews analyzes Roseanne Barr's performance. F1