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In 1975 Time Offered Lily Tomlin a Cover if She Would Come Out; She Refused

Saturday Jan 19, 2019

Lily Tomlin was long rumored to be gay back in the 1970s when she started her post-"Laugh In" career as a stand-up comic, television star and movie actress. After a break-out role (and Oscar nomination) for Robert Altman's "Nashville," she went onto to star in such films as "The Late Show," "9 to 5" and "All of Me." But also starred in "Moment by Moment," a trainwreck of a romantic drama (written and directed by her then partner and now spouse Jane Wagner) in which she played a bored, wealthy LA housewife that takes up an affair with a valet named "Strip," played by John Travolta. That there was so little chemistry between the two only intensified the rumors that both were gay, and the film is such a camp classic that Mystery Science Theater 3000 sought the rights to broadcast it. (They were refused.)

The Tomlin-Wagner partnership was such an open secret in Hollywood that in 1975 Time Magazine offered her the cover if she was willing to come out with the tagline "Yep, I'm Gay," Tomlin recalled this on an episode of Ellen this week, Entertainment Weekly reported. Both Tomlin and her "Grace & Frankie" co-star Jane Fonda were on to promote their hit series new season that is now available on Netflix.

The cover offer came, Tomlin was told, with the requirement that she came out.

"Pat Kingsley called me, who was my publicist ... she told me that Time would give me the cover if I would come out," Tomlin told Ellen. "It was a hard decision to make, so I fell down on the side of probably -- after what you went through -- probably good sense. And my God, all that time passed, so I decided that I just wasn't going to play their game."

She said she decided not to because she didn't want it to take attention away from her career as an actress. "I wanted to be acknowledged for my performance ... I can see in retrospect that was hardly worth it," she joked.

In 1997 Degeneres took up Time's similar offer and appeared on the cover with the same tag line, which Tomlin addressed, citing that her decision was probably a good one in retrospect.

"I fell down on the side of ... probably after what you [Degeneres] went through, probably good sense."

Tomlin married Wagner in 2013. They have been a couple for 50 years.

When asked about her love life, Fonda quipped: "I'm going to come out. If they put me the cover of Time, I'll come out."

Watch the clip below:


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