April 05, 2007
'Wait for the celebrity' game
Posted by: Chris
To the "glass closet" examples of Anderson Cooper and Jodie Foster, Rex Wockner adds the example of Lily Tomlin, who (finally) acknowledged she was gay in a late 2000 interview on cable access TV (of all places) and even then did so almost in passing. From an article Wockner wrote at the time about the interview:
Speaking to journalist Ann Northrop in late November, Tomlin said: "I'm not going to make a big national case of it which is what, really, everybody would like to do, or some people. But in most articles, most people refer to Jane [Wagner] as my partner or my life-partner or whatever. ... We've been around so long and been through so much and I always kind of took a lot of stuff for granted and I just never -- I also never wanted to be anybody's spokesperson or poster person. You know, I see what happens to too many people."
Tomlin has subsequently talked about being gay in a number of interviews, almost all in the gay press. For whatever reason, the mainstream media has almost entirely ignored the story — perhaps because Tomlin has been mostly out of the spotlight for a number of years now, save a few movie roles here and there.
But I do have to roll my eyes a bit when Tomlin, like Rosie O'Donnell would later, claims never to have been "in" the closet, asking rhetorically how she could then come out. O'Donnell even had the nerve to act surprised at all the fuss (most of which she had scripted), pointing out that she had been accompanied by her girlfriend to many public events.
Yes, but the media was playing the tacit game of "wait for the celebrity" to open the closet door before including their partner in coverage. I remember one particularly notorious gossip item in a New York tabloid that mentioned Rosie had been accompanied by "an attractive blonde" to a Knicks game. Only a few nerds out there realize that "blonde" with an "e" refers to women, while "blond" with no "e" refers to a man. Talk about subtlety!
Mostly, Tomlin and O'Donnell's own history belies their claim to have never been "in" the closet. No celebrity who so studiously avoids talking about being gay or having a same-sex partner for that many years, knowing the rules of the "wait for the celebrity" game, can then with a straight face claim to always have been "open."
It's not as if Tomlin has any difficulty expressing herself...
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