Ellen DeGeneres’ historic 1997 Time cover could have been preempted by another coming out: Lily Tomlin’s. During a guest spot on DeGeneres’ talk show this week with Grace & Frankie co-star Jane Fonda, Tomlin revealed that she was approached by Time to come out on their cover in 1975.
“First of all, how did they know you were gay?” DeGeneres asks, to which Tomlin snorted (relatable) and joked that they’d wired her bedroom. “I just want to warn all of you: be careful with those Macs,” she says.
“It was a hard decision to make, and I fell down on the side of — probably, after what you went through — probably good sense,” Tomlin jokes to DeGeneres’ laughter. At the time, Tomlin was a huge celebrity, an Emmy and Grammy winner, and her coming out would likely have been just as huge as DeGeneres, with a potentially even bigger backlash, considering how much it predated the comedian’s cover..
“I decided that I just wasn’t going to play their game,” she added, explaining that at the time she wasn’t interested in being defined by her sexuality. “I wanted to be acknowledged for my performance.”
Tomlin never officially came out on a magazine cover or in a splashy prime-time interview, but has long been open about her partner Jane Wagner, saying in 2008 that "everybody in the industry was certainly aware of my sexuality and of Jane...in interviews, I always reference Jane and talk about Jane, but they don't always write about it." In 2015 she admitted that she’d waited for her mother to die before being more open about her sexuality.
The actresses also revealed that a sequel to their iconic 80’s comedy 9 to 5 is in the works. “We’ve got people writing it,” said Fonda. Their Netflix show, Grace & Frankie, has been renewed for a sixth season.