Lily Tomlin turned down the cover of Time in 1975 when they asked her to come out

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Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda were on Ellen earlier this week to promote the new season of Grace and Frankie, which is coming out on January 18 on Netflix. (I watched part of the first season with my mom and then she liked it so much she binged it without me. I wanted us to watch it together, but I get it!) They are so cute together, they kept cracking each other up and I loved watching them. They discussed how 9 to 5 with Dolly Parton happened, the reboot of which is being written now. Jane said she reached out to Lily after seeing her on a show and that she heard a song on the radio by Dolly and realized she wanted her in it too.

Jane is 81 freaking years old and Lily turns 80 this year. They joked about having a destination birthday party for Lily and selling the photos. Lily has a partner, Jane, whom she’s been with for 50 years and married 5 years ago. Ellen asked her about a chance she was given in the 70s to come out as gay, which of course was hard to do even in 1997 when Ellen did it. Ellen paid dearly for that. Time Magazine approached Lily to come out way back in 1975 and she said no.

I heard that Time Magazine approached you in 1975 to come out and put you on the cover. How did they know you were gay? Why did you say no?
Lily: Pat Kingsley called, who was my publicist. She told me that Time would give me the cover if I would come out. It was a hard decision to make. So I fell down on the side of probably, after what you went through, probably good sense. So I decided that I just wasn’t going to play their game.

You weren’t ready. You didn’t want to do it yet
Lily: I wanted to be acknowledged for my performance. I can see in retrospect that was hardly worth it.

Jane, I have to ask you about your dating life now
Jane: I’m going to come out. If they put me on the cover of Time I’ll come out
Lily: It’s kind of past the time of the value of a Time cover, it you’re asking my advice.

After that they played a game called Jane and Lily DGAF where they answered random questions. My god I couldn’t stop laughing. I put that below. Lily is absolutely hilarious and the two of them adore each other. They were asked to describe each other in one word. Lily said “adorable” and Jane said “genius” at the same time and they kissed on the cheek! Here’s a screenshot of that. For “person you’d like to do a love scene with” Jane said “Liam Neeson or Blake Shelton” (Jane needs better standards, but Liam I get) and Lily couldn’t answer. She said “I love Jane” though. AW.

Ok now I have yet another show on my Netflix queue. These two are the best. As for Lily not coming out way back in 1975, Ellen was pretty much the first to do that and she was publicly mocked and no one would hire her for years. Imagine what Lily would have faced 22 years prior.


Here are the videos!

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photos credit: Getty and screenshow from YouTube EllenTube

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40 Responses to “Lily Tomlin turned down the cover of Time in 1975 when they asked her to come out”

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  1. CheckThatPrivilege says:


  2. BaronSamedi says:

    I apparently have lived under a rock because I had no idea about Lily Tomlin? Amazing!

    • Julia says:

      HA! I was right there with you this entire time! I had no idea.

      And I love when couple who have been together for ages get married later in life – I find it especially touching.

    • YesImHere says:

      I didn’t know either. I’ve been aware of her my whole life — she’s a legend and been around forever — but she’s just never been on my radar, so it’s not surprising that I didn’t know.

    • Mama says:

      Educate yourself now. Immediately. Anyone you find funny… she is probably 10x as funny.

    • Amelie says:

      I had no idea either! She is so low-key I was like oh really? I guess it makes sense in retrospect but I didn’t know much about her personal life.

    • TheOriginalMia says:

      I had no idea either. Just didn’t care. Her love life has never entered my realm of consciousness. I just loved her for being funny and awesome.

    • Lithe says:

      I’ve always admired her, but had no idea either. Well, I’m glad she’s lived long enough to be able to get married and good for her doing what felt right for her back in 1975, instead of allowing herself to be pressured into selling magazines.

    • Bella Bella says:

      I remember knowing after seeing her in the brilliant one-woman show she did on Broadway that was written by her then-girlfriend and now-wife Jane Wagner — “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.” I bought the book. It was so well-written. I guess if you lived in NYC and were in the theater world you just knew.

  3. Becks1 says:

    grace and Frankie is so good. I watched it at the gym and would extend my workout just to get another episode in. I laughed out loud more than I can remember doing during any other show. Yes some story lines get tired and played out but I still love it.

  4. Lightpurple says:

    I LOVE THEM! And I love the show and I am thrilled that a show about two elderly women and the problems they face has had such success.

  5. Lizzie says:

    i love them. i love the show. june diane raphael and brooklyn decker have been very vocal about how incredible the set is for women, particularly new moms, b/c jane and lily insist on it. it sounds like their leadership is inspiring.

  6. Bebe says:

    One of my favorite shows. So real and entertaining.

  7. OriginalLala says:

    Love them! Love Grace and Frankie so much! I love seeing older women so prominently featured on a show, talking about dating, sex, lube and aging!!

  8. Darla says:

    Oh wow that was really funny and sweet.

  9. Jamie says:

    I love when Jane mentions Blake Shelton, Lily says, “Who?”

  10. Callid says:

    Jane is the queen of suits! She rocks everyone she wears.

  11. Mama says:

    Their whole segment was hilarious. That is the most I have laughed in a long time. The two of them together are priceless and Lily is probably one of the most funny people living right now.

  12. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    They really are the coolest.

  13. Christy J says:

    I love Jane’s suit on Ellen!

  14. adastraperaspera says:

    I remember hearing rumors in college that Lilly Tomlin was with her writer Jane Wagner. It was around the time I saw her Broadway show “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.” This was big news for me, as I was in the process of coming out myself and looking for other people who were gay. The climate at the time was very hostile, so I understand why she didn’t take the Time cover offer.

    • Jerusha says:

      I was aware of the rumor in the 70s, also heard that some magazine planned to out her to force her to take a stand. That never happened, but Lily is so beloved I had the impression most people’s attitude was, “So what, it’s her business what she wants to do.” We don’t live in a perfect world and thanks to trump, the haters feel entitled, but I’m glad she can be free to be herself.

      • Bella Bella says:

        She got some indirect criticism for it when she starred in that movie with John Travolta and the reviewers talked about how little chemistry there was between them (cough, cough).

      • Jerusha says:

        I remember that. Also comments about how they resembled each other-similar hairstyles, etc.

  15. Thirsty Hirsty says:

    I find myself disturbed by Jane’s dog collar like choker. Love them both, and have since the ’70s.

  16. Jess says:

    Love grace and Frankie! I have watched all seasons multiple times. And 9 to 5, sadly, still holds up today. These women rock!

  17. Legs93 says:

    I told you they should host the oscars! They have great chemistry and are hilarious.

  18. Trapped says:

    Lily is one of the best and most don’t or didn’t care she was gay..
    She is very funny with being vulgar..
    They both look good..

  19. Dizzy says:

    Everybody knew Lily was gay even in the 70s. Even me and I was a kid. It’s kind of like Jodie Foster too. We all knew but it wasn’t official.

    • anony7 says:

      I guess at that time she didn’t want to publicly announce it or make a big deal about it in part to keep herself commercially viable for movies; IIRC she was in a movie playing John Travolta’s lover in the mid-late 1970s.

  20. Liz says:

    Kinda OT in one way, but not really in another. My mom told me that when I was a baby, we were seated next to LT on a plane. She had a yippy little dog with her–nothing against yippy little dogs. LT: My dog doesn’t like babies. MOM (wo missing a beat): My baby doesn’t like dogs. BAM She said the dog whined and yelped the whole flight while I was angelic and quiet:D

  21. Anastasia says:

    I LOVE Grace and Frankie SO MUCH. Like I’ve watched every episode three times. It’s brilliant!