Mindy Cohn: No Shrinking Violet

Now starring in Violet Tendencies, the Facts of Life alum gives us just the facts, ma’am, on why she’s earned the right to call herself a “fag hag.”

BY Brandon Voss

July 08 2010 1:25 PM ET

The film explores the unhealthy potential of a straight woman’s friendships with gay men. Can you relate?
That’s never been my experience. While there are times I am very enmeshed and comfortable in the gay community, I don’t live there like Violet, who doesn’t have anything other than this family of gay friends. I’m such a different “fag hag” than Violet. I’ve never wanted to be a gay man, and I don’t want to have sex like a gay man.

When you first signed on, the film was called Bye Bye, Fruit Fly. Some women bristle at the terms “fruit fly” and “fag hag.” You embrace them?
I do embrace “fag hag” because I’m old enough to have earned it. But “fruit fly” bothers me, and I want you to know that Violet Tendencies came from yours truly. The first thing I asked Casper was, “Is Bye Bye, Fruit Fly for sure the title?” At the end of the shoot, he came up to me and said, “Well done. Violet Tendencies it is.” Straight people are just as represented in this movie as gay people, so I wanted it to be a little more ambiguous. I support gay cinema and gay film festivals, but why does it have to be so separate? It bothers me when they’re marketed that way because more than just gay people should see these movies. What’s so beautiful about Jesse’s script is that it doesn’t hit you over the head with AIDS or gay couples with children; that’s just part of the fabric of the story, and any audience would appreciate that. It’s a gift to be able to fold those issues into a sexual romp.

Gay films, especially romps, rarely explore AIDS anymore, yet Violet Tendencies features Marcus Patrick as an HIV-positive go-go boy advocating to make HIV “stigma-free.”
Yeah, it’s a fact that a lot of gay men are now living with HIV and not, shall we say, dying from it. Traveling around to these festivals, it seems there are two kinds of gay-themed movies: The bawdy sexual escapade and the deep, dark, relationship drama. Violet Tendencies has gotten such a great response because it’s kind of both. It’s a sweet, lighthearted movie with a message. You get your tickle, you get a little cock, but there’s an actual story in there.

You got to make out with Marcus, which was almost as hot as the time you sucked face with Scott Baio when you guest-starred on Charles in Charge as Buddy’s alcoholic sister.
[Laughs] Marcus was a little better because I was more conscious. It was a nice little perk.

Did you learn anything new about gay culture or lingo from the film? Even I didn’t know what “biss” was.
Well, no one did, but good for us that now it’s going to permeate. I didn’t know what a “fupa” was either. Unfortunately, I knew everything else.

Aside from the dirty lingo and club scenes with go-go boys, sex parties also play a big part in the film. Did you ever reach your gay limit?
One time we were shooting at a club at 5 a.m. after it had been open all night. The cleaning crew had not been in yet, so when we walked downstairs to the “room,” the smell of piss and funk and spunk was so overwhelming that it offended everyone. I literally had to request a bottle of Fantastik and become Mindy the den mother for a minute and clean up down there. That day got a little too gay for everyone, including the gay men.

Michael Musto, who makes a cameo in the movie, wrote a gossip item in his Village Voice column last summer that you’d told him about “getting drinks for Calvin Klein’s butt boy” on Fire Island. What’s the full story there?
Oh, my God. I don’t know, and I won’t talk about it. That was actually part of a private conversation, and I can’t believe he wrote about it, but I should’ve known that he would. I’m not the girl who gets angry, but that was my mistake, so I can’t even comment on that.

Wow. OK, switching gears, you played lesbians in the indie films Sex and Death 101 and Swing. How did you approach those roles?
I don’t get why some actors play gay characters like stereotypes. Someone’s sexuality does not define them completely, so that’s how I played it. I didn’t even know why I was gay in Swing because there was no payoff. There were actually a lot more references to it in Sex and Death that didn’t make the movie.

Tags: film

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