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.”



MINDY COHN 5 X390 | ADVOCATE.COMYou’ve also voiced Velma in the Scooby-Doo cartoons since 2002. People have said Velma’s a lesbian for decades.
Yes, and everybody’s world will be rocked for sure this season on Cartoon Network. There’s an interesting story line and a different kind of Velma. I always saw Velma as “Pat” — you’re just not sure.

Have you found that people are also unsure of your sexuality?
I’m asked if I’m gay all the time. I think it’s because I’m 44 and still single. I’m not offended if someone thinks I’m gay, and if a woman is attracted to me, it’s a lovely compliment. I just have a hard time when they go there because I’m not married at 44. Do they ask single 44-year-old men if they’re gay? No, they call them players.

Right after you did Chelsea Lately in 2008 to promote Sex and Death 101, Chelsea Handler told me she was going to take you to dinner and grill you for Facts of Life gossip. How was your date?
You know what? We made two dates, they both didn’t work out, and then I never heard from her again. I still love her copious amounts.

Due to her Christian beliefs, Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair, refused to appear in the Facts of Life episode in which Natalie becomes the first girl to lose her virginity. I guess she won’t be seeing Violet Tendencies anytime soon, eh?
Oh, no. But what’s great about Lisa — and as we age it even gets better — is that she knows exactly who I am and what I’m about. Like, I have a mouth like a truck driver, but there are certain things about people that you have to accept because they’re not going to change. If anything, I’m consistent. But I’m also very respectful of her boundaries, and I accept her for who she is. As far as the born-again Christian community is concerned, I find her to be very open and accepting. She’s one of those rare Christians who really lives by the Bible, which is about tolerance, forgiveness, and not casting judgment. That’s why I love and respect the holy hell out of her.

Facts of Life still has a huge gay following. I can name three recent Facts of Life drag parodies off the top of my head. On a personal note, I was only 9 when the girls traveled to Australia, but I remember squealing with glee. Were you conscious of the show’s gay fan base back then?
Not really. That’s your experience and the experience of a lot of people in the gay community, which is awesome, but we also had that effect on girls our age, and we were the guilty pleasure of straight boys too. So no, I didn’t know that, but we didn’t really know until later how many people were actually watching us.

Were you aware of people joking about underlying lesbian tension between the girls, particularly Blair and Jo?
Yes, but not really until about season 6. By that time we were 18, 19, so we got it. That’s why Natalie had to lose her virginity. I mean, these were four girls living in a room together, and you’re telling me that no one’s done anything? So somebody had to get her cherry popped. Yeah, at some point we were all aware of those rumors, but the four of us were very secure, so none of the gay stuff or weight comments really penetrated. That’s why we’re all so, dare I say, normal.

There’s also that infamous 1979 pilot episode in which Blair insinuates that Cindy the tomboy is a lesbian.
Absolutely. Thank you for bringing that up, because as the show gets older and people get more nostalgic, people forget that it really was a Norman Lear show like Maude and All in the Family, where we didn’t shy away from teen suicide, sex, and other things that weren’t talked about on television at the time.

Like Natalie, you also attended an all-girls school, Westlake, where Charlotte Rae discovered you. Was there any sexual experimentation there?
Not at all. Out of my class of 83 girls that I went with from seventh to 12th grades, only two were gay, and they didn’t come out until college. We were sexual, but not with each other. Our bad behavior was drinking screwdrivers and giving blow jobs to the guys at the boys’ school.

Tags: film