BY Neal Broverman
April 05 2010 2:55 PM ET
Her transition to film was seamless, which now
strikes Tomlin as amusing — it was rare in the ’70s for
television actors to graduate to film. But at the time she never saw
herself as limited, which may explain her Oscar-nominated turn as a
gospel singer and unfaithful wife in Robert Altman’s Nashville.
The ageless feminist comedy 9 to 5 was the topic of the most questions
from Coco, with Tomlin relaying that she and costars Jane Fonda and
Dolly Parton remain close (“there’s nothing like a number 1 movie to
bond you together”), and no ... she’s never seen Dolly without her wig.
called Steve Martin, her costar in the 1984 comedy All of Me,
sweet and real. Her Prairie Home Companion costar Meryl
Streep also received praise, with Tomlin describing her as a blithe
spirit, often prone to fits of laughter and known to unleash Ernestine-like
snorts at times.
One of Tomlin’s most beloved movies, especially
among Generation X-ers, is the Wagner-penned The Incredible Shrinking
Woman from 1981. Wagner has been Tomlin’s creative partner since
1971, when the comedian met the writer to discuss an Edith Ann album. “I
fell madly in love with her as I laid eyes on her,” Lily said of Jane.
They just celebrated their 39th anniversary.
Wagner also wrote The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,
a starring vehicle for Tomlin that played on Broadway in the ’80s,
before being made into a film in 1991. Adored for its satirical look at
modern mores — as viewed by aliens studying the human race — it
attracted a cult-like following. Tomlin spoke of Katharine Hepburn taking
in a performance; the younger star showered the legend with kisses when
she was brought to her dressing room. Barbra Streisand was also in the
audience that same night, but by most accounts she left halfway through
because she “wasn’t feeling well.”
The two-hour-plus conversation
— which included clips of Tomlin’s most recent work, on the lauded legal
drama Damages — ended emotionally with Peru whipping out a flier
from September 1977. It was the announcement of a charity performance
at the Hollywood Bowl starring entertainers including Bette Midler and
Tomlin — the event was a fund-raiser against California’s Briggs
Initiative, an unsuccessful attempt to bar gays from teaching.
cried as he read the pamphlet, finally uttering through whimpers that,
“Even in 1977, you were fighting for us.” That’s a testament to Tomlin’s
power — this class act can even make a hardened drag queen sob, no
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