BY Bruce Vilanch
November 10 2009 6:00 AM ET
He may have asked you that because of the incident on The Dick Cavett Show, where you walked off when Chad Everett referred to his wife as his property. Carson was very smart, you know. He may have been trying to provoke you.
Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. You may be right. But, you know, it was the sort of question everyone asked a woman in those days. Those days—they still do! The last time I was on The View, Barbara said to me, “Now, Lily, we’ve known each other a long time, and you’ve never married. Is that because you just haven’t found the right man?” And I just looked at her and I said, “Oh, Barbara, we have known each other a long time, and we all know that’s not the reason.” And she changed the subject.
Maybe it slipped her mind that she was in the presence of a card-carrying lesbian, and she went to the default question.
Ha! Listen, I just think nobody was ever really interested in my sex life. I may weep.
They generally aren’t interested in people who don’t play the romantic parts. Nobody ever asks me if Drew Carey is gay.
Congratulations, you’re the first. No, but he’s a great guy anyway.
You know, I said nobody was interested, but that’s not true. There were some fans who really wanted me to come out. And some media. Time magazine offered me the cover if I would come out. That was in 1975. I don’t think anybody was coming out yet then, and I frankly was not interested in being typed as the gay celebrity. I think what Ellen did was incredibly brave, and she paid a price for it—and she did it about 20 years after I got that offer.
And you got the cover of Time anyway.
Well, yes, but that’s not the point. [Laughs] I got it later, when I was a bit more mainstream. Although I never was what you would call mainstream. I was doing a live album and I put a joke on it where I was being interviewed and the interviewer said, “We understand you’re going to play a heterosexual in your next film,” and I said something like, “Yes, I think they’re terribly misunderstood. They’re just like the rest of us, really. But it will take a great deal of study.” Something like that. It was my way of dealing with it. At that time.
But you never really, formally, stereophonically came out. I want to make sure I didn’t miss it.
No. We never hid anything and we never denied anything, but we never said anything specific. I referred to Jane a million times as my partner, and people interpreted that as they would.
And after a while…
I guess I was out. There may have been a story in Us Weekly the first time I specifically mentioned Jane in a more defined way, but that’s about it.