Throwback Thursday: Ellen and Rosie Dance Around the Gay Thing in 1996

Before Ellen DeGeneres officially came out in 1997, she appeared on Rosie O'Donnell's talk show to address the rumors with some coy banter.

BY Jami Smith

February 27 2014 12:15 PM ET

It's been 17 years since Ellen DeGeneres came out as a lesbian and forever changed the landscape for other LGBT public figures. In 2014, DeGeneres is happily married, at the top of her career, about to host the Oscars, and so beloved by practically everyone that it can be difficult to conjure the memory of how terrifying it must've been so long ago.

Cut to this clip from The Rosie O'Donnell show in 1996, which beautifully captures the moments leading up to Ellen's big gay reveal.

Rumors had already been circulating that DeGeneres's character on her acclaimed sitcom, Ellen, was going to come out as gay. In this interview with O'Donnell, she decides to coyly dance around the topic by revealing that her character is actually "Lebanese." The whole interview between O'Donnell and DeGeneres becomes a hilarious tongue in cheek conversation about homosexuality on a daytime talk show whose primary demographic was suburban soccer moms.

At one point in the interview, O'Donnell, who was not out of the closet, jokes to DeGeneres "maybe I'm Lebanese," to which DeGeneres responds with, "I pick up sometimes that you might be Lebanese."  Keep in mind that O'Donnell didn't reveal her own sexuality until six years later in 2002. That's what makes this clip such a brilliant time capsule.

Watch DeGeneres and O'Donnell banter about their shared "Lebanese" background below:

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