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Lily Tomlin on Why She Refused to Play Time's Coming Out 'Games' 

Lily Tomlin on Why She Refused to Play Time's Coming Out 'Games' 

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda

The Grace & Frankie star was offered the news giant's cover in 1975 with one major caveat. 

Appearing on Ellen DeGeneres's show on Tuesday, the legendary Lily Tomlin elaborated on why she turned down the cover of Time when it was offered to her (with stipulations) in 1975.

"I decided that I wasn't going to play their game," Tomlin, who appeared with her Grace & Frankie costar Jane Fonda, told DeGeneres.

Tomlin, 79, recalled that she was starring in Robert Altman's critical darling Nashville when her publicist called to tell her she could have the cover of the news giant with one big caveat.

"Time would give me the cover if I would come out," Tomlin told DeGeneres, who 22 years later famously came out on the magazine's cover with the caption "Yep, I'm gay."

"It was a hard decision to make. I fell down on the side of, probably -- after what you went through -- probably good sense," Tomlin told DeGeneres.

"You weren't ready. You didn't want to do it yet," DeGeneres replied.

"And I wanted to be acknowledged for my performance," Tomlin said, joking, "I can see in retrospect that was hardly worth it."

Tomlin addressed the Time cover in an interview with The Advocatein 2009.

"I don't think anybody was coming out yet then, and I frankly was not interested in being typed as the gay celebrity," she said at the time. "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."

While Tomlin, who's been with her partner, the writer Jane Wagner, for nearly 50 years (they married five years ago), was not the first lesbian to come out on the cover of Time, she broke ground for queer people in other ways.

In 2014, the year she and Wagner wed, Tomlin became the first out lesbian to become a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.

Closing the conversation, DeGeneres asked the notoriously forthcoming Fonda what was happening in her dating life.

"I'm gonna come out. If they put me on the cover of Time, I'll come out," Fonda quipped.

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