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Lily Tomlin was offered a “Yep, I’m Gay” TIME magazine cover decades before Ellen

In 1975, she says 'it probably would have been tsunami-like'

It was in 1997 that Ellen DeGeneres caused a national wave of publicity and debate when she was featured on the cover of TIME magazine with this headline: 'Yep, I'm Gay.'

Twenty-two years earlier, that cover could have been Lily Tomlin's.

Now 73, one of the stars of new movie Admission a cast member of the ABC sitcom Malibu Country, Tomlin did not publicly discuss being a lesbian until 2001 although it had long been an open secret.

'TIME magazine offered me the cover in 1975 if I would come out,' Tomlin tells Entertainment Weekly.

'I was a bit insulted that they thought I’d trade my personal life for the cover of TIME,' she says. 'It’s probably just as well.'

At that time, she was one of the stars of the NBC comedy show Laugh-In and had just made her feature film debut in Nashville which earned her an Academy Award nomination.

'Being such a big TV personality at that time, it probably would have been tsunami-like,' she says of the public reaction.

By the time of the magazine shoot, Tomlin had been with her life partner of 42 years, writer Jane Wagner, for four years. The two have collaborated professionally many times including on Tomlin's Tony Award winning one-woman show The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.

In the end, Tomlin ended up getting a TIME cover anyway a few years later - but for her professional accomplishments, not her personal life.

'It’s stunning the progress in the last 15 years,' she says of the years since Ellen's TIME cover.

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