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Molly Shannon Opens Up About Discovering Her Father Was A Closeted Gay Man Shortly Before His Death

Molly Shannon Opens Up About Discovering Her Father Was A Closeted Gay Man Shortly Before His Death
The Howard Stern Show/YouTube

Saturday Night Live alumnus Molly Shannon disclosed in an interview on The Howard Stern Show her father, James Shannon, had been a closeted homosexual.

The 57-year-old comedian/actress said she learned about her father's struggle with his sexuality shortly before his death–an experience she covers in her memoir Hello, Molly!

Shannon said she found out the truth about her alcoholic father in 2001 when he came to visit New York city as she was in rehearsals for her final episode after a six-year stint on SNL.

You can watch the interview, here.

youtu.be

She said her dad had been drinking at a bar in Grand Central Station, met a "straight college boy" and brought him over to Shannon's West Village apartment, drunk.

Shannon said she was "really bummed because he had been sober for a few years."

She wound up kicking him out of the apartment and had him stay at a hotel that night.

Frustrated after the incident, Shannon confided in her manager, Steven Levy–who is gay and had lost his own dad and become close with Shannon's father. "They bonded together," she said. "He was like a father figure to him."

Shannon continued:

“Steven, in that conversation when I complained about my dad, said, ‘You’re being too hard on him Molly, you’re being too hard on him. You don’t understand, he’s given up so much for you girls, so much for you and Mary.'”
"And he kept repeating, and I go, ‘What are you saying? Are you saying he’s gay?’"
“And he was like, ‘I don’t want to tell you! He’s going to tell you.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I couldn’t believe it.”

Shannon said she suddenly felt so much compassion for her dad, "sort of like the pieces of the story coming together. Tragic."

Stern weighed in and said, "Can you imagine what his life must've been? To be a closeted gay man his entire life?"

The radio personality also suggested Shannon's father may have resorted to excessive drinking due to repressing his sexuality and because he was "in so much pain."

Shannon agreed, saying, "He took this job that was in over his head, and he was probably drinking more because he was stressed out."

“I think he had tried to tell my mom before that. He said, ‘I saw this psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist told me I’m a latent homosexual,’ and she said, ‘Oh, that psychiatrist never should’ve told you that.'”

After waiting so long for her father to open up about the truth and never initiating a conversation on the topic, she asked him directly in 2001.

“I just one day asked him by the pool, ‘Have you ever thought you might be gay? And he just said, ‘Most definitely.'”

He was 72 at the time. He died six months later from prostate cancer–another thing Shannon mentioned about her father that he had kept secret.

Earlier in the interview, Shannon touched on a horrific family tragedy over fifty years ago in which her family got into a car accident that killed her mother, cousin, and younger sister. Her father was behind the wheel at the time after drinking earlier in the day.

Shannon was 4 at the time.

"I did not grow up blaming him," she said of her dad but added that he lived with the guilt of what he did for the rest of his life.

“So of course, you’re going to drink,” said Shannon, when reflecting back on everything her father was going through.

“Imagine if you couldn’t be who you were sexually. It’s horrible.”


She also discussed the family tragedy and how it forever changed her outlook on her mortality while promoting her new book on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

Shannon also touched on the subject of her late father in a separate interview with NPR.

When she had asked him when he knew he might be gay, he told her:

"'Oh, Molly, I knew in grade school. I’d go on double dates, and I would look at the boy."
"And I liked this one boy who was from Poland, and I liked the way his hand held a cigarette. He looked so manly."
"And I would look at the J.C. Penney catalogs and see the macho men in their undershirts.”

He additionally admitted to having gay sex while on business trips as a salesman and at truck stops.

Upon hearing him openly talking about his sexuality, Shannon said she was "happy for him" and that it was "such an honor that he came out to me. And I think it was a relief for him to be able to tell me.”

Her memoir is described as "A candid, compulsively readable, hilarious, and heartbreaking memoir of resilience and redemption by comedic genius Molly Shannon."

Hello, Molly! was released on April 12.