Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Comeback Kidder

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Comeback Kidder

Article excerpt

Jim J. Bullock says his recent drug arrest forced him to evaluate his life. Now he's back on his feet in L.A.'s When Pigs Fly.

With roles like the goofy Monroe Ficus on the hit '80s sitcom Too Close for Comfort, Jim J. Bullock has made a franchise out of kooky quips and over-the-top facial contortions. But there has been little levity in the actor's life the past few years. A careening career and the death of his lover to AIDS-related complications sent him to escape into a fog of booze and drugs, culminating in his tabloid-reported February arrest for crystal meth possession in West Hollywood, Calif. "I never believed in bad luck," says longtime friend Joan Rivers. "But if anybody has had it in our business, he is one of them." But Bullock doesn't blame fate for his troubles. "That drug robbed me of my life," confides the actor, who says he's changing his ways. "There's a time to play and work, and I had my time to play."

Bullock, 44, is putting his newly clear mind--and trademark wackiness--into a current Los Angeles production of Howard Crabtree's When Pigs Fly, Crabtree's irreverent award-winning musical revue. In it Bullock sings while dressed up as a vanity mirror and as a nearsighted Cupid. "It's like Les Miserables," he quips. "Very, very deep."

Bullock has long had a sense for irony. Raised a Baptist by ultraconservative parents in Texas, he planned on becoming an evangelist singer. But after attending Oklahoma Baptist University briefly on a music scholarship, the then--deeply closeted star wanna--be dropped out and headed to Los Angeles, where he joined the ranks of actor-waiters. "I've got a nice voice, but there's nothing unique about it," he says. "I knew my comedy was unique."

In 1980 his knack for slapstick and spitfire repartee landed him a six-year run on Comfort. When the show ended, Bullock was rich and famous, and his stock rose further when he proved himself a modern-day Paul Lynde in a version of Hollywood Squares. Although Joan Rivers had Lynde's former center square on the game show, Rivers often seemed to be eclipsed by Bullock's wit during the show's three years. "Being protective of [Rivers], I decided either to sign him or kill him," says Bill Sammeth, who managed Rivers at the time. "So I signed him." By 1989 Bullock was back in prime time in the fuzzy sitcom ALF.

The next year, Bullock's Bible-thumping parents discovered his sexual orientation on their 50th wedding anniversary. During a church celebration his mother cornered his best female friend and asked if her son is gay. It was not the first time the question had come up. "You should ask Jim," was the response, and that was all the confirmation his mother needed. "By then I was actually singing a medley of songs my mom and dad had courted to," he says. "I'm singing, and my parents are just weeping, and then I'm weeping 'cause I've broken their hearts on their 50th anniversary."

Bullock lay low until 1996, when he nabbed a dream job: cohost of a nationally syndicated talk show opposite former televangelist Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner. Although the pairing of the blush-heavy born-again Christian and out-there comic seemed odd, the two became friends. …

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