Come out Laughing: Unapologetically Gay Comedy Veterans Lois Bromfield and Alec Mapa Discuss Coming out and Surviving Show Business
Duralde, Alonso, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Meet two television treasures: As the saucy Vern on CBS's short-lived Some of My Best Friends, Alec Mapa was one of the few out gay actors playing a gay character on television--and one of the sauciest. His often-revived one-man show, I Remember Mapa, recounts his many acting-out adventures, from taking over for B.D. Wong in M. Butterfly to his recent off-Broadway successes. Meanwhile, Lois Bromfield has been a one-woman act since she began her career as a stand-up comic. She has also worked her way through the writing staffs of such TV series as Roseanne and Greece Under Fire. She recently returned to stand-up thanks to fellow out comedian Michele Balan, who took her back to Provincetown, Mass., and proved to her that at any given moment, somewhere in the world, some gay person is still laughing at Bromfield's immortal 1986 short film, Sorority Girls From Hell.
In honor of National Coming Out Day (October 11), The Advocate eavesdropped on a conversation between these two very funny people--about being out in showbiz in front of the camera as well as behind the writer's desk.
Bromfield: Sometimes in a room when I'm [first working] on a show they'll say [hesitantly], "Are you the gay Lois Bromfield?" as if there's another one that might be heterosexual and married in Orange County. I say, Yeah, and they say, "Oh, oh, OK."
Mapa: I think ultimately that's where you want to be as a gay person, where you're not even thinking of it as an issue anymore. Because initially when you come out, it's such a radical departure. Certainly for me--I grew up in a conservative Filipino Catholic background, so you tend to be really kind of militant when you come out. But now, when it even becomes an issue, it's weird.
Bromfield: It's as if you've gone back in time. Because, like, for example, today I called up the Writers Guild and said, "Hi, this is Lois Bromfield; I'm calling about my domestic-partner health insurance." And she went, "Oh." It was the stone reaction you would get from your aunt if she'd forgotten you were gay and you called her up at Thanksgiving and reminded her.
Mapa: But aren't we lucky if that's the most homophobia that we experience? During one of the press conferences for [the launch of] Some of My Best Friends, somebody asked, "Aren't we over this?" The executive producer told me about that, and I wish I'd been there, because I would've said, "I wish we were over this."
Bromfield: Yeah, absolutely.
Mapa: The whole reason I live in West Hollywood is so if I'm out on a date, I can make out with my boyfriend on the street and not get hit by a rock.
Bromfield: I know, I'm terrible--I don't even want to hold hands with my girlfriend on the street. I don't want to get killed.
Mapa: Right, so there's this whole other side [to gay visibility]--yes, we're in the media, and yes, Will & Grace is a top 10 hit. But no matter how many Emmys they throw at us or how much coverage we get, some people still hate us.
Bromfield: I'm so glad to hear you say that, because I say to my girlfriend, Michele, "They hate us." When I'm in the world I try to stay fairly anonymous, 'cause there's no reason for me to go into Macy's and say, "Hi, I'm a lesbian, and I'm looking for a sweater."
Mapa: But I've always felt that it's really important for me to be out just in terms of my work, because the hardest part for me growing up was feeling like I was the only person. And I grew up in San Francisco! When I crone out [professionally] I realized it really wasn't going to make any difference [in my career]. All these people kept telling me, "You're going to limit yourself," and I was like, "Why? I'm not going to get to read for all those really good roles they're writing for heterosexual Asian males trader 5 foot 5?"
Bromfield: When I first got my job on Grace Under Fire, in '96, I remember being introduced, because I just crone in and said, "Hi, I'm a lesbian, let's get to work. …