Always A Bridesmaid, Never A Groom
A walk through GLBT history with Robin Tyler as The Diversionary Theatre celebrates its 25th Anniversary
Published Thursday, 16-Sep-2010 in issue 1186
Robin Tyler is more than what meets the eye and with every moment spent with her one realizes two things first, a sense of humility and second this women has done it all from being a Judy Garland impersonator to African safaris. Tyler wears so many hats and would have it no other way, from one of our communities most vibrant and accomplished activist to the first lesbian or gay comedian to the first lesbian to be allowed on tv to name a few. She has also organized marches on Washington including the first that she innate in 1978. She has protested the Vietnam war, has written scripts, helped write books and written for the GLBT press, along with writing the play Always A Bridesmaid, Never A Groom. She has lived through our history and helped greatly in the GLBT civil rights movement and all the while cracking a joke and making others laugh. Some of the first things that you notice about Tyler is that she is a true individual and very intelligent. Always A Brides Maid Never A Groom is her autobiographical multi-media play, full of our history, struggles, good times, her ex lovers, marches and more. It is three decades of GLBT History with a big sense of humor, making it unique and very funny. Tyler along with her wife Diane Olson were the original couple at the heart of the first Prop. 8 trial. She owns a travel GLBT travel company, she has produced ServAL West Coast and Southern Women’s Music and Comedy Festivals. Tyler was also instrumental in organizing the second National March on Washington for Gay Rights in 1987 where the AIDS quilt was displayed for the first time, as well as the march in 1993 that drew a crowd of nearly a million GLBT protesters. Robin has also played a very important part in our community not only nationally but internationally. She has been at the center of same sex marriage from the beginning and will be until it ends in marriage rights for all. Tyler was also the co-founder and national rally coordinator for StopDRLaura.com. She has organized national celebrations for times when we have won portions of our rights and made huge strides as a country and community. Always A Bridesmaid, Never A Groom is something Tyler revived in 2007; a comedy about a Jewish lesbian who was wanting to get married.
This show also marks the celebration of The Diversionary Theatre’s 25th Anniversary. Started in 1986 The Diversionary has played host to countless local actors, actresses and writers. With awarding winning shows they offer a place that we can see ourselves and lives reflected through the arts. The Gay & Lesbian Times thanks both Robin and The Diversionary for their time, efforts, talents and commitment to the GLBT community, in San Diego and beyond. A very large congratulation’s and thank you to you both.
Gay & Lesbian Times: Why are you in San Diego?
Robin Tyler: Why am I here, why San Diego? Well I live in L.A. but I’ve been down here a lot. I did San Diego Pride when it was just beginning. That’s where I met Nicole (Murray-Ramirez). I got up, he said “Go ahead speak next,” and I spoke and I said, “Who are you?” I like San Diego, and this is a two hour show. I had offers to take it all over the country, but I don’t want to stand up and do a two hour live show every night, so I thought okay. I’ll film it and send it to the film festival instead. So I’m here to film it live and I know the San Diego community has a sense of humor, and are also political, and that’s why I’m here in San Diego.
GLT: What year was it that you and Nicole met?
RT: I forget, and the calendars don’t go back that long.
GLT: What would you say that the play/film is about?
RT: It’s really a history of the gay movement and I use all of my ex-lovers as the transition points. Not all of them or it would be a week long performance. But I didn’t want to write an autobiography, and I thought the way to tell my story is on stage. I’ve been involved in the movement since the early ’70’s. I knew Harvey Milk, and Harvey was in San Francisco when I was organizing in L.A. Essentially, most people know what happened up until what happened with Harvey, and this is really the continuation of thirty years after Harvey. I take people through the movement and all the marches and all the fights and all the arguments, but I do it with humor-so that I can get away with it.
GLT: Why are you so controversial?
RT: I’ve always been maybe one of the most controversial people in the movement. That’s what Nicole was telling me. The reason I’ve been so controversial is I was fighting for marriage rights for same sex couples since 1974. At the 2nd March on Washington in the ’80’s they didn’t want to do the marriage ceremony because it was ‘sexist and homophobic and heterosexist and everything’ and of course I did it anyway. In ’93 they didn’t want to do the military production number on stage because the March on Washington Committee said “Gays shouldn’t serve in the military,” I did it anyway. I always been controversial because I never felt that a small group of people should be able to determine who in our movement should do what.
GLT: How long did you do comedy for?
RT: I was the first out gay comic in the ’70’s and I was a professional comic for 25 years. I was signed to network television and did Kroft Comedy Hour on ABC, I did a lot of comedy.
GLT: What was the worst slack you’ve received for being an out activist or comedienne?
RT: ABC didn’t hire me after they showed me on the national news (as an out activist) and that was great because I got to go on to do comedy. When Diane and I sued to get married, the gay organizations really came down on us, “How could you do this, there are 6 republican judges, we’re gonna lose in California.” Then when we won, everyone rushed to the front and said, “Look what we did!”
GLT: What is the story behind your political publicity?
RT: In the beginning of our suit, it was very hard to get any kind of publicity. Many gay organizations didn’t want us to be seen and heard on this topic. We had to fight and eventually got plenty of coverage. We were lucky that Gloria Allred was our attorney because she gets a lot of press.
GLT: What was the most interesting thing to you about Harvey?
RT: That he went up against the gay community. Many gays didn’t want him to run for office, including the guy from the Advocate. The community wanted him to back the democrat who had been fair to gays. Harvey said no, and went outside of the gay community and got other support.
GLT: Do think nowadays that younger people are just not as willing to fight for their rights?
RT: No they are, in fact in L.A. when prop 8 passed, tens of thousands of youth were on the streets constantly for months. There hasn’t been as many people on the streets in a civil rights movement since Selma, Alabama. But the press never covered it nationally. Fortunately the internet has allowed freedom of distribution of freedom of speech.
GLT: Do you think all minorities win their rights through the court system?
RT: I think they win rights in many ways. They have to stay in the courts and sue, go to the streets to march, stay in the political system, and not support those who do not support gay rights.
GLT: Do you and Diane have any kids?
RT: We have two pugs, Mu Shu Pork, and WonTon.
GLT: Thank you for taking the time to interview, we wish you success with your show, Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Groom here in San Diego September 16th–19th at Diversionary Theatre.