On the legacy of Lily Tomlin: “I’m more than happy to know that there was a kid named Elisa who regaled her younger siblings with Edith Ann stories. That’s as much as anything can be.” ~Lily Tomlin
We’ve all had our childhood heroes whether it was Superman, Wonder Woman or Evel Knievel (speaking from a child of the 70s). Mine was Lily Tomlin. As a young girl I would tell stories as Edith Ann (one of Lily’s most famous characters) to my younger brothers and sister in the back of our station wagon. Through Lily’s work I was introduced to the art of imitation and comedy. She also inspired one of my first moments of activism for women. As an nine year old girl the film 9-5 left quite the impression on me. I decided (in my 4th grade kind of way) to make copies of the 9-5 lyrics and hand them out to every kid in my school. I was determined to spread the story of everyday women in the workforce, women who were taking matters into their own hands.
In a successful career that spans over forty years Lily Tomlin has served as a power figure for women in the media. She has received numerous awards including six Emmys, one Tony, one Grammy, two Peabody Awards and most recently she and partner Jane Wagner were honored with a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame. In addition to being an American icon she is an activist who puts her passion into action for women’s rights and animal protection. Tomlin can be found on the website for women www.wowowow.com and participates with other celebrities to create an on-line community which is run by women for women. She is also narrating the HBO documentary, An Apology to Elephants.
My connection with Lily Tomlin came full circle as I recently interviewed her as part of See Jane Do. Within the 60 minutes of our conversation Lily shared her greatest memories around her personal idols (like Lucille Ball and Ruth Draper) and fellow co-stars like Jane Fonda, Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, Eve Ensler and Dolly Parton. She talks about the War on Women and her response to Rush Limbagh’s attack on Sarah Fluke (as told through Ernestine). We discussed what the movie 9-5 would look like now in 2012 and her current projects like a new Edith Ann game app and a TV pilot where she plays Reba McIntire’s mother.
I’m not sure my sense of connection to Lily Tomlin is because she exudes a sense of wonderment in characters like Edith Ann, the sassiness of Ernestine or the strength and wit of Violet in 9-5. Perhaps it’s just because Lily Tomlin is the real deal. She truly lives out her passion and as an award winning comedian and actress she’s obviously doing something right.