Mindy Cohn: Proud to be a ‘fag hag’

By |2018-01-15T20:36:15-05:00March 3rd, 2011|Entertainment|

By Anthony Paull

Infamous for her role as Natalie Green, the fresh-faced teen of the 1980s sitcom “The Facts of Life,” Mindy Cohn is best known as the bubbly Tootie-sidesick, generally pleasing television audiences with a G-rated joke on her tongue. Now, she’s returning to the Hollywood game with a bit more kick and lot more pizzazz, portraying the feisty lead role in “Violet Tendencies,” a Casper Andreas-directed film screening at 6 p.m. March 13 at the Burton Theatre as part of the Detroit Independent Film Festival.
Penned by Jesse Archer, “Tendencies” follows the life of a 40-year-old fruit fly named Violet (Cohn) who devotes her nights to queer men, but ultimately flounders when it comes to finding a man of her own. Taking a friend’s advice, Violet abandons her gay family on a spiritual quest to find true love, sparking hilarity, romance and mayhem as she attempts to change the woman she is to find the man she wants.
Recently, Cohn chatted about her career and shared further insight into the film.

Tell us, career-wise, what have you been up to since leaving “The Facts of Life”?
Gratefully, for the last 25 years, I’ve been able to find work to support myself in a lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed. I have to say, it’s been an amazing ride.

Yes, and a full one as well. I hear you graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in anthropology.
Yes, but since that time, I’ve also received a master’s in education, so there’s been a ton of other stuff, too.

Before “Tendencies,” your role as Natalie on “The Facts of Life” granted you a legion of fans and followers. Plus, you’ve been nominated for an Emmy with your voice work as Thelma on “What’s New Scooby-Doo.” What type of acting work do you prefer, television or film?
Well, I like to take the work I am given. It really doesn’t matter what medium. I just came off a four-month run of a Toronto play. Mostly, I’ve been working in independent film, and it’s been good to me. While you can’t make the most amazing living at it, I’ve worked with some of the most incredible people, especially in the last five years.

Are you still in contact with your “Facts of Life” family? Which cast member are you closest with?
I’m close to all of them. We live in different cities so we don’t see each other all the time, but we’re still in contact.

What attracted you to the lead role in “Tendencies”?
The script by Jesse Archer. It won me over. After talking with him, I just really wanted to work with him.

As a single middle-aged woman, Violet goes through a slew of romantic mishaps on her search for Mr. Right. What is your advice for gay men or women seeking the same fate?
Oh gosh. I don’t know if I’m the best person to be giving advice in that department. Just get out there and do what feels right for you. It’s different for everybody. (Laughs) I’m really not an advice person.

As an actress, what have you been asked to change anything about yourself to win over audiences?
Gratefully, not much. As an actor, I try to bring myself to each character, and lose myself as well. Hopefully, I’ve done a good job. It seems that I play likeable characters. It makes me happy to hear that I’m well-liked. I must be doing something right.

What part of Violet do you see most in yourself?
Just the fact that she’s created this family of friends. I’m blessed to have come from a very close family. I have an amazing model of a family with a mom, dad and sister with whom I’ve very tight. I’ve recreated that in my friend circle. Whether they be male, female, gay, straight, I have a close family of friends, and I really identify with Violet in the fact that “you are who you love.” Friends are the most important people. They define you.

In the film, Violet is labeled a “fag hag” for her close friendships with gay men. It’s a term that some LGBT community members find cruel and offensive. What are your thoughts?
For me, probably due to my age and upbringing in the 1980s, I feel I’ve earned that name! I’m proud to be a card-carrying fag hag! I don’t find it derogatory. Actually, I find fruit-fly a little more cheeky. They used to call us divas, but that was taken over by singers. Now, it’s fag hag. I think I’m in incredibly good company with the history of that name.
At the same time, I hope that because you’re a fag hag, it doesn’t mean you don’t have straight friends or that you want to have sex with gay men and/or live like a gay man. I think that’s the most amazing thing with Violet. Finally, a fag hag is not some stereotype or ancillary character in a film. She’s very three-dimensional, and I appreciate that.

Why do you think certain women find gay men so appealing?
Actually, I think it’s mutual. I always say, “If I like who I am around you, you’re in.” Gay men and straight women, if paired correctly, can really be a tremendous source of fun, comfort and intimacy for each other, like no other relationship.

On several occasions, “Tendencies” raises the question of the social stigma attached to HIV. Do you feel we’ve advanced as a society in regard to our views of the virus?
The good news is people have gone from dying of AIDS to living with AIDS. It’s good and bad, actually. I think it’s good that the stigma, while still alive and kicking, is not as prevalent. But in turn, the focus to finding a cure has been taken away because so many people have been living and thriving with meds and treatment. It’s a double-edged sword.

What type of projects do you expect to work on in the near future?
I wouldn’t know what’s next if it bit me in the butt. That’s the most exciting part of being an actor. You don’t know what’s coming down the pike. The only thing you can do is be ready, and I’m just really grateful that the parts that I’ve been waiting for have been finally coming to me.

‘Violet Tendencies’
6 p.m. March 13
Burton Theatre
3420 Cass Ave., Detroit
http://www.detroitiff.com

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.