'80s Sitcom Secrets Revealed!
TV Guide Online has some good
dirt for classic-TV fans today: It's no secret that former talk-show host and Hollywood Squares
regular JM J. Bullock
, 49, is gay. However, Monroe Ficus — his ditzy character on ABC's Too Close for Comfort
— wasn't supposed to be. Still, that didn't stop many viewers from reading him that way, which caused lotsa
drama behind the scenes. Now that the '80s hitcom's first season is out on DVD, Bullock thinks it's high time Monroe's skeletons come out of the closet, too!
TV Guide Online: You recently guest-starred on The Bold and the Beautiful...
JM J. Bullock: Yes, my character's name was Serge. But I pronounced it "Sir-gay."
TVGO: Well, your wedding-planner guy came on to the groom (Jack Wagner). Don't you feel a little guilty for making gay people out to be ho's who are too dumb to even flirt selectively? And with Jack Wagner, for god's sake?! Ew!
Bullock: (Laughs) Do I feel guilty? No. Work is work — I'm not in a place where I can be turning things down. It's stereotypical, but it was all in fun and jest. I really can't get all hung up on that.
TVGO: So is Jack Wagner your cup of tea?
Bullock: Noooo... He's a very nice man, but not at all. That's the brilliance of my acting, darling. Now that doctor guy on Lost, Matthew Fox, is definitely someone I wouldn't have to act with. We'd just be doin' what comes naturally!
TVGO: Fox might find that Too Close for Comfort! By the way, is it true the sitcom's producers asked you to "butch up" Monroe?
Bullock: It's true. The producers called me in and said they were getting fan mail asking if Monroe was gay. They didn't want him to be gay. I told them, "I can't butch it up. That's not who Monroe is. Please! You've given me two love interests that I was completely asexual about: Selma Diamond and a transsexual. What else are people to think? This is not my responsibility. If you want to answer this question in the minds of the viewing audience, you need to give me a girlfriend."
TVGO: Back up, JM J. — Monroe dated a transsexual?
Bullock: I'm grasping at straws trying to remember the episode. I think [the late] Ted Knight discovered it first that the girl I was dating was a man. She was a he. He had to break the news to me and I was crushed. I couldn't have been too crushed with that big '80s hair. [Laughs]
TVGO: How often were you confused with Welcome Back, Kotter's Stephen Shortridge and Ted McGinley during his Love Boat days? Y'all had that highlighted wave of hair.
Bullock: I was definitely confused with Ted McGinley a lot. Back in 1982, Ted and I worked out at the same gym in Studio City. One day, I made a U-turn right in front of the gym, a cop pulled me over and found that I had warrants for my arrest for unpaid tickets. So I was handcuffed in my short shorts and hauled off in a squad car. So Robert Blake ran into the gym and said, "Oh my God, they just arrested that guy from Happy Days!" He thought I was Ted McGinley. I also was confused for George Michael a lot.
TVGO: What was the scariest part about doing Hollywood Squares — Whoopi pre-makeup or being up that high in a square?
Bullock: I never worked with Whoopi. I was on when Joan Rivers was center square and John Davidson was host. And I have no fear of heights, but I was once deliriously sick with the flu and Richard Simmons was in the square next to me. It was an eight-hour taping day — what a nightmare. He was so f---ing loud and obnoxious that I wanted to shove him out of his square and kill him. Oh, I was so sick, I wanted to projectile-vomit on him like Regan from The Exorcist.
TVGO: Back to Too Close. Why did your resident sexpot Lydia Cornell go the way of vanishing blonds Donna Dixon and Heather Thomas and not follow in the footsteps of career marathoners Suzanne Somers and Heather Locklear?
Bullock: In the mid-'80s she got pregnant and raised her little boy as a single mother. So I think she was devoted to being a mom and writing. It's sort of a mystery what Lydia did. She's always lived well, so who's to question?
TVGO: During your talk-show days, what makeup tips did you pick up from Tammy Faye Messner?
Bullock: Never take it off. No one sees her without makeup, even her husband. She sleeps in it! There's so many layers and layers there, you kind of wonder how her skin breathes, but that's Tammy. I love her to death.
TVGO: How come Tammy's so down with gay people, whereas TV's other religious personalities want to put gays down?
Bullock: Tammy is way cooler than most people, especially in religious circles. She's just a loving and accepting person. Regardless of her personal beliefs, she is not here to judge and lets everyone be who they are. We all need to respect each other.
TVGO: Before we hang up, what are you up to these days?
Bullock: I just got back from doing Hairspray on Broadway, and I'm starting my second season of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide on Nickelodeon. I play the life science teacher, Mr. Monroe. How bizarre is that? The creator adored Monroe on Too Close for Comfort and wanted to name the character that as a tribute. All these kids who grew up watching me are now hiring me! I feel like a gayosaur.