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Tammy Lynn Michaels

Tammy Lynn Michaels

Currently starring as "Tess" on NBC's new comedy series "Committed". Tammy Lynn Michaels was born and raised in the small town of Lafayette, Indiana where she spent her summers playing sports and delivering newspapers. Once out of high school, Michaels drove straight to New York City, where she worked as a nanny to pay the rent. In a sense, Michaels is going back to her roots playing the role of Tess, a nanny on “Committed.” After landing a co-starring role in the TV series “Popular” in 1999, Michaels moved to Los Angeles where she has since worked as a recurring guest star in the series, “That 80’s Show” and “The L Word.” Michaels currently resides in Los Angeles. Tammy Lynn ( giving name Tamara Doring) was born on November 26, 1974 in Lafayette, Indiana. She is a Sagittarius, known to be freedom-loving, optimistic and carefree. Tammy was raised by a single mother and as a child wanted to be an actor. She acted in the summers during high school. Tammy's mom drove her to New York City after high school graduation where she had hopes of attending an acting conservatory. When those plans fell through, she worked as a nanny and as a waitress. While working at a restaurant in New York, she was approached by an acting scout. She landed a few jobs in commercials and within a week of moving to Los Angeles, she was cast as Nicole Julian on Popular. Michaels played Nicole Julian on the WB's series Popular from 1999-2001. Her character was the quintessential popular girl who persecutes those who don't live up to her code. After the show was cancelled, Michaels was out at a gay bar with some friends. Melissa Etheridge was there. On a dare, Tammy Lynn approached Melissa and asked her out to dinner. Turns out, the two had a lot in common and hit it off immediately. Tammy Lynn Michaels was outed when People Magazine reported on her relationship with Melissa Etheridge. : Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels were wed September 22, 2003 in Los Angeles to celebrate California's historic domestic partnership ruling. Prior to her relationship with Melissa Etheridge, Tammy Lynn Michaels identified as a lesbian, but was not out. She admits she was afraid of the effect it would have on her career. "When I was closeted, it wasn't just hypocritical and un-PC, it was also killing me," Michaels said in an interview with Television without Pity. Michaels credits Etheridge's comfort in her sexuality with her newfound willingness to be out. Michaels appears in a few episodes of Showtime's The L Word. She acts as one of playgirl Shane's spurned lovers.
Michaels also appeared in the short film D.E.B.S., but was not cast in the full-length version of the film.


Tammy Lynn Michaels says 2005 is all about good time ahead

Balancing a new sitcom and caring for a wife battling breast cancer, Tammy Lynn Michaels says 2005 is all about good times ahead. For actress Tammy Lynn Michaels, 2004 was a mixture of untold bliss and extreme challenges. Ever since their celebrity-packed wedding on Sept. 22, 2003, Michaels and wife Melissa Etheridge have enjoyed life as enchanted newlyweds.
In January, Michaels guest-starred in the debut episode of “The L Word.” In February, Etheridge released “Lucky,” an album inspired by the couples’ harmonious union. As the year rolled out, the rockstar played three-hour shows while touring standing-room-only nightclubs. And the actress landed a starring role on “Committed,” an NBC sitcom that premieres Tuesday.
Then, on Oct. 8, Etheridge posted a notice on her Web site that she was being treated for breast cancer. The news was a shocker. Etheridge, 43, cancelled the remaining dates of her tour and went into surgery. Michaels assumed the role of the ever-supportive, handholding spouse.
On the Monday after Christmas, Michaels phones from the bustling home she shares with Etheridge and the kids, Bailey and Beckett. (Etheridge and former lover Julie Cypher trade weeks sharing custody).
Step-mommy Tammy Lynn puts the phone down to help find assemble toy that was in a Christmas stocking. And when Michaels can’t recall what they did at a Dallas nightclub on Sept. 10, 2001 (the rocker was scheduled to perform in Fort Worth on 9/11), Etheridge shouts, “We played air hockey, remember?”
“The big secret about Melissa,” Michaels says, “is that she’s a genuine sweetheart. Nobody knows that.”
Oh please, who doesn’t know that? When Howard Stern announced Etheridge’s breast cancer diagnosis, he gushed about the rocker’s velvety warmth — even though Etheridge has always refused to appear on his program.
“She will never, ever be on Howard Stern,” Michaels says.
How come? He’s very pro-gay — especially when it comes to lesbians.
“I agree, but there are topics we aren’t interested in discussing that Howard would push,” Michaels says.
Although Michaels perfected the role of a backstabbing bitch (WB’s “Popular), a lovesick freakazoid (“The L Word”) and now, the boozy and wickedly sarcastic best friend on “Committed,” Etheridge’s comfy vibe seems to have rubbed off.
Etheridge is in the thick of her chemotherapy treatments, which will end in February. But Michaels remains vivacious, strong and optimistic.
“Chemo is the hardest thing that we’re going to go through. But we both know that it’s going to be downhill from there,” she says.
On Nov. 26, Michaels turned 30 and made a quick inventory check.
“I got this great job, a wonderful home, a wonderful wife, and that alone puts me ahead of the game. So every opportunity is just a chance to learn something and grow a little bit wiser,” she says. “The cancer diagnosis and chemo are disguised as spiritual lessons. 2005 looks absolutely terrific — the best year yet. And 2006 will be better. 2007, even better. Everything is only up from here — sunshine and roses. It’s all about how you look at it.”
So how will the happy couple spend New Year’s Eve?
“That will be a hard day for Melissa,” Michaels says. “She will probably be in bed. And I will probably sit next to her and crochet and read. That’s our life right now.”
With 13 episodes of “Committed” already in the can, Michaels can spend some time at home.
The sitcom is about two completely neurotic lost New Yorker who find each other. Michaels plays Tess, an irresponsible nanny who lives across the hall from the eternally upbeat Marni (Jennifer Finnigan). Marni falls in love with Nate (Josh Cooke), a phobic genius who works at a
record store. It’s NBC’s obvious attempt to fill the post-“Friends” void, and Michaels hardly has a chance to showcase her talent in the first three episodes.
“I’m like Rhoda from ‘Mary Tyler Moore,’” Michaels explains. “I’m the neighbor — some episodes I’m barely there. Sometimes I’m everywhere.”
Speaking of Rhoda, Valerie Harper guest-stars on “Committed” this season, and so does Bob Newhart. The show was produced and created by Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline, who both worked on “Ellen.”
“Nope, they’re not lesbians,” Michaels explains.
And neither is Michaels’ character.
“Just because I’m playing the role, doesn’t mean the girl has to be a dyke. That’s just so boring,” Michaels says.
Instead, her character Tess is a man-hungry barracuda who just can’t get enough.
Another role that doesn’t hold Michaels’ interest is being the poster-wife for lesbian couples.
“Is that what I am?” she asks.
Pretty much — especially after InStyle magazine showcased her picture-perfect wedding.
“When you’re in it, you can’t see it the same way everyone else does. So I haven’t taken on or adopted that title,” she explains.
Did Michaels always want to be famous?
“As a child, I was starved for approval. I used to think that being famous would make everything fine, but it didn’t change anything,” she says. “Now people just know who I am when I’m at the grocery store.”
I mention that the current tabloids at the grocery store are screaming about Etheridge’s good friend Ellen DeGeneres, her scandalous break-up and shacking up with new squeeze, Portia de Rossi. Before I get my question out, Michaels starts laughing and screams into the phone, “No comment! No comment No comment! No comment!”
In the background, I can hear Etheridge laughing.
On April 15, 2003, after two years of dating, singer Melissa Etheridge and actress Tammy Lynn Michaels formally announced their engagement--and it was the best lesbian-related news we've had in months.

Tammy Lynn Michaels' L World

For awhile now, the only famous "lesbians" in the news have not been lesbians at all: from Lisa Marie Presley and Ginger Spice both admitting to having had a lesbian fling years ago (separately, not with each other), to Christina Aguilera suggesting Britney Spears should date Angelina Jolie, to the endless wave of interviews by that publicity machine called T.A.T.U., one hears a lot about lesbian relationships in entertainment news these days, but little of actual lesbians.

There are plenty of lesbians in entertainment, of course, but they're mostly keeping a low profile about their relationships. Ellen DeGeneres has been very quiet about her current relationship with actress/photographer Alexandra Hedison (understandably so, after the media hoopla that followed her previous relationship, with Anne Heche), and among the myriad of other closeted celebrities rumored to be in lesbian relationships (like Portia de Rossi and Francesca Gregorini), no one's talking publicly except Samantha Fox (who first announced that she was in a long-term relationship with a woman but didn't consider herself a lesbian, then later revised her statement to say she is gay, after all).

In fact, the only celebrities talking about lesbian relationships are the ones who claim to be bisexual but are not actually dating women.

There is the occasional lesbian celebrity who comes out only to cash in--like T.A.T.U., whose blatant use of lesbianism as a marketing tool is the most egregious example of this kind of lesbian-exploitation trend. Their sexuality has generated a ridiculous amount of national discussion over the last several months while real lesbian bands continue to toil away unnoticed.

At the height of their manipulation, though, T.A.T.U. can't begin to beat the masterful performance of Anne Heche in the late 90's, who (perhaps unintentionally) single-handedly did more to reinforce negative stereotypes about the instability of lesbian relationships (not to mention bisexual women) than anyone else in the history of American culture.

This recent proliferation of "news" from opportunistic lesbians and lesbian-wannabes is one of the reasons the announcement of Etheridge and Michaels' engagement is such a refreshing change: it's just two women who appear to be genuinely in love acknowledging their relationship in public with minimal fanfare. And since neither of them appears to be crazy AND they actually dated for a few years before deciding to make this commitment, Etheridge and Michaels actually seem to have a good chance of making it work (at least, as much as any celebrity couple does).

Noticeably missing from their news so far is any attempt to exploit their engagement for money or career advancement (on the contrary, if their engagement has any impact on Michaels' career it is only likely to be negative, since Hollywood is not exactly rushing to cast out lesbian actresses in mainstream films or television shows). The press release announcing the engagement was very sparing, saying only that the two would wed in late 2003 in L.A.

There appears to be no intention to turn their wedding into a reality show (ala Jessica Simpson or Melissa Joan Hart), or to sell tickets to it on Ebay, or to hype it via endless interviews. What a nice change in an era in which many celebrities feeling compelled to cash in on or (over)share every private moment of their lives!

Etheridge and Michaels' announcement will also likely have a positive impact on lesbian visibility overall. Although the two women have been dating for two years, their relationship has not been common knowledge among heterosexual Americans because most mainstream news and entertainment outlets do not report on relationships (especially same-sex ones) that are unofficial--which has been virtually all lesbian relationships until civil unions and gay marriage became possible in the last few years--both because this is seen as gossip rather than news and because they don't want to be sued for slander or libel.

A public engagement, however, is exactly the kind of official, legitimate news item which gives mainstream news and entertainment outlets something tangible to report on (and tacit permission to do so). Consequently, the women's engagement has been widely mentioned in newspapers and on TV stations and radio stations across the country, making Etheridge and Michaels suddenly America's most visible lesbian couple.

The average heterosexual American who didn't know the two women were dating or doesn't know any lesbians in real life will be mostly unable to avoid hearing about their engagement now, and the fact that their engagement is being treated matter-of-factly by news outlets will help chip away at the stereotype of a lesbian "lifestyle" that is necessarily different from a heterosexual "lifestyle" (of course, there are various types of lesbian relationships, many of which ARE very different from the standard heterosexual relationship paradigm--but lesbian relationships are not by definition radically differently than heterosexual ones).

In a few weeks, their engagement will be old news--at least until the wedding in late 2003 spins it all back up again--since there is no mystery to solve or scandalous story to tell to keep it on the front page.

But it is precisely its ordinariness and factual (rather than interpretive) basis that makes this announcement such a blessed relief from the onslaught of lesbian exploitation, heterosexual experimentation, and constant speculation about so-and-so's sexual orientation which passes for lesbian-related news these days.

Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels are just two people getting married. What could be more boring--and these days, more refreshingly straightforward--than that?

September 2003 Update: Melissa and Tammy were married in a private ceremony in Malibu, CA on September 20th.

Tammy Lynn Michaels speaks about her past and future

When Tammy Lynn Michaels, former Popular star, was a teenager deep in the homophobic Midwest, she could not have imagined the divine contentment of her current life. Nightly she would implore God to make her straight. Like far too many GLBT teens, suicidal thoughts plagued her.

She poured her heart into journals, which she keeps to remind her of how far she’s come. At age 18, she left Lafayette, Indiana for New York City and acting conservatory school, ready to make her mark on the world. “[My mom] dropped me off and as she drove away, I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to be gay now.’”

Unfortunately, at one of her first attempts to be out, she had the Hollywood closet door slammed in her face.

Not yet able to shed the fear of stepping out into the light, Michaels lived the classic double life.
I caught up with Michaels, three years out and three years in love, while she was in Tampa with wife Melissa Etheridge on tour. We chatted about those dark years, her lesbian bar-tending days, her new sit-com, married life and living life out in the open.

K: I read somewhere that you were waitressing in New York City and a talent scout found you and that’s how you ended up in Popular. Does that really happen?

T: Wow, wouldn’t that be nice had it been that easy? You know what happens is people ask questions and you give them the shortest answer and then they make it even shorter. I was bartending at Ruby Fruit Bar and Grill on Hudson Street.

K: A lesbian bar?

T: Yeah. I was the Wednesday and Thursday bartender. There was a woman who worked there as a host She used to be in the acting agent business. She was incredibly sweet and she set me up with this [talent manager.] I went and met her and she started sending me out on auditions. I booked the very first one I went on which was for Law and Order. I spent a year shooting tons and tons of commercials all over New York.

Did any of them end up on TV?

T: Oh yeah, honey. There’s 11, like Yoo-hoo and Playtex Tampons and Secret Deodorant. I did a bunch and they all aired. People were yelling at me on the street, “Hey, you’re the tampon girl.” I didn’t really do much else until I went to California for just a little break. I was with somebody at the time and we were having a rocky spot. Everybody says I should go out for this thing called Pilot Season. So I came out to LA and a week later I book Popular. So, see how there were a couple of steps missing…

K: So, you went to California for Pilot Season and you had a bunch of auditions?

T: Yeah, my agent started sending me out right away and I had a lot of callbacks and a lot of meetings with producers.

Popular got me first. It’s crazy. They don’t fuck around in LA. If they like somebody, and if a pilot’s going to go, you audition for something one day, the next day you’re meeting the producers. The next day you’re meeting the head of the Network and the following day your life has changed and you’ve booked this TV show. It’s really unstable.
K: Popular dealt with LGBT issues, so why do you think you were advised not to be out and why did you follow that advice?

T: First of all, I had an agent who represented me very briefly who heard that I’d made a joke about being gay at one of my very first auditions. She called me up and she said, “If you ever, ever say you’re gay again, I’m dumping you. I will never work with you again. And you will never work in this town again.” This is in New York and mind you, she was a lesbian.

K: And you knew she was?

T: Oh, yeah, I met her partner. She sat me down and said, “You can have this career, you can be beautiful and a leading lady. And if you come out, you will have nothing. You will wait on tables for the rest of your life.” I already came from a home where my mother had to wait tables when she was 40. Sometimes we didn’t have electricity and sometimes we didn’t have food. So having that childhood, I was ready to make choices to make sure that I didn’t have that issue in my adult life. And so, I climbed in the closet. I had a girlfriend at the time who wasn’t all that anxious to have me come out either. I had every single area of my life encouraging me to go about this or I would ruin everything. And that’s a lot to pressure. I was only 21.

K: So, what did you learn?

T: I learned that I can’t live to make other people happy. That’s a nice big lesson to learn. That is something I can put in my pocket and use the rest of my life.

K: Backing up a bit here, when did you come out to yourself?

T: I knew I was different when I was in first grade. I remember looking at my teacher and thinking I need to grow up and be a man so I can marry her. Then that kind of awareness went away until I was about 12 or 13 and all my girlfriends were getting crushes on boys. I just didn’t get it until I had a delicious softball coach. And she could hit a grounder like nobody’s business and she could throw that ball… It made me all sweaty.

K: Like the Meg Christian song, “Ode to a Gym Teacher.”

T: It’s all about the gym teachers! They save our lives when we’re starting to wake up and deal with our own sexuality. I was about 13 when I went, uh-oh, the thing in me that’s different is the thing that goes with that word “gay”. That’s when I spent several years in a dark period of my life. I was very suicidal. I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have successful attempts. When I was growing up in Indiana there was nobody to look at. I had never heard of kd lang, I didn’t know that the Indigo Girls were gay. I hadn’t heard of Melissa Etheridge yet. I didn’t know if there was such a thing.

K: So how did you end up getting over it, then, those suicidal years?

T: I had to get the fuck out. I looked around and I was surrounded by closed-minded bible-thumping judgmental people. So I turned 18 and I thought oh, dear God, there’s got to be something better for me out there.

K: So, you went to New York to be out…

T: I tried to date a couple more guys. They were so nice and then they’d move in to kiss me and I’d be like, eew, eek. I finally heard about some girl who worked with a friend who was gay and I did the typical coming out thing, I stalked her.

K: That’s where you did your research for the L Word!

T: (Laughter.) Oh, I wasn’t crazy like that. I would completely pretend to just show up and visit my friend.

She (the crush) was a waitress, so I would watch her run upstairs to the tables and downstairs to the kitchen. I thought she was just the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen. And so, of course we dated and had the typical dysfunctional first relationship. Then I moved on from there and got into therapy.
K: You’re in the closet, you’re in Hollywood, what’s that like?

T: I remember going to the GLAAD awards my first year on Popular and I remember tearing up. I was in my foxy little outfit, on my foxy little TV show and I’m gay and I was at the fucking GLAAD awards. We accepted an award that year for Popular. And I was sitting there thinking, I’m finally around my peeps, I’m finally with my community and I had to shut up. It felt awful. It felt like I was back in the Midwest ashamed of this terrible secret. I’d gone through all of this soul searching to find peace with my sexuality and I thought, you know what, Fuck this. This dream of acting and whatever is not worth it. Not at all, I’m done.

K: How will your career be different now that you’re out?

T: I’ll tell you, the biggest difference is being married and having kids. When Melissa and I started settling into this life, I thought, I don’t want to be one of those jerky stepparents that isn’t’ really there for the kids, who doesn’t really know the kids. So, for seven out of 14 days I am responsible for how they are raised. So, seven out of 14 days I’d better be home and I’d better show up. So, the biggest influence on my [work] has been finding a script and immediately saying where does this shoot and for how long? And if it shoots out of town, I don’t go. I only went to Vancouver (to shoot The L Word) because they went out of their way to shoot around my schedule with the kids. I’m involved with them in such a degree, that whether I’m a parent or stepparent they don’t know the difference. And there’s this sit-com [pilot] for NBC that I just did. It shoots in LA, it’s got great hours.

K: So, what’s the sit-com?

T: I wish they would title it. Two women created it. They’re funky and they’re strong and they’re funny and they’re politically incorrect. It's about two quirky NY 20-somethings falling in love. I play best friend to the lead girl. My character's name is Tess, a nanny. Even if this pilot gets picked up, it still works with my family and with my kids.

K: So, you’re more in charge of making your schedule work around the kids than Melissa is?

T: Right now Melissa is the breadwinner. That might be a shocker for some of you to hear, (laughs). And she tries to be home with the kids as much as she can, but there are times when she is on the road, when I am in LA with the kids by myself. That will continue to be until this show for NBC gets picked up and her touring settles down.

K: How was working on the L Word? Was it fun?
T: Oh, yeah! Oh my God, it had to be one of the loveliest experiences I have had on a set. A bunch of really warm, caring women, filled with respect for the stories they were telling. It was incredibly enlightening. It gave me so much hope to watch all of these straight chicks dive at each other with lust and respect and understanding. It was awesome. It was really amazing. They’re such great girls.

K: Will you be back?

T: They asked me to be back this year. I will hopefully be doing two more.

K: Congratulations on your marriage. Any plans to go to Oregon or Massachusetts to get the legal papers?

T: We’ve spoken to many political leaders and advisors and their suggestion was not to go to San Francisco, but to wait for Massachusetts because it seemed to have stronger standing in the court.

So since that was the advice, we’re kind of laying low and we’re going to wait and watch.
K: What was it like when Melissa proposed to you?

T: Oh my God, I was like life-stoppingly shocked. She and I had talked about marriage. She said, I’m not going to do it until it’s legal. But she sure as hell didn’t tell me when she changed her mind. I was just shocked. We cried! Two girls proposing, we sobbed.

K: Was she able to get the words out or did she bawl?

T: Oh she got them out in that little crackly voice of hers. And she had the ring made and everything. She picked out the diamond. She’s like one of those romantics that you watch on TV.

K: So, What else is on your plate these days?

T: I swear with Melissa and her career and me and my career, and step kids, I’m full.

K: What do you do in your free time, when you don‘t have the kids?

T: (She calls out to Melissa) “Honey, what do we do in our free time?” Okay, I’m not going to explain to you the gyrating motions that Melissa is doing with her hips.

K: What do you seen your next five years?

T: Definitely a baby.

K: Are you going to have a baby?

T: Oh, yeah. I’m going to have one in my belly… [Eventually] I would love nothing more than to have Melissa kick back and relax and have me do some of the work. That would make me really happy. The stronger my relationship with Melissa gets, the better I know myself and the more I know myself, the stronger I get. How much joy can somebody have in their little old life, ya know? I am so full. It’s like having a bakery with every single thing you want and it never ends.

 

Tammy Lynn Michaels co-star in the new comedy ''Committed''

Committed
Initially titled "Crazy for You," the name of this sitcom was changed to "Committed," perhaps so as not to offend the mental health community.

After all, why offend one special interest group when, with a subpar script, over-the-top performances and exaggerated characters, you can offend the entire universe of viewers? OK, maybe "offensive" isn't exactly the right word. Especially when "shrill" and "humorless" are available.

In this sitcom from Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline, Marni (Jennifer Finnigan), a terminally perky and slightly loopy young woman, meets and becomes smitten by Nate (Josh Cooke), a neurotic and obsessive pack rat who works at a used-record store. Despite hitting it off from the start, he's unable to ask for her phone number, and she doesn't think to provide it. Forget about how they will meet again. The bigger question is how they have managed to avoid court-appointed guardianship.

Nate's friend is his co-worker Bowie (Darius McCrary), a sometime voice of reason when he's not suffering an occasional attack of macho behavior. Marni's friend is Tess (Tammy Lynn Michaels), the libidinous nanny in the apartment across the hall. To bolster the weirdness quotient, there's Tom Poston, who plays an unnamed clown who lives in Marni's walk-in closet. She explains his presence as a condition of her sublease, though it seems more like a case of too much caffeine in the writers' room.

Finally, there's recurring character Todd (RonReaco Lee), a wheelchair-bound cobbler adept at using his disability to embarrass and humiliate Nate. Their rivalry is the best part of this series, though even this theme has been exploited for more laughs on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Of greater concern, though, is the fact that none of these characters, including Marni and Nate, have enough heft to carry this sitcom, resulting in a cast with all supporting characters and no real leads.

Director Gary Halvorson, armed with a script less sophisticated than dinner theater in Ottumwa, coaxes excited, superanimated performances that practically turn Marni and Nate into parodies of sitcom characters. Cooke and Finnigan appear desperately in need of Prozac, which all but conceals Finnigan's innate charm and Cooke's good timing. Even the solid production design and set decoration can do little to offset the sitcom's fundamental flaws.

Perhaps if "Friends" was still on the air, NBC would have scheduled this show after that one, as it had with so many other disappointing sitcoms. Instead, "Committed" gets a spot on Tuesday nights, thanks to the disappearance of underappreciated and hastily burned-off "Father of the Pride."

Cast: Nate: Josh Cooke; Marni: Jennifer Finnigan; Bowie: Darius McCrary; Tess: Tammy Lynn Michaels; Clown: Tom Poston; Todd: RonReaco Lee.


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