Finding out shortly before her father’s death that he was a closeted gay man made Molly Shannon’s heart break for him.
It also shed light on James Shannon’s struggles with alcohol for much of his life, which contributed to a car crash when Shannon was 4 that killed her mother, younger sister and cousin.
The “Saturday Night Live” alumna writes about this surprising revelation in her new memoir, “Hello, Molly!” She recalled how she found out her father was gay in an interview on “The Howard Stern Show” Tuesday.
I felt so much compassion,” she said. “Kind of the pieces of the story all coming together. It’s tragic.”
She had her first inkling about her father’s sexuality in 2001, when he was visiting her in New York City as she ended her six-year run on “SNL.” She said he met “a straight college boy” while drinking at a bar at Grand Central Station and then showed up drunk with the stranger to Shannon’s apartment in the West Village.
Shannon was surprised because her father had been sober “for a few years,” and she was so angry she made him stay in a hotel. She then called her manager, Steven Levy, a gay man who also lost a parent when he was young. He had formed a close connection with Shannon’s father over the years.
“Steven, in that conversation when I complained about my dad, said, ‘You’re being too hard on him Molly, you’re being too hard on him. You don’t understand, he’s given up so much for you girls, so much for you and Mary,’” she told Stern. “And he kept repeating, and I go, ‘What are you saying? Are you saying he’s gay?’
“And he was like, ‘I don’t want to tell you! He’s going to tell you.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
Shannon believes her mother may have also known about his sexuality before her death.