Molly Shannon recalls finding out her dad was gay before he died

Finding out shortly before her father’s death that he was a closeted gay man broke Molly Shannon’s heart for him.

It also shed light on James Shannon’s struggles with alcohol for much of his life, which contributed to a car accident when Shannon was 4 that killed his mother, younger sister, and cousin.

The “Saturday Night Live” alum writes about the startling 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” on Tuesday.

“I felt so much compassion,” she said. “The kind of pieces of history that come together. It’s tragic.

She got her first taste of her father’s sexuality in 2001, when he visited her in New York City as she finished her six-year run on “SNL.” She said he met ‘a straight college kid’ while drinking at a bar in Grand Central Station, then showed up drunk with the stranger at 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 that 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 bond with Shannon’s father over the years.

“Steven, in that conversation when I complained about my dad, said, ‘You’re too hard on him Molly, you’re too hard on him. You don’t understand, he’s given so much for you girls, so much for you and Mary,” she told Stern. “And he kept saying, and I’m like, ‘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 thinks her mother may have also been aware of her sexuality before she died.

“I think he tried to tell my mom before that,” she said. “He said, ‘I saw this psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist told me I’m a latent homosexual,’ and she said, ‘Oh, that psychiatrist should never have told you that.

Shannon also asked her father point-blank while they were at a hotel during downtime for his press conference for the 2001 romantic comedy “Serendipity.” He was 72 at the time and Shannon said that he died about six months later.

“One day I asked him by the pool, ‘Have you ever thought you might be gay?'” she said. “And he just said, ‘Most definitely. “”

This revelation made her drinking problems more understandable to Shannon.

Shannon told NPR that she then asked him when he first knew he was gay.

“And he’s like, ‘Oh, Molly, I knew in elementary school. I was going on double dates, and I was watching the boy. And I liked this boy who was from Poland, and I liked the way his hand was holding a cigarette. He looked so manly,” Shannon said.

He told his daughter that he had sex with men on sales trips and at truck stops.

“And I was happy for him,” Shannon told NPR. “And it was such an honor that he came to me. And I think it was a relief for him to be able to tell me that.

Shannon thinks he often coped with the anguish of his locked-down life by drinking heavily. She told Stern that her father was driving under the influence when he had an accident that killed his mother, younger sister, and cousin while she survived.

She and Carson Daly, who lost his father when he was 5, shared a touching moment on Monday TODAY while reflecting on what it was like to lose a parent as a young child.

Shannon said her father had been drinking at a family party all day and asked her mother to drive the day of the accident.

“It’s before Mothers Against Drunk Driving, friends don’t let friends drive drunk – we’re so much more aware now,” Shannon told Stern. “It was 1969. Not that I’m trying to bail him out, I take it very seriously. I didn’t grow up blaming him.

He was also seriously injured in the crash.

“He really did his best to lift us up, and he had to relearn how to walk after the car accident with braces on his legs, so I looked up to him,” Shannon said. “He really tried. … He felt so guilty.

This story was first seen on TODAY.com

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