EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Tammy Lynn Michaels


Photo courtesy of Tammy Lynn Michaels

The protracted legal brawl between exes Melissa Etheridge and Tammy Lynn Michaels entered Round 327 when Michaels filed papers on April 9, citing the $23,000 per month she receives for herself and her five-year-old twins, Johnnie Rose and Miller, as insufficient. Etheridge swung back, claiming Michaels burned Miller with a cigarette. And the hits just keep on coming.

It was just another flurry of blows between the rocker and the Popular and The L Word actress since they announced the end of their nine-year relationship in 2010. I reached out to Tammy to talk about the latest allegations, why she doesn’t seem to have a filter, and where she sees herself in five years.

AfterEllen.com: The tabloids are running snide headlines like, “Melissa Etheridge’s Ex-GF I Can’t Live on $23,000 a Month!” or dismissively calling your custody battle a “lovers’ spat.” Do you think the media is taking Melissa’s side?
Tammy Lynn Michaels: I’m trying to avoid the media. I decided to stay away. I think there’s a machine, and within the machine, it’s important to keep the star shining.

AE: You mean spin control?
TM: Some might call it that. I’m going to call it “shining up a star.” And there’s a great fear that part of that machine would be let go, if that star would ever be diminished.

AE: You don’t seem to have a “machine.” If you did, it might advise you to cool it with the blogging until this is all over.
TM: I love my blog. I feel like I allow more of myself to be seen through my writing than I allow anywhere else.

AE: Even if it’s going to hurt you in the press, the courts or the public eye?
TM: I actually have bit my tongue quite a bit. [There are] times I wish I had been more specific.

AE: But if you were more private, wouldn’t things would be easier for you?
TM: I thought about that. And I’ve had a friend or two suggest, advise, tell me to do that. But I found that by choosing silence for a long time, [it] seemed to actually say, “Yes, that’s right. Got nothing to say in my defense. Let me just roll over here and open my ass for you.” [laughs]

AE: Do you have an aversion to filters?
TM: That’s something I’m working on in therapy. For a long time, I didn’t think it was necessary to have a filter. [laughs] I was raised in a household where things were manipulated and twisted and concocted and deceptive. Everybody had to have 60 different filters. It was very damaging and dysfunctional. Once I got into some therapy and made some spiritual choices, made some good friends, I found that I can’t have a filter.

AE: Why not?
TM: I was in a group of friends once. This married couple was having affairs with other people. And the other people were in the room, also married to each other. And I found that hard. Those small short dinner gatherings [were] hard. It was just six of us and we’re supposed to pretend that nothing’s happening. That makes my heart race.

AE: Have you felt the need to defend yourself or just be heard via your blog?
TM: My whole intention of the blog was for me to just tell my truth. To share that “twosomeness” that I carry: Hollywood and farm girl. When I recognized that a lot of people were going to be following my blog in hopes of getting dirt, or [reading] me bad mouthing my situation, I became very fearful. And my writing started to change. I started to edit myself. I had to stop for a long time because that’s not what my blog is about.

I had to let a lot of time pass, let a lot of things pass and let life sort of marinate – the wisdom that comes from healed wounds. And at that point, I felt, “OK. I’m going to try to get back to one of the things I love, which is writing.” And so, I’m talking about what my life is, and it’s my kids. I really just want it to be about this: [gesturing around the room] this one, who’s obsessed with his fart jokes, or this little girl who can’t get enough stuffed bunnies.

Photo courtesy of Tammy Lynn Michaels

TM: I can’t control everything. That’s when I started thinking to myself, “Where’s that Buddhism for Dummies book?” [laughs] That’s how I’m trying to be in life: like a rock in the stream, man. And the water and the media, other people’s projections, other people’s baloney, and the s–t just goes over you.

AE: Do you regret publicly disclosing that you received a “box of dicks,” the sex toy shipment meant for Melissa’s house, not yours?
TM: I actually think about going back and re-writing that blog in more detail.

AE: That’s what I mean about privacy. That one was a little TMI.
TM: Was it? Well then, don’t have your personal assistant deliver it to my house, if it’s that personal.

AE: Maybe her assistant didn’t know what it was. Or it was too late. Or she forgot. S–t happens.
TM: In the moment, [Melissa and I] laughed our asses off.

AE: And then?
TM: I hung up the phone and realized what it meant.

AE: That there was someone else in her life? I can see how that would hurt. Is it public knowledge why you two broke up?
TM: There are a lot of public opinions.

AE: But are you discussing the reason?
TM: I haven’t.

AE: Are you going to?
TM: Not at this moment.

AE: OK. A lot of people are criticizing you for not being able to live on the $23,000 a month you’re currently getting.
TM: [I] gave up the job that was $25,000 a week, not $23,000 a month. I gave up $100,000 a month.

AE: Which show was that?
TM: Committed, with the late Tom Poston. Another season would have put me at $30,000 a week. In my mind, based on that percentage of raise increases, I’d theoretically have made $30k by fall of 2005, $35k per week by fall of 2006, $40k per week by fall of 2007, all the way up to $65K a week by now.

But [Melissa] wouldn’t take off from her music stuff to allow me to do TV or movies. She implored me to be home. I hate to think, “Oh, I gave up my career,” because you know what? That would subtract from how much it meant to raise the kids.

AE: That math assumes a lot – Committed only ran for one season. Instead of lost wages or whether $23,000 is more than enough to live on, I’m wondering if it’s really about percentages. If Melissa is making almost $178,000 a month, as you say, then $23,000 is only about 13% of that. Straight wives would seek 50% of their husbands’ income, and many would get it, no?
TM: It’s the law. When we were together, there were a lot of things said and shared between us. And a lot of things were promised. I’m standing here saying: “You wanted to fight for gay rights; you wanted everything to be fair. You wanted to stand up for all of us? Because now I’m an ‘us,’ the gays that wanted to have gay rights and equality and not look like dip s–ts.”

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