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Robin Tyler play ‘Always a Bridesmaid Never a Groom’ looks at lesbian, feminist history

Robin Tyler

This group photo shows the drag queens and female impersonators who worked with Robin Tyler at Club 82 in the 1960s. Tyler worked at the club as a Judy Garland female impersonator. Photo: Courtesy of Robin Tyler.

In her one-woman show “Always a Bridesmaid Never a Groom,” Robin Tyler took us through an in-depth, historical journey of her life and the feminist and LGBTQ movements using comedy in a way I have never experienced.

I showed up at the Santa Monica Playhouse  thinking I would be watching a comedy show, and left more educated and inspired by the movement and by Robin.

‘Always a Bridesmaid Never a Groom’

For the first time in my life, I was able to hear a lesbian perspective of the feminist and LGBTQ movements through performance, which really resonated and was truly fulfilling.

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“Always a Bridesmaid Never a Groom” is much more than a comedy; it’s an impressive theater piece that is witty, informative, and necessary.

Robin Tyler

Pat Harrison, left, and Robin Tyler were a successful comedy duo in the 1970s. They even had a short lived variety show on ABC. Photo: Robin Tyler.

Women’s festivals, ABC network

I learned a lot about and was inspired by the women’s festivals that Robin helped organize from 1981 to 1995 in San Fransisco, Santa Barbara, and outside of Atlanta that were part of the Feminist Movement.

I also loved learning about how ABC treated Robin and her partner at the time, Pat Harrison, with misogyny and homophobia in the mid 1970s. The duo appeared on the network’s “Krofft Comedy Hour starring Harrison and Tyler.” The same day that the first episode of the variety show aired, Robin spoke at a rally against anti-gay activist Anita Bryant. The news covered the rally and called Robin an “avowed lesbian.” A short time later, ABC cancelled Robin and Pat’s TV show.

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LGBTQ movement

I was aware of the LGBTQ movement with regard to marriage equality. Robin and her wife, Diane Olson, were the first lesbian plaintiffs to sue California for marriage equality. That lawsuit, Tyler v California, brought marriage equality to the state.

Robin Tyler

Robin Tyler has been a pioneering lesbian activist more than 40 years. Photo: Courtesy Robin Tyler.

For me, the historical aspect of the show prior to marriage equality, which was very detailed, was enlightening, moving and easy to digest because of the witty way she told it.

The scenes at the end of “Always a Bridesmaid Never a Groom” where Robin revealed very vulnerable and real information about her relationship with Diane Olson was very moving.

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I laughed and cried throughout Robin’s performance. I highly recommend the play.

Editor’s notes: Robin Tyler will spend 2020 traveling to other cities with “Always a Bridesmaid Never a Groom.”

Robin Tyler will be recognized Saturday, January 25, in Palm Springs by the L-Fund and receive the organization’s Visionary Award at their gala fundraiser.

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About the author

Sepi Shyne

Sepi Shyne is a an Iranian American attorney, feminist, LGBTQ advocate, and a candidate for West Hollywood City Council. She serves as an appointed business license commissioner with the City of West Hollywood and an advisory council member for the Los Angeles County Assessor’s office.

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