Prompted by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton -- who questioned why the allegedly hetero comedian was spending so much time cruising the bars in West Hollywood -- Taylor released a statement confirming he's "a gay man, and proud of it."
"It's such a relief to finally unload this burden," said Taylor, 72, following in the footsteps of Lance Bass and Neil Patrick Harris. "I've been living a lie so long."
Taylor's contemporaries said they supported their friend but were still taken aback by the news.
"When I think of all the times we went out and hunted pussy together ... I mean, I thought the Ripper was into it," said actor James Caan, who's known Taylor since the 1970s. "Then again, I wondered why he was always hanging out at Robert Reed's pad."
David Felcher, a spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, applauded Taylor's courage.
"It takes a lot of guts for someone with his visibility to admit to the world that he is homosexual," Felcher said. "So many people will benefit from this, people who are struggling with the decision to come. But if someone like Rip Taylor can do it, so can they."
Taylor said he's been fielding numerous offers since his announcement, though he's wary of being typecast.
"I can still be a romantic leading man," he said.
And he hopes his legions of female admirers won't abandon him.
Sheila Tunney of Hackensack, N.J., said she still can't believe Taylor is gay.
"I keep hoping it's one of his jokes," said the 68-year-old housewife, president of the Rip Taylor Fan Club. "I'll support him no matter what, but I always sorta dreamed that one day he'd come to my house and sweep me off my feet under a cloud of confetti."