The star of the 1980s hit TV series Cagney & Lacey serves up sometimes hilarious and oftentimes shocking behind-the-scenes Hollywood secrets in her revealing new memoir, Apparently There Were Complaints
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Ever think those big-screen sex scenes are hot, hot, hot?

Sharon Gless is here to tell you, from experience, that you don't know the half of it.

In a new interview with PEOPLE in this week's issue, the 78-year-old screen and actress — who is perhaps best known for her roles in TV's Cagney & Lacey and Queer as Folk — elaborates on some of the revealing anecdotes in her new memoir, Apparently There Were Complaints. And she's starting with the truth about her steamy bedroom scene with Michael Douglas in 1983's The Star Chamber.

"Michael would wait offset until I was already under the covers. That's what a gentleman he was. Then, when he got in the bed, I lifted myself on top of him," Gless describes.

She recalls that they were filming in the summer on a Los Angeles soundstage, where the air-conditioning had to be turned off so that the sound of it blowing would not be heard on camera.

"It was so, so hot," she says. "I was perspiring all over his chest and sticking to him because my breasts were substantial. There were many takes done of that scene, and every time I'd have to extricate myself there was an audible suction sound."

Michael Douglas and Sharon Gless in The Star Chamber, 1983.
| Credit: Alamy

If Douglas heard it, he never let on — and he never sneaked a peek, she says. "He was lovely. His eyes never went anywhere."

On the set of Showtime's Queer as Folk series, which ran five seasons from 2000 to 2005, things were intimate in an even warmer way.

When Rosie O'Donnell joined the cast for the final season, Gless said her character's kiss with O'Donell's character was the first time she shared a romantic kiss with a woman. And soon enough, Gless was in love in real life.

"I just loved [Rosie] so much and I think it was probably the first lesbian I was really getting close to," says Gless, who lives in Florida with her husband of 30 years, the former Cagney & Lacey executive producer Barney Rosenzweig.

"I was confused by my feelings of having this great love for [Rosie]. We used to hang out all the time. She lived here across the island from me. At the time, it was such an unusual relationship for me. When I told her one evening, I said, 'I just, I love you so much. Do you think there's ... Would you ... .' I couldn't spit it out. She said, 'Oh, Glessy, would you stop? You're so straight.' I said, 'Oh. Oh, well, okay. Okay then.'"

QUEER AS FOLK, Sharon Gless, Rosie O'Donnell, (Season 5), 2000-2005, photo: L. Pief Weyman / © SHOWT
Sharon Gless and Rosie O'Donnell on the set of Queer as Folk, 2005.
| Credit: L. Pief Weyman / © SHOWTIME / Courtesy: Everett Collection

"I was embarrassed and never pursued it. I was happily married, so I didn't think of myself as gay. I just knew I loved this woman so much," says Gless.

Years before she briefly questioned her feelings for one woman, Gless says people regularly assumed she was a lesbian during her Cagney & Lacey days with co-star Tyne Daly: "I had interviewers ask me all the time, 'You're gay, aren't you?'" 

CAGNEY & LACEY, from left; Tyne Daly, Sharon Gless, 1982-1988, © CBS/courtesy Everett Collection
Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless on the 1980s TV police drama Cagney & Lacey.
| Credit: CBS/courtesy Everett Collection

Gless spent eight years digging through her personal Hollywood memorabilia in "boxes and boxes and boxes in storage" to write Apparently There Were Complaints, whose title was drawn from her experience getting sober in 2015 at age 70.

Now she is ready to start writing future chapters — by building on an almost 50-year career that includes nine hit TV series, three starring roles on the stages of London's West End and two Emmys.

Sharon Gless book

Holed up at home with Rosenzweig for so many pandemic months — "We followed the rules. We did everything we were supposed to," she says of quarantining — Gless "got reintroduced to television" and excited about possibilities ahead. 

"I've fallen in love with how older women are finally getting back into television series. Jean Smart in Hacks is just brilliant. There were years and years where older women were just discarded on television, but this seems to be a new interest."

"I'm hopeful about that because I want to continue working," says the actress.

"Someone said to me about a month ago, 'Do you know you have nine series? Only Betty White has you beat out at 10.' I said, 'Well, I'll take care of that!' I know I've got another one in me."

For more of PEOPLE's interview with Sharon Gless, pick up the new issue on newsstands Friday.