April 29, 1955– Leslie Jordan:
“I am a high school cheerleader stuck in a gay man’s body. If you were to cut me open, Hannah Montana would jump out.”
Well, let’s just get this out of the way at the start; Leslie Jordan simply must portray racist, homophobic Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III in some project. It is a piece of dream casting. Sure, Kate McKinnon does a bang-up job doing Sessions on Saturday Night Live, but how delicious would it be see this gay, diminutive (4′ 11″) character actor, who hails from the South, and was raised in a very conservative, deeply religious atmosphere in Chattanooga, Tennessee give his rarified take on the LGBTQ community’s biggest foe?
He may be little, but he packs a big comic wallop. In fact, he might really wallop someone. In summer 2015, Jordan took on a group of guys yelling anti-gay slurs at a Starbucks in West Hollywood. When one of the dudes was asked to leave by a Starbucks staffer after he began screaming: “You will die, fucking faggots…” In response, Jordan yelled at the young men to leave, saying: “Get out of my house!” Jordan says:
“Truth be told I was ordering a ‘sweet’ iced tea, not coffee. I am a ‘sweet’ mannered Southern boy who was taught not to start a fight. Nobody ever told me I could not end one. I refused to sit and watch these hate crimes continue. I guess our work for equality is not done yet! I’m being hailed a hero which is all well and good but I lost my temper. My heroes in life always kept their cool.”
Jordan is a much-loved Emmy-winning actor, playwright, and a true Gay Icon. Packed into that little body is a giant propensity for scene stealing. He first came to my attention as Karen Walker’s nemesis, the snide, mincing and unconvincingly homophobic hanger-on Beverley Leslie, on Will & Grace, a role that brought him an Emmy Award in 2006. But, he had already made memorable appearances on many television series. His IMBD page is lengthy. I lost count at 100. But, starting at The Fall Guy in 1986, highlights include terrific work on Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Monk, Murphy Brown, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman, Star Trek: Voyager, Caroline In The City, Reba, Nash Bridges, and Hearts Afire. In the new century, you probably loved him on American Horror Story: Coven (2013) and American Horror Story: Roanoke, or Ugly Betty (2007) as celebrity-trashing Quincy Combs.
He is especially loved at my house for his hilarious, heartwarming and heartbreaking “Brother Boy” Ingram in the film Sordid Lives (2000), written and directed by Del Shores, repeating the role (who else could play it?) in Sordid Lives: The Series (2008) on LOGO. The television version is a prequel to the events in the film. It stars Rue McClanahan, Olivia Newton-John and Delta Burke, and is a LGBTQ must see.
Jordan describes himself as “the gayest man I know”. In 1982, he left Chattanooga on a Greyhound bus for Hollywood with $1,200 sewn into his underpants. His pocket-size and unreliable talent soon brought Jordan work in commercials and on series television. He also began writing for the stage. But, despite his success, he was filled with self-loathing that brought him drug and alcohol addictions and a weakness for rough trade. Jordan describes himself as a sexaholic. He was arrested and did time in jail, once sharing a cell with Robert Downey Jr. Jordan has been sober for 20 years.
Even with all his troubles, Jordan kept on writing. His own one-man stage shows were popular in LA, and Off-Broadway. Hysterical Blindness and Like A Dog On Linoleum are comedies, but also they are also soul baring looks at his childhood agonies. His first film work includes some pretty funny titles too, like the low-budget Frankenstein General Hospital (1988), Black Velvet Pantsuit (1995) and Farm Sluts (2003). He has had first-rate film work, like playing Harold Blackly in The Help (2011).
Jordan penned a wonderful, open, fresh, honest memoir My Trip Down The Pink Carpet, one of my favorite books of 2008. It is a collection of stories and observations written with wit, panache, and plenty of punchy anecdotes about his overwrought childhood agonies, plus revealing anecdotes about all sorts of celebs including Boy George and George Clooney and smart takes on Hollywood, fame, addiction, LGBTQ culture, and learning to love yourself. His account of being escorted by two terrifying, drunken drag queens into his first gay bar is surprisingly touching. It was adapted to an Off-Broadway stage show that was filmed as Leslie Jordon: My Trip Down The Pink Carpet (2010) by gay actor/director Amanda Bearse and produced by Lily Tomlin.
Jordan claims his biggest influences were Christopher Isherwood, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and “all those gay hustler boys”.
Our gay prayers have been answered, Jordan is back as Beverly Leslie in NBC’s 10-episode return of Will & Grace this fall! He is also touring in a new one man show Leslie Jordan Exposed!.
“Someone said there are two classes of gay people in the United States: the fabulous and the fearful. There’s nothing really in between. The fabulous, we’re on both coasts, but we forget about that huge country out there.”