Sunday, April 29, 2012

Born On This Day- April 29th- Tiny Talent, Leslie Jordan

The diminutive Leslie Jordan has long had me in awe of his comic creations. He is an irrepressible, garrulous Chattanooga pixie who got through a Southern Baptist childhood & same sex stirrings & lived triumphantly to tell the tale.

I first noticed Jordan in his Emmy winning turn in the recurring guest role of Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace, but he has worked for several decades on the stage, TV & films, including last year's The Help as Mr. Blackly, editor of the local newspaper.

Jordan has a special demented genius in his work in Del Shores' Sordid Lives on stage, in the cult film version, & later in the short-lived TV series. I was crazy for the film version, watching it several times. His one-man show Hysterical Blindness & Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far, was first performed off-Broadway in 1992. His shows are produced by his friend- Lily Tomlin.

Jordan has hit on the road, performing his one-man shows- Like a Dog on Linoleum & My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, playing L.A, & NYC & all points in between. These days he's touring a new one-man called Fruit Fly, about life with his very Southern mother.

Always tiny & openly gay, the 4-foot-11 Jordan began using humor early in life as a defense against bullies. He is fond of saying “I fell out of the womb and landed in my mama’s high heels,” but had surprising support from his conservative Baptist parents.

I read his funny, but moving book- My Trip Down The Pink Carpet where tells many poignant anecdotes, like when he wanted a bride doll for Christmas one year. He got “the prettiest bride doll you ever saw” … from his big, muscular career Army father.

After spending a decade working as a jockey, he went back to collge & studied Theatre. Jordan: “I’m a true, true Hollywood success story. Nobody helped me. I stepped off the bus & started doing commercials. I was really good at that, they wanted funny, funny, funny people in commercials.”

Jordan: “My big break was ‘Murphy Brown, I did one episode & the whole town was abuzz. My agent called & said he’d never had that kind of reaction. Pee Wee Herman wanted me on his kiddy show, Burt Reynolds said it would be fun to work with me, & even Stephen Spielberg called. It was like an overnight success. It was fun, but looking back, it was exhausting. I had fun in my 20s, 30s and 40s, but I wish I had a little more financial security.”

During pilot season, Jordan lives in L.A., but the rest of the year he’s on the road. Tate Taylor, the openly gay director of The Help had tried for years to get Jordan to work for him, but Jordan was never available. Jordan: “Tate called me up & said, ‘Damn you, you’ve never worked for me & now I’m going to give you this good part.”

When Jordan won his Emmy, his competition was Ben Stiller, Patrick Stewart, Alec Baldwin & Martin Sheen, Jordan didn’t expect to win, but still flew his mother out for the ceremony.

Jordan: "I have live such a blessed life, I was just a kid who had a dream & got on a bus.”

On gay life: “There are 2 ways to combat homophobia. One is through humor. The second is to put a face on it. People are becoming much more enlightened. People are realizing that being gay is just as defining as the color of our skin & it's not a choice. I'm really encouraged. I think in my lifetime we will achieve equality. I'm honored to be a part of it.”

Jordan is single. He turns 57 years old today.

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