This “Show Pony” is Thoroughbred to the Core

By Charles Karel Bouley II

“I’m 59 years old and I’ve never had a lasting relationship with a man…”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Here is a beloved GLBT icon, an openly gay actor and comic who has been part of an ensemble that created a film destined for Oscar; a comedic actor who crafted a multi-dimensional human under the makeup and sequins of Tammy Wynette and one of the most recognizable faces on television. Surely he must be happily coupled, how can he not have that special someone to turn to and support him through the trials that are the entertainment industry?

“It just hasn’t happened,” Leslie Jordan told me from his Tennessee family home where he was catching up on some R&R before a string of performances. “Especially with a gay man. It seems I’ve only lived with or been in relationships with guys that identify as straight,” he laughed ironically. “That’s why I’m going to Palm Springs to workshop ‘Say Cheese: My Love Affair with the Camera.’ It would appear the most successful relationship, the one that has given me more than I can imagine, the one that makes me happiest has been with the camera.”

And what an affair it’s been. His role as Beverly Leslie on “Will & Grace” garnered him an Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. His personification of Brother Boy in Del Shore’s “Sordid Lives” solidified him as a gay icon. That role would move to television as part of Logo’s initial lineup but wouldn’t stay there long, Logo sitting expense of a scripted series as the reason for the cancellation.Leslie Jordan Emmy-courtesy LJ

“I met Del Shores almost 30 years ago,” he recalled, almost amazed at the number. “I was auditioning for a part in a play he had written. I had one line, which I walked in and said. Well, Del fell off the sofa laughing, and we’ve been friends ever since.” 

Brother Boy was on TV long before the era of “Modern Family,” “Glee” and other GLBT friendly shows; just as Jordan was and out actor long before it was fashionable. 

“They used to use code words when they wanted a gay character,” Jordan recalled. “They’d say things like ‘nebbish’ or ‘mamma’s boy’ and then I’d show up at the audition and there we were, the queers sitting there looking at each other, Jim J. Bullock, God, a host of them, the gang,” he laughed. “My manager would call and say things like ‘keep your hands to your side, get your voice in a lower register, downplay the gay’ – it was an interesting time,” he said.

Jordan’s one man autobiographical show “My Trip Down the Red Carpet” was a great hit, running in the West End of London as well as off-Broadway. His current “Show Pony” will come to Club Ripples in Long Beach on August 8th.

“When I was 17 I started journaling, and I learned if I put pen to paper it slowed my mind down and I got some clarity,” Jordan reflected when asked when and why he took to stage. “And then I would read that aloud to friends and they would laugh! And I would say, ‘this isn’t funny, this is my life!’” he laughed.

“I then realized I could get on stage, and here’s the key words here, in a lucrative fashion, and talk about my life and people responded,” he responded.

It’s the honesty that always gets through to an audience. Jordan isn’t afraid to open up in his stage shows about the trials and tribulations of growing up in the South and then becoming an openly gay performer. While his performances have inspired so much laughter, it hasn’t always been easy on Jordan. 

Yet, his infectious energy and laugh always win the day and the audience leaves with a feeling they’ve made a new friend. Something he’s been doing on TV for decades.

Jordan’s TV career took off in the mid-1980s and hasn’t stopped since. He is best known for “Will & Grace” and has appeared on “Lois & Clark,” “The New Adventures of Superman,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Boston Public,” “Hearts Afire,” “Ugly Betty,” “Hidden Palms,” “American Horror Story,” “Supernatural” and “Ski Patrol” just to name a few of his credits. 

As a writer he is working on “Say Cheese: My Love Affair with the Camera,” has completed “Show Pony,” “Lost in the Pershing Point Hotel,” “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet” and “Hysterical Blindness and Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far.”

And while his life has been interesting enough to fill a few books and plays, it certainly hasn’t been a bad one.

“When I was 18 I would have thought this was the life I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve been in films that have won Oscars, I’ve won an Emmy, I seem to be able to work continuously,” he reflected when asked how his younger self may view this older one today.

“I’ve been in recovery for 17 years and they teach you have to live in the present. I’m close enough now to my authentic self, so the career sort of stuff is secondary. It’s all gravy from here on out. I used to judge myself by my career. When I wasn’t working I was a piece of shit, I was too effeminate, my voice was too high, on and on, all that racketing, now, it just goes with the flow,” he stated in an almost relieved voice.

It’s hard to imagine him narrowing all of the stories down to 90 minutes for “Show Pony” but somehow he manages. Like him, it’s touching, fast moving, funny and above it all, honest.

See Jordan at Club Ripples August 8th, one show only.

 

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