Wee Shall Overcome

He claims he “isn’t even a D-List celebrity,” yet he has an Emmy Award and a best-selling memoir and is on a national tour. It’s not the kind of comment that comes from humility -- Leslie Jordan is, after all, an actor -- but rather from the psyche of a former troubled youth who today is among a handful of actors for whom “gay” is more than a note to casting directors.

Jordan has brought his vanquished angst to Leslie Jordan’s My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, the one-man show based on his book of the same name. In both, the 53-year-old actor dishes Hollywood (he once shared a jail cell with Robert Downey Jr.) and recounts his childhood as the flamboyant son of a Southern Baptist preacher in the hills of Tennessee. There’s more to these stories than the usual superstar name-dropping and “Woe is me, I was a misunderstood backwoods sissy” that one has come to expect from famous gay-boy bios.

"I wrote the book not for some book critic in New York,” he will tell you, “but for that gay man out in the hinterlands asking, 'Is there a God who loves queers?'"

Jordan is best known for his work as Beverley Leslie, the wee antagonist (nothing has ever been written about Jordan that didn’t mention his just-under-five-foot frame) to Megan Mullalley’s gin-soaked Karen Walker on Will and Grace. Jordan has created other, equally memorable characters in notable network hits (he’s had recurring roles in Boston Legal and Hidden Palms) and especially in the sadly overlooked gem Sordid Lives, a feature remembered mostly because of Jordan’s hilarious performance as a demented Southern priss.

It’s a role he’s played in real life, as well. Thankfully, he was taking notes.

Sun., July 6, 8 p.m., 2008
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela