A seasoned veteran to all things entertainment, I listened to Leslie Jordan with my ears at attention hoping to sink my teeth into any offered morsels of wisdom. It was a Tuesday morning, almost lunchtime in LA, mid-afternoon in my land of Ohio. He did not disappoint, giving me 10 minutes of overtime without mention even though several months of extensive travel and a few recent monkey wrenches in his work gigs had clearly left him temporarily a bit crestfallen. One of my most valuable takeaways was Leslie’s response to the changing rules in the Hollywood game. Entertainers like Leslie are competing for their space in the spotlight with youngin’s like Miley Cyrus or instant “just add water” reality tv stars like Spencer Pratt.
We jumped right into conversation about his latest work, a straight-to-video horror movie called “Personal Demons 2” produced by one of Leslie’s dearest friends, Billy Butler.
How are things?
“Well, I tell you what, I’m suffering from jet lag today. I can hardly get around. I was in Italy. I have a friend that writes these low budget horror movies. Most of them go straight to video and some of them go end up like on the Sci Fi channel. But, anyway, he asked me if I’d like to do a movie for him.”
Initially, Leslie outright refused explaining he was past that point in his career of chasing such opportunities; however, Billy reeled him in with promises of a free trip to Rome, Italy.
“Big mistake!…We were in this gorgeous castle, 900 year old castle, and most of the kids who were there working on the movie were just starting out so there was all this amazing energy like ‘Oh my God, we’re in Italy doing a movie!’ but I was like, ‘But there’s no hot water! There’s no heat!’…”
We laughed together for the first of many moments.
How long were you there?
“A week…and we had an Italian crew that didn’t speak any English. There were 21 of us [cast and crew], and so, I’m a recovering alcholic, and I’m pretty outspoken about it. I have 11 years clean and it’s a big part of my sordid journey, but it’s the first time in 11 years that I’m in this castle in the middle of nowhere with wine, wine, wine! Those Italians drink wine morning, noon, and night! They also don’t sit down to dinner until 10 o’ clock at night, but honey, I have supper at 6 and I’m in bed by Jeopardy, practically. About 8 o’ clock [at night], the wine would start flowing. Well, if I wanted to eat, I had to be up with all these chatty people…They start eating at 10 and the food comes very slow. You never finish ’til midnight. Well, by then everyone was so southed…Not that my sobriety’s at stake at all…but I have to put up with you…”
I didn’t say it during our interview, but I would like to applaud Leslie Jordan achieving 11 years of sobriety! That’s an inspiration to so many who have struggled not just with alcohol but any form of addiction.
How did it end up?
“All in all, I finished shooting and took all the [money] that I made for the whole trip then I went into Rome on a train, and I checked into the hotel which is one of the finest hotels in Europe. It’s called the Hassler (www.hotelhassler.com). It’s where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes spent their honeymoon, and I blew all my money! (laughs) I stayed in Rome for 3 days.
I totally understand. It’s like you had to recover from your tough week.
“Recover, that’s right, I went shopping. My accountant’s so mad at me. I bought this beautiful Burberry trench coat.”
I love Burberry!
Leslie went right into a tale about his trip back home to Los Angeles from Rome where the film budget dictated that he fly coach and added insult to injury when one of the segments was spent in a middle seat with a baby in front of him. The next time we speak, remind me to give Leslie some frequent flier pointers so that never happens again.
All is not doom and gloom, however, in Leslie’s world. He was excited to break the news of a weekly tv series called “Alligator Point” that will pilot on Lifetime this coming Fall.
“The good news is I’ve got a big new television series. I’m so excited about it. The week before I left for Italy, it just sort of fell in my lap.”
Oh, what’s that?
“Kelsey Grammer is producing it and directing it but he didn’t act in it, and he is the best director I ever worked with. What a lovely man he is! Generous and loving and kind and giving and just knows exactly what to say to an actor to get the best performance out of you. And it’s myself and Cybill Shepherd. It’s kind of like ‘Cheers’ in an oyster bar on the coast of Florida, and so it’s a tiny little town. The name of the series is ‘Alligator Point’ and we shot our first episode 2 weeks ago before I left for Italy, and I think we really have something…It’s about family. It’s hilarious, and it’s the old 3 camera sitcom which I love. That’s where you sit before a live audience. So it’s the best of everything.”
Well, I’ll have to stay tuned to get more information about it…How are things going with “Sordid Lives” on Logo?
“The second season of ‘Sordid Lives’ may or may not happen. It’s in the hands of the studio execs and the network. It’s just money…You know, it’s such a limited market [running on Logo]. My only gripe with the whole thing was that when we hit the air, the ads were so suggestive. It just makes it look like gay people all we do, you know, is have sex…I can’t ask my mother to watch this, she’d be shocked [because of the advertisements]. You know, she’d be shocked enough at the character of me in a dress…An all gay channel is great but it is pretty limiting…and ‘Sordid Lives’ [the movie] had such a great following with straight people…”
How are things with My Trip Down the Pink Carpet the one man show you are doing in New York City based on your book?
“The Off-Broadway run is postponed. No dates are set yet, but we are looking at Fall or Winter of ’09…Theater is a lot of work, and that show, I did 45 cities with it and it’s exhausting. I think that was the problem with taking the trip to Italy is that I’m just traveled out.”
Oh, I understand.
“I have a wonderful life in Los Angeles…I have decided that I’m a gregarious recluse. I’m very gregarious, very outgoing, but I just need a lot of time by myself.”
We got to talking about the face so many of us, no matter the industry, put on in order to interact with others.
“I call it Leslie Jordan drag when I have to go out.”
The conversation led into us talking about various things he does in his down time, in between gigs. One of them he shared was about his standup routine.
“I have a filthy standup routine. Filthy! That I take into gay bars…and I call it my ‘gin and regret’ show because it’s all about the shenanigans I got into when I was drinking.”
You LA folks will have to let me know if you’ve seen Leslie’s “gin and regret” standup routine.
I, as should you, need to pick up a copy of Leslie Jordan’s memoir “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet.” Once I do, I’ll post a book review. Leslie is a great storyteller, and I know this book will not disappoint in either content or delivery.
Lastly, my dear friend (if you read my interviews, you know I had to slip that in somewhere) Leslie literally dug through his trash can to find a quote from David Frost to share with me and others aspiring to achieve their dreams.
“Don’t aim for success. If you want it, just do what you love and believe in it and it will come naturally”
A million thank yous to you, Leslie. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for you. Thank you for allowing me to enjoy my touristy Kodak moment in the airport while also being kind enough to grant me this interview. All of your advice, published and unpublished was well received. You are a true gentleman.
Also, a great big thanks to Billy Miller Management for such prompt follow up with clarifying questions and getting me on Bill Leslie’s calendar. I hope to continue to work with you as us fans look forward to the great things in store for Leslie Jordan.