Emmy award winner Leslie Jordan begins a 12-week off-Broadway run Wednesday night in My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, a tell-all of stories and memories from his work as Tammy Wynette impersonator Brother Boy in Sordid Lives to his star-making turn on Will & Grace.
In advance of the show’s opening, Jordan shared with The Advocate his 10 favorite songs to perform in drag. Check out his picks on the following pages.
Cher: “The Way of Love” — My Cher-hair was a black short-sleeve T-shirt pulled inside out over my head. The short sleeves became those Hasidic Jew-like side bangs that she wore in the '60s.
Vicki Lawrence: "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" — A very peppy song with a strong story line to act out. I was especially good at the part about "little sister doesn't miss when she points her gun ... " Very heartfelt, very moving.
Bobbie Gentry: "Fancy" — Well, "the long red dress slit up to my hips" was only to be imagined, as the resources in my locked bedroom were few and far between. "Might'a been born just plain white trash" was spit out like it came from the bottom of my little heart. The imaginary audience would go ape-shit.
Dusty Springfield: "Son of a Preacher Man" — Took me to places I could only imagine, as the son of my preacher was much younger than me but a real looker. I used to pretend he got me pregnant. But as we'd "head out the back door as they sat talkin’... then he'd look into my eyes and Lord knows to my surprise," I showed real surprise and the effect brought the house down.
Jeannie C. Riley: "Harper Valley PTA" — Another peppy song with a strong story line.... Boy Howdy! When I got to the part where the mother gives it to the PTA with both barrels, I was unstoppable. Standing there in my miniskirt made out of a bath towel, I elicited real fear in my imaginary audience.
Janis Joplin: "Maybe" — This was my dirty low-down blues number. I had an old fright wig from Halloween that I put feathers and stuff in. And my bathrobe made for a muumuu hippie look. A pair of bunched-up socks under my bathrobe gave me nice tits. I would wear them kinda low so it looked like I had shucked my brassiere! A real free-spirited hippie chick. The imaginary audience (who were all high on marijuana and other hallucinogens) would whoop and holler as I laid on the floor and wallowed all around like Miss Janis when she was at her best. "Maybe! Maybe! Maybe! ... "
Joan Baez: "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" — It seems like my forte was performing peppy songs with strong story lines to act out. When I hit the part about "I swear by the blood below my feet ... " sometimes real tears flowed down my face. The effect was mesmerizing.
Tammy Wynette: "Till I Can Make It on My Own" — What can I say? Rent Sordid Lives and you will see what all those years of practice in my bedroom produced. I am surprised I have not been approached by documentary filmmakers to chronicle this journey from lip-synching in my bedroom as a child to international film stardom.
Sammi Smith: "Help Me Make It Through the Night" — I really did "take the ribbon from my hair"! Well, it was an old shoelace, but you have to work with what you have!
Bobbie Gentry: "Ode to Billy Joe" — This was my signature song. I always saved it for last at my nightly concerts. I couldn't even get to the part about "it was the third of June another sleepy dusty delta da-a-ay..." before the audience was on its feet. The real tearjerker part was when I sat on the edge of the stage (my bottom bunk bed) dangling my feet as I threw flowers into "the muddy waters off the Tallahatchie Bridge ... " The emotion was such that many nights I had to be carried off the stage. It was a nightly breakdown from too many pretend pills and too much pretend booze. There was a real tragic story unfolding in my bedroom behind closed doors nightly.