The Dark Side of Del Shores

Sordid Lives creator Del Shores delves into the personal drama that inspired Yellow, his first new play in seven years, and shares some golden memories of friend Rue McClanahan.

BY Brandon Voss

June 11 2010 7:05 PM ET

DEL SHORES 3 X390 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM
OK, let’s talk about another star that you worked with, Rue McClanahan. Where do we even begin?
The night you and I saw each other in New York at the opening of Leslie Jordan’s My Trip Down the Pink Carpet in April, I had just come from spending the afternoon at Rue’s apartment. That was my last visit with her. Rue had had the stroke, she was still recovering from the triple bypass, so she was still speaking slowly and deliberately, but she was starting to speak very clearly. I was telling her about the Sordid movies I had planned in my head — I still own the rights to continue these characters in features and on the stage — and I said, “You gotta get better. We’re not done, Rue.” She said, “I want to play Peggy again, but honey, you may have to write a stroke into her character.” I said, “Rue, she fell and hit her head on a sink in a motel room. It would be easy to write in a little speech problem. And then we’ll just tell people your acting is more brilliant than ever.” She loved that. I left that day and really thought I’d see her again, so I was just devastated when her manager, Barbara, called to tell me she had another stroke. Her son was flying in from Austin and Rue didn’t want any kind of life support, so there was no hope. The night before she passed, I arrived at the theater knowing that they had pulled the plug and that she wouldn’t be with us much longer. It was a horrible night because I couldn’t share it with anybody. The next night, after she had passed away, we dedicated the show to her. We said, “Yellow goes golden.”

What’s one of your fondest memories of her?
First of all, she was a comedic genius. She was so quick, so sharp, and her sense of humor was so wicked. She spoke my language in so many ways. She was so loving, warm, and generous that you felt like you’d been her friend forever. I mean, she had her moments when she let you know how she felt! [Laughs] But she was never difficult, and she was a always a joy to work with. I love what she said to me the first time we spoke about the show. I sent all 12 scripts to Barbara, her manager, for Rue to read. She called the very next day and she had read all of them. She said, “Del, I never thought I’d get to play a woman in love again. I love playing a woman in love.” And after a perfect comedic beat, she said, “It doesn’t pay anything, does it?” I said, “No, it’s on Logo...” She said, “Yes, I heard, I’ll do it.” But she made it very clear when we were doing press that she made less money for the whole series than she made on one episode of The Golden Girls.

It’s been almost a year since you wrote a scathing commentary on Advocate.com in response to The Advocate putting Perez Hilton on the cover. Have you had any personal contact with him since?
It has happened that I’ve been at events where he’s at, and it’s rather awkward since I did call for a boycott of him. I’ve never had enough liquor in me to go up and confront him to his face, but I think the way I did it was the way to do it. I don’t think I’m really on his radar, but I know he’s aware of the situation because his publicist wrote me afterward and was very angry. He was so close to me at a bar recently, and I know he knew that Jason and I were there, but I’ve learned that you can ignore people at a very close proximity.


Yellow opens June 11 and runs through July 25 at the Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd, in West Hollywood. For tickets and more info, log onto YellowbyDelShores.com.

Tags: Theater

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