Op-ed: How I Healed My Crippled Spirit
BY Advocate Contributors
April 09 2012 1:22 AM ET
In 2009, my life went into chaos. I had just come off of one of the biggest highs of my career — I had the number one show on Logo, Sordid Lives: The Series. Having spent four years developing and putting together the financing for the show, I had turned down many lucrative television opportunities because of my passion for my own sordid Texas tale. I had wanted my own show, and hard work and perseverance finally paid off! I had a series on the air with Rue McClanahan, Caroline Rhea, Bonnie Bedelia, Leslie Jordan, Beth Grant, Olivia Newton-John, and many of my favorite actors from the film and my stage work.
But I chose the wrong producing partner. My gut warned me, but I took the advice of my agents at the time who also represented the producer. After the series hit, that producer decided to not pay the actors and myself our residuals. We had worked so hard for a fraction of our fees, knowing the show would run on a loop on Logo and banking on our residuals to make up the difference. Logo had already ordered a second season at this point, but when the guilds stepped in, attempting to collect our residuals, the legal problems sent the series into limbo.
A two-year battle ensued, and we won every arbitration. The producer was ordered to pay myself and the actors more than $2.3 million dollars. His response? To file bankruptcy. We got nothing and Sordid Lives: The Series was over.
I lost my home, was close to bankruptcy myself — and became very, very depressed.
Jason Dottley, my soon-to-be-ex-husband and one of the stars of the series, then suggested that I write a one-man show based on all the stories I told around our dinner table. “Are you kidding me? I’m not Leslie Jordan, Kathy Griffin, Caroline Rhea, or Margaret Cho. I’m Del Shores, the writer-director, the storyteller.” “Exactly!” was his response.
So, reluctantly, I wrote a show called Del Shores: The Storyteller which quickly was rechristened Del Shores: My Sordid Life. Hey, if you have a brand, milk it, right?
At first the show was just a series of my stories. I would have a board on an easel on stage and would give each story a name. “Aunt Sissy’s five marriages,” “Cousin Dwaine shoots a policeman,” “Mama compares her gay son to a paraplegic,” “Family funerals”… you get the picture. I would check each story off as I told it and go down the list. I would dish on celebrities, call out the assholes I’d worked with, tell about Rosemary Alexander (“Dr. Eve”) not wearing panties in the final stage show of Sordid Lives, playing the best trick ever on Leslie Jordan. I would even preach — performing a missing monologue from my play Southern Baptist Sissies.