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Ma Vie En Rose

Ma Vie En Rose


Leslie Jordan's new one man show, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, premiered at Gay Fest in New York City and this week comes to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. The show chronicles his journey to celebrity status with a slightly colorful twist

Whether he's playing Karen Walker's acid-tongued frenemy Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace or cross-dressing Brother Boy in the cult film Sordid Lives, actor Leslie Jordan has made a career out of playing screamingly homosexual Southerners. In his one-man show My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, Jordan recounts his path to Hollywood success, doling out dishy celebrity stories and tales of the drug-fueled gay scene of the 1970s and detailing the dreams of a starstruck childhood sissy in Chattanooga, Tenn. The one-night-only performance kicked off for Gay Fest 2008, a theater festival that raises money for New York City's Harvey Milk High School.

Describing himself as "the gayest man on Earth," Jordan claims that he "fell out of the womb and into my mama's high heels." Growing up gay in the Bible Belt in the '60s and '70s, Jordan was closeted, but obviously a poofter. "I open my mouth, and 50 yards of purple chiffon comes out!" He was a huge fan of Tammy Wynette, whom he calls, "the queen of the codependent anthem." The audience howled with laughter as the diminutive, foul-mouthed ball of energy shared memories of his early encounters with phone sex, unrequited crushes, and at the age of 17 his first visit to a gay bar, the Cross Keys Lounge. He describes entering that bar (with two big-wigged Southern-fried drag queens to guide him) as the defining moment of his life -- everything is either before or after that pivotal encounter.

Jordan was a huge consumer of popular entertainment. Seeing the effete Truman Capote on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson and Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares provoked an interesting response: "I was fascinated ....and deeply repulsed." This internalized homophobia would manifest itself in various ways over the ensuing years, both in Jordan's career and in his personal life. While he was in his 20s, he lived in an apartment without mirrors so that he'd avoid accidentally catching his own nelly reflection staring back at him.

In 1982, Jordan arrived in Hollywood. He was already in his late 20s -- not the most opportune age for a 5-foot-4 man whose walk has been described as "Bette Midler onstage with a touch of Ruth Gordon." Jordan began to get work as an actor, albeit largely in bit parts. Over the years he has worked with some of showbiz's biggest names (he does a priceless bit involving Faye Dunaway channeling Tennessee Williams) as well as some stars on the rise (George Clooney was a lovable jokester; Boy George, with whom Jordan did a Japanese sake commercial was "a tad mean spirited...evil"). Whether rhapsodizing about one-time costar Mark Harmon ("a god!") or recounting buying panties for Beverly D'Angelo in Drop, Texas ("about seven miles from where Christ lost his shoes"), Jordan manages to infuse each yarn with a potent mix of self-deprecation, arch cattiness, and an unmistakable joy just to be in the business of show (endearingly peppering his monologue with "ya'll" -- a country boy through and through).

Pink Carpet goes back and forth between time periods; each trip back to the tres gay 1970s is punctuated by classic disco music cues, from "Young Hearts Run Free" to "Last Dance." Jordan does not shy away from his history of rampant drug use and a love affair with alcohol. These debauched stories are shared with wicked glee -- and not without perspective. In 1997, he stopped drinking and taking drugs and has been sober ever since. Upon walking into the testosterone heavy Men's Recovery Group he had been advised to join, he says his first thought was, I should have left my murse in the car. Eventually he learned to face his fear of heterosexual men and in fact draws strength from that challenging experience. Having won the 2006 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, Jordan has achieved a level of success to be envied by many in the performing arts, straight or gay. As he said to an audience member who was talking during the show, "Shut your hole, honey -- mine's making money."

After Jordan's encore, he was bestowed with the GayFest Community Service Award, (the first such honor), and it was presented onstage by acclaimed playwright Terrence McNally (Love! Valour! Compassion!). McNally praised the performer's "generosity, humanity, and honesty," to which Jordan jokingly replied, "It's the least they could do. I worked for free tonight." A fine comic actor, a political activist (Jordan is involved with the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline GLBT youth) and one hell of an out and proud gay man, Jordan is to be admired for his many talents and depth of character. Indeed, big things do come in small packages.

Leslie Jordan's book My Trip Down the Pink Carpet is being released by Simon & Schuster on June 3rd, 2008.

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