The irrepressible Leslie Jordan returns to North Texas for an evening of fairy tales
Leslie Jordan is sitting at a Starbucks near his home in Los Angeles — one of three he calls his “office” — when he interrupts our conversation to remark on someone who just passed in front of him.
“I can’t even describe [what I just saw], except to say that’s the saddest woman I’ve ever seen in a miniskirt. I could have probably gone to my grave without seeing that vision,” he sighs.
That kind of scattershot playfulness is exactly what has made the Emmy Award-winning actor such a popular figure in our culture — from Will & Grace to The Help to his collection of solo shows and personality-driven one-man performances, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
Jordan is so omnipresent in supporting roles and scene-stealing appearances (he was last seen on British TV in the celebrity version of Big Brother), you might think the man best known to gay audiences for his flamboyant turns as the drag-addicted Brother Boy in Del Shores’ Sordid Lives properties packs in audiences in his adoptive home town of L.A. But he keeps returning to the hallowed ground of North Texas every December for a charity show — a fundraiser for Legacy Counseling Center, which takes place at Theatre 3 Monday.
“I rarely perform out here — [my audience for my solo shows] is like 70 people that I begged to come! But this little event in Dallas is sold out!” he exclaims.
The pixieish, molasses-voiced scamp does stay busy, however; he’ll barely be in Dallas 24 hours before heading for Canada.
“I leave for Edmonton the next day. I saw I could either do Christmas in Dallas or spend it in the snow … so I chose the snow! I’ll be by myself, but what else is new? I’d really rather be alone,” he says, noting his close friends have nicknamed him “the Gregarious Recluse.”
“I love traveling alone, but I’m spoiled. I went home to Tennessee for 10 days [around Thanksgiving], and was just gonna relax. Then my mother said, ‘Let’s go visit my brother Buddy!’ … as if we were going to the store for milk. He lives in Pompano Beach! Five days later, we hadn’t even hit Ocala — we’d drive three or four hours and she’d say, ‘Let’s just get a room at the Hilton Garden Inn and stop.’
And it’s not just Christmas that he’ll be going solo — for the first time in years, “I don’t have a gig on New Year’s Eve! I suspect [I’ll be asleep for most of it] — at 6 o’clock the curtain goes down if I’m not being paid,” he says. “But I open in Puerto Vallarta on Jan 3. [for a run of several weeks]. I have not had a steady job since 1992 and I don’t quite understand why. I think the industry I grew up in is kinda gone. But on it goes! It’s such an amazing life,” he says.
Amazing all the more because Jordan, now 60 and proud of it, wasn’t sure he’d ever hit middle age at all. He’s been clean and sober for more than a decade, so New Year’s Eve holds — and held — little appeal. “To us professional drunks, [NYE] didn’t matter. It was amateur night. I usually would take a break on Dec. 31 from drinking!”
Jordan also rejects another time-honored year-end tradition: the New Year’s resolution.
“I don’t make those,” he says; “I make daily resolutions. It’s such a simple formula: Diet; exercise — swimming, which is easy cuz all these hotels have indoor pools — a recovery meeting here and there and my life is wonderful. This year, I did promise myself I’ll eat a little better and feel better. I kinda forget I’m 60. I think it’s just [adhering to] moderation in everything.”
A fine policy, but it hasn’t stopped him from causing a stir almost everywhere he goes. Take, for instance, his stint on the U.K.’s Big Brother.
“It was a nightmare!” he rants. “I spat on Gary Busey and a French stripper cut up my underwear. And I got kicked out for bad behavior! I got accused of being trans-phobic! I’ve had five friends who have [transitioned], but I kept calling [a fellow contestant transitioning from male to female] ‘he.’ I said, ‘When he acts like a lady, I’ll call him a lady! It was a mess. It will figure in my spiel on Monday night.”
His journey from fast-burning candle to Emmy-winning senior hasn’t gone unappreciated, either.
“Sometimes I wonder, what if I never found a recovery program? Would I bang through life? I’m closer to my authentic self — I’m happier than I have ever been. I wanted to be a gay Hugh Hefner with seven beautiful blond boys crawling all over me. My life is so not like that! But all that looking to others to find happiness. That has all abated with me. I was complaining to a friend I have to go to Puerto Vallarta for three weeks. He said, ‘Fuck you.’ It really is a wonderful life.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 19, 2014