North Texas rolls out a big homecoming for Del Shores who serves up an appetizer of LOGO’s newest series, ‘Sordid Lives’
"Well, today I’m heading to a recording studio in Santa Monica for a looping session with Olivia Newton-John and Rue McClanahan," Del Shores explains while driving across Southern California.
The gay playwright from Winters, Texas has come a long way.
Shores is putting the finishing touches on his golden baby, "Sordid Lives: The Series:" his story about unconditional love, acceptance and coming out in a Texas family that’s been a stage play, a movie and is now being molded into a 12-episode sitcom for LOGO that will premiere July 23.
This weekend, North Texas gets a taste of the TV series as Shores heads into town. On Friday, he hosts "A Sordid Little Affair," a fundraiser for the Uptown Players where he’ll talk about the production and show clips. On Saturday at the Q Cinema film fest in Fort Worth, he’s presenting an award to the diminutive scene-stealing actor he’s worked with for 20 years — Leslie Jordan, who plays Brother Boy, the Tammy Wynette-obsessed drag queen from "Sordid Lives."
When it comes to casting, Shores certainly has a coterie of loyal actors — even marquee names. How does he lure back talents like Olivia Newton-John?
"After I’ve worked them once, I threaten them with stories that I know will embarrass them. Of course, that doesn’t work with Leslie Jordan. He tells everyone all of his embarrassing stories," Shores says.
Due to a scheduling problem, that formula didn’t work for Delta Burke, who played Noleta Nethercott in the film version. For the series, Caroline Rhea takes on the role of Noleta. But star power names are making cameos: Carson Kressley, Margaret Cho and Candice Cayne play therapists, and Georgette Jones, the daughter of Tammye Wynette, plays her mom in a dream sequence.
Working in television is nothing new for Shores. He’s written and produced for "Dharma and Greg" and Showtime’s "Queer as Folk." But "Sordid Lives" will be his first time in the director’s chair for a series. Since he’s working for a gay network is he able to exercise any new freedoms that were previously censored?
"Not compared to ‘Queer as Folk’ — especially when it comes to sex. LOGO is basic cable, so we can’t even say ‘fuck.’ So I’d just bleep it out. And to me, bleeping it out is actually funnier," he explains.
Sitting in the TV writer-creator-director’s chair has given him more control over his work.
"I think one thing that allows me to work with so many wonderful acting talents is first, I love actors. I love writing for actors. And when they read my scripts, they respond to the words. On projects when I’m not the director, I’ve seen so much subtlety cut out of my work. And sometimes when you sacrifice a small comedic moment, that also effects the script’s dramatic elements," he explains. "With the series, I’ve been able ensure how the parts work more cohesively."
That creative control helped the boy from Winters, Texas maintain the inherent kookiness that only Lone Star-flavored comedy can provide. Like the dramatic effect of characters brandishing firearms — even the show’s logo is surrounded by a revolver, spilled nail polish and scattered pills. But Shores isn’t a proud member of a Pink Pistols club.
"I detest drugs and guns. But all my characters are either popping Valium or trying to shoot each other’s heads off," he laughs.
As a boy, his father tried to show him how to use a BB gun. Little Del didn’t take a shine to it — instead, he shot himself in the foot.
Del Shores hosts "A Sordid Little Affair," a fundraiser for the Uptown Players, May 30 at 8 p.m. at the Trinity River Arts Center, 2600 N. Stemmons Fwy.
Tickets $40-$75. 214-219-2718.
Shores and his partner Jason Dottley present a lifetime achievement award to Leslie Jordan at the Q Cinema festival. May 31 at 8 p.m. at the W. E. Scott Theatre, 1309 Montgomery Street,
Fort Worth. $45.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 30, 2008.