So, they let Leslie Jordan in the Round-Up Saloon

Leslie Jordan performed at the Round-Up Saloon on Thursday night in a fundraiser for Oklahoma state Sen. Al McAffrey, who is running for Congress from Oklahoma City.

Jordan was in rare form telling stories, including one about how he was thrown out of The Round-Up 20 years ago. This time they let him in — but only through the back door.

McAffrey began his political career in the Oklahoma state House. When he ran for state Senate, Kay Floyd, a lesbian, replaced him in the House. Now that McAffrey is running for U.S. Congress, Floyd is running for McAffrey’s state Senate seat, and a gay man is running for Floyd’s state House seat. Obviously, liberal Oklahoma is going to hell.

One thing’s for sure — no one else running for Congress from Oklahoma had ever had a fundraiser like this one.

—  David Taffet

The wit and wisdom of Leslie Jordan

IMG_3157In this week’s cover story, I interviewed Leslie Jordan, Del Shores and Emerson Collins about their upcoming appearances in Dallas at both a fundraiser for Al McAffrey and screenings of their film Southern Baptist Sissies. As with most interviews, your subjects say a lot more than you can use in the final story. Most of the time, you just let it go. But when Leslie Jordan is talkin’, there are just too many gems to let them be lost forever.

Here, then, are some of the great comments Leslie made during our talk that I didn’t have room for in the story. Enjoy!

On the scope of his fame: I was performing at the Leicester Square Playhouse in London — you know what’s really popular over there? Sordid Lives! Who knew? Anyway, I was walking down the street at Piccadilly Circus and this cab slows down and the cabbie shouts, “Can you see my pussy now?” Then he took off, laughing! But I got misty eyed. People are screaming my lines at me out of taxicabs — I’m an international star!

On interacting with his co-stars: I was doing a show with an actress who plays one of the maids on Downton Abbey, her name is Siobhan Finneran and she tells me, “Just call be Shiv.” “Shiv?!” I said. “In American, ‘Shiv’ is what they stab people with in prison!”

On his rent-boy obsession: I spent three weeks in Puerto Vallarta [recently]. The best part of being there are the beautiful brown boys who hang out in the square. They’re all married straight boys with children, and all you have to say is, “Do you need a little diaper money?”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: “Southern Baptist Sissies’ trailer, at Q Cinema Thursday

This week, I reviewed Southern Baptist Sissies, Del Shores’ filmed version of his play, which opens the 15th Q Cinema tomorrow night. To help prime the pump for the event, then, I offer you the film’s trailer, after the break.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: Leslie Jordan’s “Fruit Fly”

Throughout the opening night performance of Leslie Jordan’s one-man show Fruit Fly, which runs through tomorrow at the Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, the flamboyant actor and comedian referred to his standup act; that’s not what this is. In fact, while hysterically funny in ways that print cannot do justice, Fruit Fly is, first and foremost, a performance: In the course of 90 minutes (it was only suppose to be about 70, but he was on a roll), Jordan spoke not only in his own voice but that of his still-living mother, a hard-drinking Southern lady, an antique drag queen, an obese speakeasy proprietress and too many more to count.

“I’ve always been a good mimic,” Jordan notes almost off-handedly.

No shit.

The show — basically a living room slide presentation tracing Jordan throughout his life of debauchery (“this is just the tip of the iceberg” he says after explaining how he contracted gonorrhea at age 13), his coming out (“Mama would laugh, then say, ‘Don’t tell daddy’”) and his relationship with his mother, father (who died tragically young) and his twin sisters — is surprisingly thin on Hollywood gossip. It barely even mentions his career, except to frame certain issues (going on a gay cruise as the entertainment, how London cabbies recognize him from Sordid Lives, etc.). But it doesn’t need any name-dropping: His life is so endlessly fascinating, you could sit and listen to him, in that squeaky Tennessee drawl, wax for hours more. (It’s amazing he survived this long.)

“You can’t make this shit up!” Jordan says, only half joking. He’s got that right. It’s an unmissibly dishy and touching performance, a real intimate night of theater that feels more like a dinner party with the best host you could imagine.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Leslie Jordan’s “Fruit Fly” tonight at Contemporary Theatre

Me and Mrs. Jordan

The last year, Jordan got booked in Los Angeles on the condition he perform all-new material. “I started thinking about my mother and how she had this box of slides. My mom was the last of nine and my dad was the baby of his family, too, so when the babies had a baby, I was photographed relentlessly.”

That became the basis for Fruit Fly, in which Jordan finally answers the age-old question: Do gay men become their mothers?

Read the entire article here.

DEETS:

—  Rich Lopez

Leslie Jordan finally gives me credit — sort of

I have a history with Leslie Jordan.

Back in September of 2006, I had a pre-arranged interview with him on the Monday between two big events: On the previous Saturday, he would be attending the “technical” Emmy Awards — what Kathy Griffin so derisively calls “The Schmemmys” — as a nominee for best guest actor in a comedy series for Will & Grace; the following Sunday would be the actual broadcast prime time ceremony.

The latter wouldn’t matter much if Jordan didn’t win; but if he won, it would be big: It meant that Jordan would personally present an award the following Sunday.

And he won.

So, it’s now Monday morning, and Jordan has been an Emmy winner all of 36 hours when we talk. I of course congratulate him. He’s ecstatic. “It hasn’t been out of my hand since I won!” he gushed. “I even take it to be with me.” “Is that the first woman you’ve ever slept with?” I asked. He laughed.

Imagine my surprise six days later, watching Jordan present with Cloris Leachman … and use my very line.

Jordan is an inveterate thief of other people’s material, which he owns up to in my interview, in the paper Friday. But I was most gratified by this exchange we had earlier this week:

One of the producers on Will & Grace — I’m not saying which one — was never quite a fan of Beverly Leslie [the character he played on the show]/ He didn’t think it was funny and was too effeminate — he’d always say “Butch it up!” but the direct said, “Less butch!” So after I won the Emmy, he was the only on the show who didn’t congratulate me. Instead, he said, “You stole my line.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Years ago, when I won my Emmy, I said ‘She’s the only woman who’ll even be in my bedroom.’ I got mad. I said, “I did not steal that line from you! I stole it from Arnold Wayne Jones of Dallas, Texas!

I guess we all have to take our credit where we can get it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Leslie Jordan’s Church Revival for Legacy Counseling

Church on time

Funny man and Emmy-winner Leslie Jordan is back for his Church Revival show. The evening benefits Legacy Counseling Center and features guest hostess Sister Helen Holy. And audiences benefit from Jordan’s sassy and sweet Southern musings revival style. Praise Brother Leslie!

DEETS: Sara Ellen & Samuel Weisfeld Center, 1508 Cadiz St. 6 p.m. $25–$100. LegacyCounseling.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Best Bets • 12.30.11

KG-02Saturday 12.31

Black and white all over
Harry Hunsacker is back to crack the case for  New Year’s Eve in The Frequency of Death!  But it could be trouble for Hunsacker as the villainous Dr. Big has revenge in sight for the bumbling detective. Done in brilliant black and white, Pegasus Theatre rings in the new year with an old-fashioned homage to detective films.

DEETS:
Eisemann Center,
2351 Performance Drive, Richardson.
8 p.m. $50.

PegasusTheatre.org.

……………………….

Tuesday 01.03

Church on time
Funny man and Emmy-winner Leslie Jordan is back for his Church Revival show. The evening benefits Legacy Counseling Center and features guest hostess Sister Helen Holy. And audiences benefit from Jordan’s sassy and sweet Southern musings revival style. Praise Brother Leslie!

DEETS:
Sara Ellen & Samuel Weisfeld Center,
1508 Cadiz St. 6 p.m.
$25–$100.
LegacyCounseling.org.

……………………….

Friday 01.06

Anything for a laugh
We wonder if famous D-lister Kathy Griffin will comment on those boys and gal from The A-List Dallas. We know she’ll snark on lots of other things when she returns to town. And yes, she’ll give appropriate shout outs to the Big D gays.

DEETS:
Verizon Theatre,
1001 Performance Place, Grand Prairie. 8 p.m.
$35–$60.
Ticketmaster.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Legacy adds walk-in counseling for holidays

Melissa Grove

Legacy Counseling Center Executive Director Melissa Grove says the agency will offer walk-in counseling for the holidays.

“The holidays can be stressful for a lot of gay people,” Grove said. “They might not get the acceptance at home that they have in Oak Lawn.”

She said that dealing with a chronic illness can compound the stress.

“We would like to be responsive,” she said.

Legacy offers counseling services to people who are HIV positive. Through the holidays, the Center is accepting new clients without an appointment Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It’s best to call first so we know you’re on your way,” Grove said. But walk-ins are accepted without even a phone call. She said a number of people have already taken advantage of the offer and most have been taken with little wait time.

Grove said that 90 percent of Legacy’s clients pay nothing. She said that in addition to all insurance, the agency takes Medicare, Medicaid and Northstar, the behavioral health arm of Medicaid. In addition, the agency receives grants and Ryan White to cover the cost of counseling for people who are HIV positive and are not covered by other plans and earn less than $32,000 a year.

Fundraising events also allow Legacy to serve anyone who needs its care.

“No one is ever turned away,” Grove said.

The annual Christmas Stocking Auction at the Round-Up Saloon on Sunday netted the counseling center $20,000.

“That’s the highest total in eight years,” Grove said. “I just can’t thank the Oak Lawn merchants enough. They never seem to get giving fatigue.”

On Jan. 3, Leslie Jordan returns to the Weisfeld Center in Dallas for Leslie Jordan’s Church Revival with Sister Helen Holy (Paul Williams) also to benefit Legacy. Grove said the $100 tickets include a traditional covered dish dinner — King Ranch chicken, tuna casserole with corn flakes — in the old church basement. Jordan will be mingling with guests through the dinner.

Jordan is best known for his role as Karen Walker’s nemesis Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace. Currently he is appearing on Desperate Housewives and plays a newspaper editor in the film The Help.

Tickets to Leslie Jordan’s Church Revival are available on line.

Legacy Counseling Center is located at 4054 McKinney Ave., Suite 102. 214-520-6308 ext. 1.

 

—  David Taffet

Take 2

CASTING A WIDE NET | Paris, Texas’ Ash Christian scored a stellar comedic cast for his low-budget, North Texas-shot indie film that includes John Waters, Jennifer Coolidge, Leslie Jordan and Heather Matarazzo.

Gay Texas filmmaker Ash Christian’s second movie encountered death and cast changes on its way to its debut this week — in his home state

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE SET OF ‘MANGUS’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

It is New Year’s Eve 2009, and Ash Christian is ready to unwind a bit — probably for the first time in a month. In a few hours, after a haircut and a disco nap, he will be out partying at Dish in the ilume. The wine will flow freely that night, and at midnight he will ring in 2010 to the strains of Black-Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling.”

Ash Christian certainly is feeling something that day, and that is stressed. He had returned to North Texas a few weeks earlier for what was supposed to be a quick two-week trip to scout locations and raise money for his independent film, Mangus, which was supposed to finish filming before it had actually begun.

But as with a lot of what happens in Hollywood, things did not go as planned. Christian had an enthusiastic backer in Friley Davidson, a well-off Dallasite who had pledged a big chunk of the budget for Mangus. But Davidson died unexpectedly just before Christmas … and before he had cut the check for the film. (Several months later, Marty Hershner, owner of the Tin Room — Christian’s favorite gay bar in Dallas and the set for one of the climactic scenes — dies, devastating Christian.) It’s been a scramble ever since.

Christian is used to it by now. Although it’s only his second film, and he was only 24 when he started on it, Christian is already a veteran of the indie filmmaking scene and all the potholes that dot the road. He was 20 and about to shoot his first movie, Fat Girls, when civic leaders in the town of Canton, where photography was supposed to take place, pulled the permits a day before production was set to start because they didn’t like the gay content in the script.

ON THE SET | Jennifer Coolidge’s improvisation of a breadstick to look like a penis cracked up Heather Matarazzo during the last day of filming on ‘Mangus.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

“I don’t know why we even wanted to film in Canton anyway,” he says years later. Christian found a replacement quickly in Waxahachie, and the final product became well-received on the festival circuit, praised for its quirky charm about a gay, musical-loving Texas boy and his chubby best friend (Ashley Fink, now on Glee).

Although not a financial hit, Fat Girls got Christian noticed in Hollywood. He “took a lot of meetings,” as they say, discussing big-budget projects studios wanted him to helm. But nothing seemed to fit. Whatever they wanted him to make isn’t what he wanted to make.

“You need to believe in your vision,” he said earlier this week over chicken flautas at Komali. “You have to be comfortable with your vision not being totally mainstream.”

That devotion has paid off in little ways. This week, Mangus gets its world premiere in Christian’s home state with two screenings at the Dallas International Film Festival.

“I’m happy it is premiering here, because so much of the crew was based here. It’s great for them,” says the Paris, Texas, native. “We already have some distribution offers, too, so we’re in a good place.”

It’s been a long journey from that day 15 months ago when I met Christian, one of his stars, actress Heather Matarazzo, and her girlfriend, Caroline Murphy, at Taco Diner in the West Village, where we discussed the film over fish tacos and quesadillas. There was a lot of excitement that day, as filming was about to start. They toasted with Diet Coke.

But things happen quickly and unpredictably in the universe of indie cinema: Sometimes things go smoothly and sometimes not. Christian was lucky to get Matarazzo to do the film — he wrote it with her in mind even though the two had never met.

(Originally, Christian had written a leading role for himself, until he got too old to play it. He doesn’t appear in the final version of the film at all.)

“I went to the premier of Saved [in which Matarazzo starred] and I came up to give you…” Christian begins, before Matarazzo interrupts.

“Was I nice?” she asks. Yes, he responds.

“I remember exactly where I was. He said I wrote this script for you — people say that all the time but this happened to be true,” Matarazzo said. He told her he wanted to film it in North Texas, which just happened to be where her girlfriend was from.

Murphy and her brother ended up writing music for the film. Then Matarazzo scored another coup for the film.

“Heather got Alan Cumming to take a part!” Christian gushes over his most recent casting decision. “She just sent him the script and he agreed to do it!” (The two had worked together on The L Word.)

But things are fluky. Within two weeks, Cumming will drop out, only to be replaced by Leslie Jordan. Jennifer Coolidge, who has been tapped to play the mother of the small-town kid Mangus, was still onboard though, as was Matarazzo, whose costume of Daisy Dukes, a blonde wig and hooker shoes “make you look like Jessica Simpson,” Christian observes. (That’s her character’s name in the film, too.)

Shooting was delayed, as was the fundraising to produce the damn thing, but it eventually proceeds. Even that, though, was not without its drama. It’s Feb. 10, 2010 — the last day of filming — and an unexpected snowstorm has all but ruined the final shots of the script. Overcast skies make the lighting all wrong for the scene, where Mangus’ mom welcomes him home. It doesn’t help matters that Christian is hopped up on antibiotics; he’s been fighting a losing battle against the flu all week. But there are no sick days when you’re making a movie in three weeks.

“This is my day, just sitting around,” Christian says with frustration on the set, waiting for his cast to get into costume. But a year later, he’s singing a different tune.

“Directing is my favorite part,” he says. “You learn a lot. [The final film] isn’t what I thought I was writing. Actors bring their own interpretations to it. Leslie is kind of amazing in the movie. Coolidge is great — she’s really, really funny. Some of the stuff they come up with is funnier than anything I could have written.” For instance, Coolidge suggests arranging the breadstick on a plate to resemble a penis; she keeps breaking up Matarazzo with her adlibs, necessitating numerous retakes.

Christian has learned some practical lessons as well to help him negotiate the minefield of moviemaking. He’s just wrapped on his third feature, Petunia, starring Oscar winner Christine Lahti and David Rasche, the movie he fully expects will usher him into “the next level” of filmmaking. And a new financial angel has just given him half a million dollars to put toward his next picture. (This time, he got the money in hand before something happened to the backer.)

And as always, things seem to work out. Eventually, John Waters even joined the cast of Mangus to play the part of — wait for it — Jesus Christ.

“I sent him word I would like him to be in my movie and a few minutes later I get this call, ‘Ash, this is John Waters. Can you send a script to my apartment?’ I wasn’t even sure if I needed to deliver it myself or send a courier or what. But he read it and quickly said, ‘I’ll do it; call my agent.’” They ended up shooting Waters’ scenes in Provincetown in front of a green-screen to be digitally inserted in the final product. He can’t wait for his local friends to see it.

Christian, who has lived in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan for years, says he fully expects to end up back in North Texas eventually. He likes Dallas, he says: The people and how much cheaper food is … and, presumably, the reaction he gets here to his movies. But until the screening, it’s across the street to drink sweet-tea vodka martinis and stare at the dick dancers at BJ’s. Hey, there’s a time for movies and a time to relax.

For additional information, visit MangusTheMovie.com.

Also of interest at DIFF:

In addition to Mangus!, some other films that came up on our radar at the Dallas International Film Festival include:

Boy Wonder — a psychological thriller about a comic book fan who witnesses the murder of his mother, becoming a vigilante by night as a super hero. Screens at AMC NorthPark on April 1 at 7 p.m. and April 2 at 10:15 p.m.

Lucky — A comedy about a fledgling serial killer (Colin Hanks), who wins the Iowa State Lottery, enabling him to pursue his hobby. Also stars screen legend Ann-Margret, who will receive an award from the festival. Screens at the Magnolia Theatre, April 1 at 7 p.m. and April 2 at 12:30 p.m.

More to Live For — A documentary about the quest for bone marrow donors (a procedure which holds the promise of becoming a cure for AIDS). Directed by Noah Hutton, the son of Debra Winger and Timothy Hutton. Screens at AMC NorthPark on April 3 at 9 p.m.

Rainbows End — This Texas-based documentary, which we profiled last week, tracks a kooky gay man from East Texas, pictured, as he sets off for L.A. to get Internet lessons from the gay and lesbian center there. Screens at the Magnolia Theatre April 1 at 10 p.m. and April 3 at noon.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright