A Del in concert!

(And he won’t cancel!) Shores returns to his native Texas bruised but busy

Del-Shores-32

NATIVE SHORES | Winters provided the backdrop for Del Shores’ comedy, but his Hollywood connections include directing Oscar hopeful Octavia Spencer in her next film role. (Photo courtesy Alan Mercer)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Already, 2012 looks to be a busy year for Del Shores. That wasn’t among his New Year’s resolutions, but it has ended up being a blessing for him right now. Having something to do distracts him from those empty moments. After separating less than two months ago from his partner of almost 10 years, singer/actor Jason Dottley, spending quiet times alone was the last thing Shores wanted.

“With something this tragic, I have to stay busy,” he says. “This is a huge tragedy in my life. The depression comes in so I’m taking care of myself by writing or preparing other works. Just keeping occupied is so important. I couldn’t survive otherwise.”

As irony would have it, 2012 could end up being Shores’ biggest year yet. The Winters, Texas, native kicks it off in the Rose Room with a standup performance Jan. 27. For this show, he specifically returned to Dallas to film his performance for an upcoming DVD release. And for good reason: He feels the love here.

“I’d rather just go to Dallas,” he says. “I have the hugest fan base there and I should go back to the city that loves me the most to film the show. I love it so much.”

Just a year ago, Shores started a new phase of his career by adding “standup comedian” to his resume with a performance of his new act, Sordid Confessions, at the Rose Room. In fact, he’s less a comic than whip-smart storyteller, but he acknowledges that audiences who saw him last year should expect new stuff this time.

Does that mean he’s adding some of his recent personal drama to the bit? Not just yet.

“I haven’t yet put anything about it in my show,” he admits. “I can’t pretend that the elephant isn’t in the room, but I don’t plan to disrespect what we had … not yet at least!”

The closest he plans to get right now is reciting some letters of support he received after he announced his divorce publicly last November.

They were genuinely heartfelt, but hilarious enough to add to the show.

Shores is also writing the screen adaptation of his play Yellow, and is completing a new play about four women called This Side of Crazy. He’s also collaborating with his Sordid Lives star (and long-standing best friend) Leslie Jordan on the mockumentary The Happy Hullisters, about a gospel family hanging onto their last shred of fame. The plan is to begin shooting it in Dallas starting in June; Tony Award-winner Levi Kreiss and comedian Caroline Rhea (who MC’d this year’s Dallas Black Tie Dinner) attached to the project.

“I’m getting my acting company back together for this. And I’ll be in the Hullisters!” Shores beams. “I am embracing the actor in me. I’m still in negotiations to do one more Sordid Lives film that would be a sequel to the movie, but a prequel to the series. And I’m hoping to open [the play] Yellow in Dallas as well. Maybe I’ll be busy for the next two years!”

Shores is also in post-production of his play-turned-movie The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife starring newly-minted Golden Globe winner and likely Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer. Spencer is reprising her role she originated onstage for the play as LaSonia (pronounced “lasagna”) Robinson. Shores admits that if she wins an Oscar it could help his movie, but he was already suitably moved by her Globes win.

“This couldn’t have happened to a better person,” he says. “When she won, my daughter and I were sobbing like Mexican women at a funeral.”
When Shores posted a note on his Facebook page last November (it began, “It saddens me to inform you that Jason Dottley and I are divorcing”), the obvious question among his friends was, “What happened?” But even Shores doesn’t quite seem sure. Soon after his announcement, Shores received notes of support, but also some not so friendly. That added to the shock of his marriage ending. (Dottley was contacted for this piece but declined to comment.)

“We were this couple held up to the light as an example of gay marriage in a working relationship,” he says. “I had no idea this was coming.

My marriage ended, just like straight people. I had to start a process of healing.”

But were there no signs, no inkling of what was to happen? Shores searches for the words, but stammers as he decides whether to answer and what to say. And then finally:

“Let me put it this way,” he begins, “I’ve been working in the entertainment business for a really long time, I get a lot of actor-auditions. For some, I come up with reasons I don’t cast certain ones, but the bottom line is, ‘I don’t want you to play this role.’ And so no matter what was said or the reasons behind it, the bottom line was Jason said, ‘I don’t want to be married to you anymore.’ And there was no negotiation on any level.”

For a moment, he pauses. That inevitable lump jumps into his throat and one of Texas’ funniest funnymen all of a sudden isn’t laughing.

“There is never a great day,” he admits, choking up. “There are partial good days but good days … not yet. It happens.”

Creative types have the luxury of turning pain into their art and it’s easy to imagine Del Shores turning this pain into a comic masterpiece. He insists he’ll heal and move on. Eventually. Born gay into a Southern Baptist family in Texas, life hasn’t always been the easiest. And at the very least, he may take the advice of one fan, a straight woman, who wrote him.

“She told me there was one thing good about a breakup,” he says, “New dick!”
Badum-bum.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Shores, Dottley announce split

Shores and Dottley, in happier times

Del Shores announced via Facebook this weekend that he and husband Jason Dottley, his producing partner and one of the stars of his series Sordid Lives, have decided to divorce. They met 10 years ago and had a commitment ceremony seven years ago; they legally wed in 2008 in California before passage of Prop 8. No details were released about the reason for the breakup, though Shores expressed support for Dottley, who was step-father to Shores’ two daughters. He also stressed that splits like this are further evidence of the need for marriage equality — including divorce rights.

Shores has a deep connection to Texas and Dallas. He grew up in Winters, Texas, and has set several plays in North Texas, including Southern Baptist Sissies. They were last in Dallas this past June, with Dottley performing his music and Shores doing his one-man performance. Shores tells me he has not canceled a scheduled performance, scheduled to take place at the Rose Room in January, where he will film his show.

Shores’ next project, the film adaptation of The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife starring The Help‘s Octavia Spencer, comes out next year.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Men about towns

Jason Dottley and Del Shores are happy making Dallas their second home

POWER COUPLE | Dottley, left, pursues his music career with a show in Dallas Friday, while Shores has added standup comedy to a resume that includes challenging Republicans to debate gay issues.

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

……………………..

NATION OF JASON
The Rose Room at Station 4,
3911 Cedar Springs Road.
June 17. Doors open at 9 p.m.

……………………..

Hollywood has had more than its fair share of powerful couples. Bennifer. Brangelina. Tomkat.

And now, Delson?

Yep, Del Shores and Jason Dottley are gay, they’re in love and they’re diversely talented. And they seem to have made Dallas almost a second home.

“I love Dallas so much, I listed it twice in an article on my favorite places in the South that I did for a gay travel site,” Dottley says.

“We have great friends here and always stay with our friends Patrick and Kevin. Texas will always be my home state and Dallas has adopted me and treated me like a star and a friend,” adds Shores, who grew up in Winters, Texas, and sets most of his plays in the Lone Star State.

Both stay incredibly busy. Between them, they have nearly every entertainment segment covered: singer, actor, dancer, playwright, producer, director, screenwriter, activist and standup comic. Throw in craft services and they’ll never want for work again.

Shores gave the world a comedy classic with Sordid Lives, a play-turned-movie-turned-TV-series-turned-live-comedy-show that has practically become the writer’s alter ego. Then there are his other plays and movies, like the upcoming 2012 release of the movie version of his tragicomedy The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, as well as plans to turn his latest critically acclaimed play, Yellow, into a film.

For husband Dottley — whom Shores married first in 2003 and then again (legally) in 2008 prior to passage of Proposition 8 — acting in Shores’ projects is only one of his occupations. Pop music is keeping him busier than ever; his first single, “Party Round the World” with Debby Holiday, brought him a Billboard Top 20 record. He followed up with “Hit Play!,” which broke into the Top 30. He’s performed both in Dallas.

Now, he’s making it a threefer. This week, his latest single, “Pop It,” dropped and will certainly be one of the songs he performs as part of his Nation of Jason tour at Station 4 on Friday.

Tonight is just the beginning of a full summer for Shores and Dottley, who will be touring again together: Shores with his new show, Del Shores Sordid Confessions (booked for July 8 in the Rose Room), and Dottley with Nation of Jason.

For anyone looking to catch either star while they’re in town, there’s a certain diner that is a pretty sure bet, as it’s on both of their short lists for favorite places to eat.

“Lucky’s, every time,” Dottley says. “Same dish: chicken fried chicken. I don’t even have to say it, they just know.”

For Shores, favorite hangouts include “The Rose Room and the Round-Up. And I like The Tin Room for a not-so-guilty pleasure. I gave up guilt,” he says. “Uptown [Players] is always a treat.”

“Oh, and anywhere Krystal Summers is performing,” Dottley adds.

If he’s lucky, he won’t have to go far, as Summers is a regular cast member at the Rose Room where Dottley performs tonight.

“My Nation of Jason tour is eye-candy mixed with hot music and a sense of old-school style that I think has been lost on club culture. It’s fun. It should make you feel good about life, to make you wanna dance!” he says.

Shores has been tap dancing a bit himself these days — only not onstage. First there was the bitter fight with the Logo network over residuals from the Sordid Lives series, which left heartbroken fans yearning for a second season that will never be. (There appears to be a happy ending though: He is already talking about doing more Sordid Lives movies, and the experience provided grist for his standup routine.)

He also engaged Tennessee state Sen. Stacey Campfield (“What an asshole, right?” Shores says plainly), who sponsored a bill preventing the discussion of homosexuality in schools, in a war of words on Facebook, challenging the politician to a debate and calling him a coward when he tried to wiggle out. And he’s currently on a crusade against gay Republicans.

“Oh, and I can rant, can’t I?” Shores laughs. “Let’s just say that the Log Cabin Republicans and I are not loving each other lately. I challenged the [Dallas Chapter] president, Rob Schlein, to a debate here in Dallas. I wanted to charge and give all the money to the cause of our choice — mine was Youth First Texas. He would write nasty comments on my fan page, but was too chickenshit to debate me on the topic: ‘How Can You Support Gay Rights and be a Republican?’ It’s appalling the anti-gay rhetoric in the Texas GOP platform. I don’t get it.”

Rants aside, the meat and potatoes of his life is supporting Dottley, and vice versa. Dottley has booked the first date for his debut one-man show at the Rrazz Room in San Francisco: XXX: My First 30 Years … Get Your Mind Outta the Gutter (he hopes to bring it to Dallas eventually, too). And Shores has more irons in the fire beyond pissing off the political right wing in this country.

“I pursue my writing and directing, Jason his acting and singing and we work our asses off to make everything work!” Shores says. ”And we love it still.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

A guy walks into a bar…

Del Shores, Texas’ funniest chronicler of angry gay survivors of Christianity, begins a new chapter in his career: Standup

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | jones@dallasvoice.com

lead
SORDID LAUGHS | Del Shores has transformed his one-man act about the fiasco following ‘Sordid Lives: The Series’ into the hilarious grist for his new standup routine. (Photo courtesy Brian Putnam)

SORDID CONFESSIONS
The Rose Room in Station 4,
3911 Cedar Springs Road. Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. $15.
Caven.com

…………………………

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A guy walks into a gay bar. …

Actually, that’s not the beginning of a joke — it’s the beginning of a new comedy career for Del Shores.

“I know, 52 years old and starting a standup career,” Shores sighs. But like his entire professional life, what’s happened now was never what he expected anyway.

The Baylor grad and (in)famous native of Winters, Texas, headed for L.A. in 1980 intent on becoming an actor (which he did, mostly through voice-overs and commercials but some daytime TV). It was only after his 1987 play Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will?, with its title of pointed Southern Gothic style, that he quickly established a reputation as a writer.

“I quickly started getting writing jobs, so I just put [acting] away and never went back to it, though everything I do is from an actor’s point of view,” Shores says. Plays (Sordid Lives, Southern Baptist Sissies, Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife) led to episodic TV shows (Ned & Stacey, Queer as Folk) and eventually directing.

But as with most the major life-changing stages in his career, there was a tortured backstory that got him there.

Shores’ works may be the foremost examples of laughter through tears. His outrageous, broadly drawn characters — one-legged cheaters, cross-dressing uncles, libidinous psychiatrists, sexually promiscuous grandmas … and that’s just 10 minutes from the pilot of Sordid Lives, the Logo TV series based on his hit play  — mask (or perhaps reveal) genuine pain underneath but close to the surface of Shores’ life.

Sordid Lives deals with the shameful way people (who have no business judging anyone) can behave toward gays (Shores was married to a woman and had children before he came out in his 30s); Sissies tracks how destructive religion can be under the guise of serving God; and his current standup routine, Del Shores: Sordid Confessions (which plays at the Rose Room on Jan. 14), arises from his exasperating struggle to gain control over Sordid Lives: The Series after being cheated by his producer.

“I don’t regret any of it,” he says of his decision to put his life on hold while pursuing legal action to recover the $1.6 million in residual payments owed him and his cast from the series; the litigation put his career on hold for two years and cost him and his husband, Jason Dottley, their home. But it also opened the door on his current gig.

“I love my life — I’m not on the streets and my husband is wonderful,” he says. “I would not be coming to the Rose Room if [all that] hadn’t happened. It’s so healing [to know] that I continued to fight the good fight and not feel pitiful.”

Originally, Shores wrote My Sordid Life (which premiered in Dallas) as a one-man show about his experiences.

“Jason said, ‘You tell all these stories when you’re sitting at the table drinking wine — do a show of that,’” he explains. “I said, ‘How do I weave them together?’ I did the first show and talked about the stories. I did a lot of my mother because she was a huge influence. And I was very influenced by [longtime friend Leslie Jordan].”

After several good reviews, his friend, comedian Caroline Rhea, suggested he convert it into a standup act, which keeps it both topical and fresh. But the best part is how freeing the experience has been.

“I just don’t give a shit anymore,” Shores says. “I say whatever I want.” In his previous show, that meant stories about his racist upbringing, his real full name, how much he hates Judge Reinhold (and others) and his fondness for Rue McClanahan. The new routine follows down those rabbit holes.

“After I went after [Queer as Folk star Randy Harrison], I started getting hate mail from his fans — both of them,” he says with a wink.

“I’m the kind of celebrity who will write anybody back, so I read their letters onstage.”

Despite all the hardship that has fueled his comedy, things are looking up now for Shores. He won the rights to do all-new webisodes of Sordid Lives, which he will fund through his fans (“It will be more like sketches, like the ‘Mama’s Family’ segment on the old Carol Burnett Show, so ‘Ty’s World’ will probably be just boys fucking,” he says); My Sordid Life was filmed just this week as a direct-to-DVD comedy special; and he’s days away from securing funding for the film adaptation of Trailer Trash Housewife.

But if things are going so well, will Shores run out of material? Not likely. He is a queer Texan, after all — there’s always something to bitch about.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas