Cassie’s ‘Sordid’ history with movies

full-64b3b0-sordidlives-3dartfinalOh Em Gee!!! I am gonna be a movie star! No seriously! Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to take a role in Del Shores’ sequel to the fabulous film Sordid Lives, called A Very Sordid Wedding. Del has been a fan of the Rose Room for years and I was lucky enough to be asked to be in a scene set there. Acting-wise, it was a real stretch for me: I played a bitchy drag queen named Cassie Nova. I know, I was totally typecast. Anyhoo, more on that later. Let me tell you why this was a real full circle moment for me.

Around 2000, myself, Celeste Martinez, Valerie Lohr and her husband Johnny went to the Inwood Theatre to see Sordid Lives, which all the gays were talking about. We loved it. It’s fabulous fun. If you have never seen it, do it now. (Who am I kidding, everyone has seen it.) It’s got drag, death, wooden legs and some characters that reminded me way too much of my family. It has almost as many quotable lines as Steel Magnolias, and you know how much we love to quote a line from a movie. I can’t tell you how many times I have said, “Ohhkaaaaayyyyyyy” or “Now if you will please excuse me, I have a show to do.” I don’t have a lot of use for the “Shoot her in the head, Wardell!” but I keep it locked and loaded just in case.

I loved the movie so much that I bought it when it came out on DVD (for $89.99 I think!). DVD’s were expensive as fuck when they first came out back then. Hell, I remember when Blockbuster would charge you over a hundred bucks if you lost one of their shitty cassettes. Anyway, I took the Sordid Lives DVD to my mom’s house in Italy, Texas, and forced her and my Aunt Zina to watch it with me. I don’t know what I was thinking. Back then, my family and I didn’t have an open dialogue about being gay and the drag stuff — not like we do now. And Sordid Lives is freakin’ full of gay and drag stuff.

To be honest, there were a few times during the movie that I felt uncomfortable watching with my mother. When Ty tells his mama he’s gay, my mama’s living room got very tense for a second. My own coming out story was painful and a very touchy subject with Mom at that time. Looking back, I can plainly see that watching that movie with Mom changed something in the way we talked about me being gay. We joked about it more … actually started to talk about it more. It may have put some things into perspective for my mother. I bet she thought, “At least we are not as fucked up as that family.”

She is still not completely on board with the drag thing, and I don’t think Brother Boy or Dr. Eve helped with that. When Mom first found out I was gay, one of the first things she said to me was, “You betta not ever dress up like no woman!” Being gay was one thing, but being a drag queen on top of that might have been too much for any mother to bear. She ignored it as long as she could, but at some point I guess she figured out that Cassie was not a phase, but a profession. My drag persona was a large part of her son’s life and she wasn’t going anywhere. Now my mom sees that I am not a woman trapped in a man’s body but rather an entertainer whose voice wears women’s clothing to be heard.

I know my mama and my Aunt Zina enjoyed the movie because they laughed and cackled through the whole thing. Plus Momma loves Beau Bridges — I think she got some serious ladywood for him. I’ve even heard her say, “Ohhkaaaaayyyyyyy” in a very Brother Boy voice.

When Del Shores told me that he wrote Cassie Nova into the next chapter of the Sordid Lives saga, I about died. I was so freakin’ excited … but I am one of those people that don’t want to get their hopes up about anything. I hate being disappointed, and I was not.

The day we filmed I was so nervous. I didn’t want to fuck up something that suddenly meant the world to me. I always want to do a good job at everything I do, but I was on the verge of a panic attack. I could not get out of my head. What if I am awful? What if I stutter like I just got donkey punched in the head? What if I vomit or have a heart attack right on camera? So many stupid, ridiculous scenarios going through my head.

Then Del does what a great director is supposed to do. He told me what to do and how to do it. He stroked my ego enough to get me to a positive, strong and fun place. I had one of the coolest moments of my life: I got to be in a scene with Leslie Jordan. That damn Leslie Jordan is a hoot. He is the nicest, craziest off-the-wall person I have ever met. He is exactly who you think he is — a joy.

My second scene had me being introduced and entering the stage in the Rose Room. We rehearsed it a few times and once again I was in my head. Even though I was doing what I have done hundreds of times, walking out onto stage and starting the show, I started to doubt myself and my abilities. When they yelled “Rolling!” for a second I thought, “Oh, fuck, I can’t.” Then they yelled “Action!” and across the way, on the other side of the stage. I saw someone waving at me. It was Emerson Collins. Emerson is a wonderful actor and is one of the producers of the film, and is a very good friend of mine. He’s on that show The People’s Couch and was incredible in Del’s play and movie Southern Baptist Sissies. He is also a very good looking man.

So he is waving at me just seconds before I am to walk on stage and do what I do. I see him and start to wave back when he drops his pants and shakes his dick at me. He full helicoptered his meat at me just as they called my name. It was honestly one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for me. Not because I got to see his peen (which was lovely) but because he knew I was a little to in my head. It was funny, shocking and just what I needed to clear away any self-doubt I had. It changed my whole thought process from nervous energy to “let’s kick some ass!” And I did.

Del let me do what I do and let me run with it. I did my lines and then went into messing with people in the crowd just like I do in the regular Rose Room show. The crowd of extras in the audience were all fans of Sordid Lives or the Rose Room. Many were fans of both, so the energy in the room was incredible. When Del yelled, “Cut!” the crowd started to applaud really loud. It was such a great moment. It was such a great feeling.

I’ve worked on a few other movies over the years, but nothing as professional or as well run as A Very Sordid Wedding. It was so cool to see Del in his element, doing what he was born to do. I knew he was a great writer, but to experience him directing was amazing. Over all, it was a very good day. One I will remember forever. Thank you Del, Emerson, Leslie and especially the big beefy cameraman with the full beard. You will be in my spank bank forever!
Remember to always love more, bitch less and be fabulous! XOXO, Cassie Nova.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2016.