By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
That four-foot-11 pixie from Chattanooga, Emmy winner Leslie Jordan (best known as the uppity Beverley Leslie from Will & Grace), has swept into town for his autobiographical show My Trip Down the Pink Carpet at the Midtown Theater, with a story up every flouncy sleeve.
I seized the chance to get the gayer-than-Ricky-Martin funnyman on the horn and nab some piquant doses of Southern comfort.
Me: Hi, doll. Tell me about your show.
Jordan: I am basically a high school cheerleader stuck in a 55-year-old male body. I don't know how to love in a healthy manner, only like a high school girl. I write entries in my diary and I stalk. So in my imagination I've had affairs with people I've worked with, like Billy Bob Thornton and George Clooney.
Me: Maybe they were for real?
Jordan: I'll leave that to the audience. I had a torrid affair with Mark Harmon years ago! The running joke is, "This cannot leave this room." I don't want to end up like Kathy Griffin, who has to hide in Hollywood.
Me: Well, as long as you're going public, what's the motivation behind this show?
Jordan: An evil casting director, who was a big queen, once looked at me and said, "You know, dear, you're peripheral at best." I want to show people I can entertain for an hour and 15 minutes. I'm not peripheral. Maybe I'll come to New York and Hollywood will discover me. [laughs] It's like that old Susan Hayward line: "You come crawling back to Broadway . . ."
Me: Do you have a role for your old Will & Grace costar Megan Mullally?
Jordan: Do I ever! She called me a year ago and said, "Karen the Musical. What do you think?" I said, "You don't own that character. You'd have to clear it." She said, "Oh, honey, I've done that." I asked her, "What about Jack?" She replied, "No! Just Beverley Leslie and Karen Walker!"
Me: Well, she's certainly available. Anyway, you played an outrageous gossip reporter once on Ugly Betty. Based on me?
Jordan: It was supposed to be Dominick Dunne. I had all the transgender gossip. Rebecca Romijn what's-her-name had been a boy at one time and I had the scoop on that. I wanted it to be a recurring role, but I think there were way too many homos already on that show. Tons of them! They can't trot me out like a show pony!
Me: Let's go back to when you were just a colt. Was growing up in Chattanooga any fun for a little queen?
Jordan: No! I was scared to death. With the Baptists, we dunk, we don't sprinkle. They couldn't wash me clean. They baptized me 14 times! When I was 12, I first told my mother I'm gay. They sent me to a psychiatrist and they prayed over me. One time, this really handsome one with a beard said, "Leslie, when you have these same-sex thoughts, it's the voice of the Prince of Darkness that you're hearing." I remember saying, "He's got a loud voice."
Me: Was he also the voice of substance abuse later on?
Jordan: Quaaludes, crystal meth—that's what I was strung out on. I could idle around the house and look at pornography for hours. Six days could piddle by without me closing my eyes.
Me: How did you clean up?
Jordan: I went to meetings. And I went to jail, which I never want to do again. You have no idea. After 17 days, they told me, "We're gonna let you out because we have Robert Downey Jr. coming in. The bad news is, because you've had so many DUIs, we can't let you out till the bars are closed. You're gonna have to share the cell with Robert." He was so dope sick, he was sweating, and I was chatting away. "I'm so glad to meet you . . ."
Later, when I did a part on Ally McBeal, they introduced me to Robert and in front of everyone, he goes, "Do I know you?" I said, "I'm not sure." Later on, I told him, "Pod A, cell 15. You were top, I was bottom."
Me: Speaking of tops and bottoms, you almost met Elton John, right?
Jordan: After a concert, I asked his people if I could go backstage. I said, "Tell him it's the funny little guy from Will & Grace." They came back and said, "He doesn't want to meet you." Just like that! They said, "Don't take it personally. He didn't want to meet Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz either. It depends on his mood."
Me: Any other regrets in your career?
Jordan: Not one! I stepped off a bus in 1982 and I had $1,200 sewn into my underpants and my dream was to earn a living as an actor. I did that right off the bat. But honey, I want a big series of my own. These rent boys are expensive! Remember the "poodle" I was with last time I saw you? Big, built guy. He went to prison! He called and said, "I'm in jail for rape and I didn't do it!" And I don't believe he did.