Posted on 27 February 2012.
Shannon Jenkins, Associate Writer
If you’re a “Sordid Lives” fan, you can thank Atlanta resident Richy Pugh for the opportunity to meet actress Ann Walker.
For his second annual 40th Birthday Fundraiser for Jerusalem House, Richy decided a theme was in order. So, he contacted the legendary Del Shores to see if a cast member or two could make an appearance. Ann, who originated the role of LaVonda Dupree in the stage version and later played the part in the movie and TV series, happily obliged.
The vivacious actress will emcee “One Sordid Night” on March 3 from 6 to10 p.m. at the Jungle with special performances by Mary Edith Pitts, Regina Cartier, Gunza Blazin, Monica Mitchels and Erica Lee. A hunk auction, silent auction and 50/50 raffle also are planned. A brunch with Ann is planned for the following day at Fifth Ivory at 1:30 p.m.
Fenuxe recently dished with Ann about the upcoming benefit and the role that changed her life.
Fenuxe: Why did you decide to participate in the Jerusalem House benefit in Atlanta?
Ann: It seemed like it was such a worthy cause. I thought I had to do this no matter what. And I think it’s so cute Richy is using it as the second anniversary of his 40th birthday. Also, I love Atlanta. We came for Pride once and marched in the parade. It was pouring rain, but we had a good time. It’s going to be a great time. I’m certainly going to be kicking up my heels. Actually it gives me a chance to behave like LaVonda.
Fenuxe: Will you be emceeing as LaVonda Dupree or yourself?
Ann: Well there’s not a lot of difference, honey. We’re pretty close. I’ll probably be emceeing as LaVonda. Del wrote that part, and he tailored it to me. That’s the way he sees me, I think, as the voice of reason.
Fenuxe: What did you enjoy most about playing LaVonda?
Ann: The fact that she loves everybody and wants the best for everybody and won’t accept any kind of bullshit. She just calls people out, and I think that’s good. Ann Walker doesn’t call people out as much, but Lavonda gets to do that and I love it. She doesn’t suffer fools very easily. And I love my clothes as Lavonda.
Fenuxe: Oh yes, she had a wonderful wardrobe.
Ann: That’s definitely a plus. I don’t normally dress that way all the time, but, boy howdy, I loved dressing like that. I got those jeans in Longview, Texas, from a place called Dressin Gaudy. She’s really outlandish. She’s hung up between the movies “Cleopatra” and “Gone With the Wind.”
Fenuxe: She certainly had style.
Ann: Yes, her own style that’s for sure.
Fenuxe: What do you like most about Sordid Lives?
Ann: The fact that we got to do the movie was a big deal to all of us. I didn’t know until three weeks before we shot the movie that I was going to get to play LaVonda. They had chosen Beverly D’Angelo to play my part. She got some kind of job, and they started looking around and finally the producer said, “Why don’t we just use the girl from the play?” You could have heard me scream from my house in Hollywood.
Fenuxe: What role were you originally cast for in the movie?
Ann: He had given me the part of Juanita. I just cried myself to sleep at night thinking I didn’t want to play that part. How am I going to play that part? I was practicing moving that cigarette from one side of mouth to the other while applying lipstick. It was just sad. I was quite the happy girl when they asked me to do LaVonda.
Fenuxe: What was is like to be in the series?
Ann: We were all so excited to get back together. It was like coming back from summer to school in the fall with all your friends. It was so much fun. We had the extra element of Rue McClanahan playing Momma for the series. And, honey, when I heard she was going to be playing my mother…I mean…who doesn’t love Rue McClanahan in anything she does? I was no exception. I just loved her. We had the best time because she really liked me too. We really had a great time together eating dinners and chatting. Either she’d be in my room or I’d be in hers going over scenes or whatever. We just had a great time.
Fenuxe: Did you think the movie would become a cult classic?
Ann: Actually no. I don’t think you ever know that. When we started going to festivals we kept winning the audience award. I think we all thought it was playing really well. People really liked it. No we didn’t realize while we were doing it, which is what everybody says. But, boy howdy, we had some indication when we started hearing what people were saying after seeing it.
Fenuxe: It certainly stuck with audiences.
Ann: Yes, I have some fans who have my number and sometimes they will call me either on Thanksgiving or Christmas day and say, “We’re watching our show.” It’s always so nice.
Fenuxe: When did you first work with Del?
Ann: Before we did “Sordid Lives” I had understudied for one of his plays, “Daughters of the Lonestar State.” I had never understudied before because I’ve always had a part. I was always reluctant to do that. Carol Cook was playing the role, and she had to go away for two weeks. Then I realized that Del would be able to see me and get to know me more. So it worked out. I had read for “Daddy’s Dying, Who’s Got the Will?” when he was doing that play, and he didn’t give it to me. And I thought I should have had it. (Laughs). But he remembered me. So it was inevitable that we would work together. When I took on the understudy part and he saw me in the role he just loved me. And I loved him. It was just one of those mutual admirations.
Fenuxe: What prompted you to be so involved in the LGBT community?
Ann: I’ve always been pro equality for everybody, and I never understood why anything to do with religion had anything do with being equal. I always had my gay friends. I never even thought about it because when you’re in theater you don’t think much about having gay friends or being gay yourself. But, it’s the world out there that’s intruding now. If straight people don’t stand up for their brothers and sisters who happen to be gay, then what the hell? And our transgender and bisexual people? I am very honored that I’ve sort of been adopted by the gay community as a spokesperson.
Fenuxe: How did the movie affect your life and career?
Ann: It’s certainly given me a lot of friends on Facebook. (Laughs). People like Richy, they think I can add something to their event so I get to travel. That’s what has changed more than anything else. I get to travel much more because of LaVonda. Also, I have my own radio show now and I think most of the people who are tuning in tune in because I rant and rave a lot like LaVonda.
Fenuxe: What keeps you busy these days?
Ann: My grandchildren. And my radio show keeps me very busy. I always seem to have something going on. My dance card is full, as they say.
Fenuxe: We’re so glad you’re going to visit us.
Ann: Me too. Atlanta is one of the best towns ever in the world. The gay community is just to die for. It’s so strong and I just love coming there. And I can’t wait to see all my drag queens.
One Sordid Night
When: Saturday, March 3, 6-10PM
Where: Jungle Club Atlanta
Attire: Come dressed as your favorite Sordid Lives Character
Tickets: $20 at the door or $15 in advance here
Brunch with LaVonda
When: Sunday, March 4, 1:30PM
Where: Fifth Ivory