Leslie Jordan and Del Shores are teaming up for a special night of comedy called “A Sordid Soiree” benefiting AID Atlanta at the 14th Street Playhouse. Jordan is no stranger to Atlanta and has a large gay following here. Whether you’ve seen him in “Southern Baptist Sissies,” which was part of this year’s Out On Film and won “Best Men’s Feature,” or his recurring guest roles on TV shows like “Will & Grace,” you’re probably already familiar with the hilarious comedian and storyteller extraordinaire.
FENUXE caught up with Jordan to get a sneak peek at what to expect from the show later this month. “Both of us on stage? We don’t do this very often. I don’t think we’ve ever done it. It’s pretty historic,” Jordan said, “You shouldn’t miss it.” So, why are Jordan and Shores getting together? “I was in New Orleans doing ‘American Horror Story’ and the head of AID Atlanta came and took me to dinner and sold me on it,” he explained.
Jordan is a busy entertainer, but the timing of AID Atlanta’s event allowed everything to work out perfectly. “I do about forty-four venues a year and I get so many requests, but it worked out beautifully because that’s the week before Thanksgiving and it’s kind of like a free trip home—to be a little selfish,” Jordan quipped, “I’m from Chattanooga and I’m going to go home and spend three days. Then my twin sisters, who are two years younger than me, and I are flying to Miami and getting on a cruise.”
It may sound like the perfect time for a fun beach getaway, but Jordan is going on the cruise to work. “It sounds like a lot of fun and I’m sure it will be, but it’s exhausting at my age. I’m sort of traveled out right now,” Jordan joked, “I just got back from London to do an appearance and that’s really difficult with that eleven hour flight. But you’ll get no sympathy. I called my friend up last summer and I said, ‘Oh, I’m just exhausted. I had to go to Brazil and do a gay cruise, then I went to New York, and now I’ve got to go up to San Luis Obispo.’ He said ‘f*** you’ and hung up the phone. I called him back and I asked, ‘Why did you hang up on me?’ He said, ‘I can’t even get a job here in LA and you’re complaining about all this,” Jordan laughed.
Jordan is quick to joke about this hectic schedule, but it’s the life he’s always wanted. “I can remember sitting in Chattanooga, Tennessee just knowing that I was bound for bigger and better things. Even as a kid. The only time I would ever get out of Tennessee was when we would go to Panama City, Florida when I was real little. Then as I got older we swapped over to Daytona Beach. I would get in the back of the station wagon and stare out the window as we left Dayton to come home and just cry. I didn’t want to go back. I just knew there was a bigger world out there,” Jordan remembered.
Did Jordan expect to be famous one day? You bet he did! And he worked for years to get where he is. “My success has not really surprised me because it’s not like I was some overnight success. I’ve worked really, really hard. I watch TV and there are all these new reality shows now and kids just want to be famous, you know? They just want to go to the clubs, show off, and be famous. They have no idea what it really entails—the hard work,” Jordan pointed out.
Luckily, hard work isn’t something that Jordan is afraid of in life. “When I was in New Orleans about a month ago we were doing fourteen hour days because on ‘American Horror Story’ FX only gives them eight days to shoot each episode. And each episode is like a feature film,” Jordan said. You may hear grumbling from other actors about long days on the set, but Jordan lives for the opportunity to entertain. This became obvious as he explained more about working on “American Horror Story.” He couldn’t hide the pure excitement in his voice as he recounted stories from the set. “It’s pretty amazing with Jessica Lange and my favorite new actress whose name is Frances Conroy. She was the mother on ‘Six Feet Under’ and I’m telling you the three of us shot a scene that took almost fourteen hours,” Jordan gleefully detailed.
That’s fourteen hours after the screenwriters whittled it down. “It was nine pages of dialogue and Ms. Lange came in, she’s so smart and she’s done it for so long, and she said: ‘Guys this is nine pages of dialogue that you could get down to four. I’m just not going to memorize all of this. I’m sorry. It’s just not necessary.’ Sure enough we came back after lunch and it was down to four pages of dialogue. But even with that, you put Frances Conroy and Jessica Lange… boy I had to step up to the plate. I was just ducking Emmys. Emmys were just flying everywhere,” Jordan chuckled.
Jordan is obviously thrilled to be working on great shows like “American Horror Story,” but he has his sights set on landing the gig that’s always eluded him. “What I really, really want is a steady gig. I’m so envious of all of the kids on ‘American Horror Story’ that work every week. I was guaranteed three [episodes] with a possibility of four and I’ve been doing that for years. That’s even how it was on ‘Will & Grace.’ I never made a salary. It was always at my availability and they would just call me. Any time my manager would say, “Well, why don’t you guarantee him seven out of thirteen?’ they would say, ‘No, no, we’re paying the kids way too much. We can’t afford all that. We’ll just use him at his availability.’ And that’s when you don’t make a lot of money,” Jordan said in a somber tone.
Jordan’s been very close to getting a steady gig in Hollywood, but the rug always gets pulled out from under him at the last minute. “I had a pilot this year that was written for me. CBS brought over Rupert Grint, the red-haired kid from ‘Harry Potter,’ and all of the sudden they didn’t think I was a good fit. I didn’t even get in my own pilot that was written for me. I kind of thought that I was just going to give up on TV. I’d had it,” Jordan said in a soft voice. But Jordan has been knocked down before and he always finds a way to keep fighting. “Then I got this great gig with ‘American Horror Story’ so you just keep plugging. But I really wish I could get a steady gig. I have not had a steady job since 1992. That was my last series regular role twenty-one years ago,” Jordan said.
Helping Jordan fight his way higher in the entertainment industry is his unique background which includes his time living in Atlanta. “I was kind of the black sheep in my family–the little gay boy who ran off to Atlanta. I’ve been arrested five times and I’ve been sober for seventeen years. There were some rough years there,” Jordan explained. By turning his life around he found the strength to turn his career around as well. “A year after winning my Emmy I called my agent and said, “Honey, I can’t eat this Emmy.” I thought that when you won an Emmy everything was set from there on out. But it didn’t happen for me. It just didn’t happen. So I had to reinvent myself. I called a friend of mine who does marketing—big marketing like ‘Harry Potter’ openings—and I said, ‘Bitch, market me!’ And that’s how all of this travelling stated. I do stand up comedy and I’m listed with some speaking agencies where i go into a company and give a talk at breakfast about diversity in the workplace. It’s all the same act! You know what I mean? I fell out of the womb, landed in my mother’s high heels, and honey here I am gay, la la la. It’s all the same, we just give it different names,” Jordan explained.
Despite the bright lights and fans, Jordan still loves Atlanta. “When you go out in LA or West Hollywood everyone has an agenda. Everybody is an actor. Everybody is looking for a break. Everybody wants to hand you a script. If you go to Atlanta and go to Blake’s it’s just boys in flip-flops and shorts and they’re just out to have a good time. I love that about Atlanta. The gay community is so unlike the gay community here where I am,” Jordan said.
You can see Leslie Jordan and Del Shores live at the 14th Street Playhouse on November 23rd at 7 p.m for their “Sordid Soiree.” For tickets and additional information visit 14thstplayhouse.org. You can also join them for a Gospel Brunch at LIPS on Sunday, November 23rd at 12:30 p.m.