Corey and Kendall were fortunate to meet the hilarious storyteller and performer Leslie Jordan before his untimely passing. Family was a theme in most if not all of Leslie’s live shows. Here is a portion of an interview Corey did with Leslie to promote his show, “Deck Them Halls, Y’all!”
Family Nuggets with the Late, Great Leslie Jordan
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Hi, it's Cory.
You know, Kendall and I were pleasantly surprised when our guest, Michel Tullier, started speaking fondly about Leslie Jordan, because Leslie was definitely one of our favorite performers and definitely, despite what he says, an icon. So I thought it would be fun to include a little bonus episode with a snippet of an interview I did with Leslie some years ago, where he talks about some of his own family twists. I do implore you to listen to the Michel Tullier episode first,
which is called Guess What? My Dad is Not My Dad. I hope you enjoy. Thanks.
The age-old question, do gay men become their mothers? And the answer is? A little bit of why. It starts out, my mother found boxes. My mother was the baby of nine children, and daddy was the baby in his family. So when the babies had a baby, my mother married my daddy. She was 19, and he was 21.
and I show pictures of these little babies holding a baby. Well, I was photographed relentlessly, you know, which has prepared me for some. But from every outfit and every single picture, some aunts, my mother had five sisters, so you can imagine, I mean, they had clothes of their own, but they just rubbed fine outfits for the new baby. Right. Which would be the last.
But you know, probably the last baby, if they didn't have more, would have had more. They had twins. I have twin sisters, 22 months younger than me. Anyway, we took those slides. And when we blew them up to put them up on the wall, I think they did color different back then. I think they did the four-three color process. And that coat of color, whatever. And this is the 1950s. And you can see every detail down to the chalk.
the name of the man, it's the Queen's Delight. People just stare at those pictures. I sometimes think they're not even listening to me. And I did not want to do it in cabarets. I thought, it also deals with the death of my daddy. My daddy was killed in a plane crash when I was 11. There's sad parts, put that. There's some really sad parts. And I thought, well, in a cabaret, everybody wants to be happy, but that's not true, toy songs.
You know, the girl gets up on the stool and does a real downer and then kicks off. That's my play, you know. My play is a cabaret act without me knowing it, but I did it in theaters. Pentecostal I did it for two months in the Salvation Theater down here, worked it out and got it really tight and ready to go. And then last week, before I bought it to the rose room, I wanted to play as far away from LA as I could.
and we had been booked in the year before to the St. Paul, Minneapolis St. Paul, it's actually St. Paul, the Camp Bar has this gorgeous cabaret and honey, it played like a house on fire. So you are getting 65 light tunes. You're getting a goddamn dog and pony show with me right in the middle spinning stories the best. You can't drink too much or you won't be able to.
Oh, now keep up honey. You do have a tendency to change track every once in a while a little bit. Which I've made an integral part of this. Yes. And it's all scripted. But let me tell you something, when you've done that in the past without scripting it, it's easy. When you try to do it, it seems very contrived. But I've got it where I don't think it looks contrived. Because I say to the audience,
you know, things like, and I said, remember where we were, cause you know, la la la. Right. Right. Which just invites audience participation, which I absolutely hate. No, no dear, I work alone. You've done your part now. And then if it gets well, shut your hole, honey. Mine's making money. And then if it gets really bad, it's shut the fuck up. Have a nice day.
How do you bring it back to the holidays then? Does it keep coming back to the holidays? All the pictures I will, I wore Christmas. That's when I would get my outfits. And so all the outfits were Christmas. And it's Christmassy because it has a real family feel. You know what I mean? It really brings up family. You know, and the importance. And what it is basically is my mother's journey.
You know and it ends up where I accidentally took her on a gay cruise to Alaska I mean I didn't actually take her on the cruise I just sort of forgot because I've done so many what a gay cruise was like And you know Leather knife underwear party with big dick God damn advertised. Yeah, right. Sure. Here's my southern Baptist mother, but something very cathartic happened Yes, and it happened in the audit
situation we had dinner with a couple of lesbians and I guess because they were close to her age I've always felt that there were two ways to put to put a to combat homophobia one is humor you know I learned that during dodgeball and voice crack the funny you are though let's say it's you and and and put a face on I learned that through Will and Gray right you know it put a face on it and I think
You know, I'm really proud to be a part of that because I think the tide began to turn at Willem. The tide has turned now. The tide has turned. But it began to turn. It began shifting at Willem Grace. But something happened and I think a face was put on lesbianism for my mother. And something really amazing came out of her nails. Especially considering, you know, her religion, her beliefs, her...
where she grew up, where she comes from, who she is. I almost fell off the box. And so anyway, it's more me telling of her journey. My mother is, loves anything. Her apartment, I used to think it looked like Laura Ashley threw up in there. But now it's taken a turn for the glitter. I don't know. It's a kind of a-
My mother remarried when she was 12 and she remarried a millionaire. Wow. And she had a lot of money and I mean we're talking gold shag carpet, you know, honey and lots of gills. It looked like a New Orleans poorhouse. But she loved scones. What a pair of scones. Look nice on either side there. Everything matches, you know. Of course. She asked her friend.
Honey, what colors are your living room? Cause you know, the women have colors. Couch and blue and you know, avocado and orange. Honey, what colors are your living room? The only other person I heard that was, I'm with Loretta Leah. Ask Sissy Spicek what colors are your living room? Sissy tell me that. Do you have any holiday introductions? No.
You know, we'd go out to eat for one, which is crazy since they're all such great cooks. Yeah. And, and, but, and I eat out every night. I'm on the road, you know, 45 cities a year. Sure. But I went down Thanksgiving and we went to the Bluffsview Inn, which is, you get this, they, they did put, they actually sent people to San Antonio, Texas, because we have the Tennessee River running through our town and replicated in many ways, except we're up time.
up too high. We're not on the river. We're above the river. But all along the river now are beautiful restaurants and it was it was it was very fancy and very expensive. And we love that and we go and put a pajama bow and just lay around that house. It's the best thing to do and we don't want near mothers to me.
Everybody in town wants to see. And it was right when I was really getting on a lot of TV. She said, should we just have a gathering, like a four hour open house, maybe from one to nine, two, three, four, but one to five. And oh my God, it was hell. And we would. I mean, people at our home, we didn't like them back then. Why would we like them now? God, Mother's one looked at me and said, let's go ever do this again. That's a good clue. Hold on.
We're just sort of, you know what I think, my family, we're gregarious lecloses. When we do have to be out, I do have to be on the phone talking to you, as I've done since you asked one question 10 minutes ago. I love to talk, but you travel 45 footies a year. When you get home, the last thing you wanna do is people call me and they go, meet me at a Southern school visit. Here's what a visit is. Tell me everything. Tell me what you've been doing.
And I've done that like with you and, and you know, seven other journalists in every city. So you multiply 45 times seven and who ever thought I would get tired of talking about my say all. But I do, I say, honey, I'm talked out. Let's talk about you. Right. True. I mean, what's been going on here? Exactly. And whether or not, but they don't buy it. No, oh God, boring. Nothing, nothing.
Tell me about your cruise from Barcelona to Casablanca. Tell me about your cruise. This summer I did a cruise and I did my stand up on it for Atlantica. From Barcelona to Casablanca to the island of Apice. Oh my. And I'm sober. That's tough. You don't go to Apice. No.
Well, listen, actually, this is for twofold. Yeah, I'm writing about the San Francisco shows, and then also the St. Louis Gay Magazine asked me to write a piece about you for their icons issue, which is coming out next month. Oh. So when you think about... A lot of it could be his. I don't think that I... I don't think of myself as an icon because, you know, roads of self-doubt. I'm as a pioneer. Yeah.
I was playing gay before other people were playing gay for sure. I am a pioneer in that I was openly gay the entire time I was in Hollywood. You know I could trip to around it in magazine articles and make it funny. Right. You know I'm the bachelor. Let's put bachelor funny. You know I could get around it like Paul Wren and
and you know, Liberace, I could do that thing. I was a pioneer then. I was a pioneer in the very birth of, you know, I love my friend Dale Shorsteades, but sometimes he says things in his plies and especially when he and I were writing together, that I think was said at Boys in Band, you know, 30 years ago. And I think, well, but a rehash is a nice rehash, so let's go with it.
But he doesn't have that wisdom that I have. You know, I remember Parting Glances. Look that one up. That was a feature. My god, it was ahead of its time. Watch it. It was about AIDS, the very, very birth of AIDS. Parting Glances, longtime companion that had, one of them had Cathy Kenny, you know, the makeup girl on, she's, boy, hell yeah.
just absolutely brilliant. Playing the very first sag-ag on film. It's not film, really. That's a film, and let's say food fly. That'll give you a hint to how the play is. But anyway, you know, I went home and I don't like having awards around. It's not that I don't appreciate them. It just kind of makes me nervous. So I send everything to my sisters.
When I was home in Thanksgiving, they got the boxes out because they now that we have, I bought them a home. I bought them a beautiful condo. Right. It's a gift of sobriety because I've been able to keep this career focused. I haven't been 30 paces face down in a beer bath. Right. And so they started bringing them out. I, I've got the key to the city, San Francisco. I have the key to the city too. And many Minneapolis, I have the key to the city. I'm a cock and honor.
I'm an honorary cop up in Key West. I'm an honorary cop. They only get out to the really biggies, you know. That's gotta be, you know, us Hemingway things. And, you know, there was stuff that I just didn't even think that much about at the time. I was the mayor of the West Hollywood Gay Parade. I remember that. They put me in a limo and trotted me out. And award after award after award for my act.
I won every, you know, like theater award and I just sat there and thought, wow, I mean, this is like a 30 year career. You know, they should call me Liza. They should call me Liza Sher Diana Barb, you know, in the gay world. So I'd like to work pioneer better than icon, but. Thanks for listening to my interview with Leslie Jordan.
He's greatly missed, but he'll always have a special place in our hearts.