A Thousand and One Stories

5.20.2008

By Bill Keith

It's definitely still naughty. Who haven't you met that you're dying to meet?
There's only probably two people in Hollywood that I would love to meet: I've never met Dolly Parton.

Really?
I'm probably her biggest fan. I went to college in Knoxville, Tennessee, and that's less than an hour below Pigeon Forge, which is now Dollywood and it's like Vegas. But back then, this was '72, it was like one gas station where they had a bear in a cage. A little baby bear in a cage and you could stop to feed the baby bear. But I would smoke a whole lot of pot and I would drive to see this free concert she would give in the high school auditorium. And this is back when -- long before 'Dolly the movie star.' This is Dolly when she'd come in and say, 'What's a country girl without her hay stack?' and pat her hair. I'd go there and just cry and listen to her. I'd always wanted to meet her and then my friend Del Shores told me he was going to go meet her about a film project at this little place she kept in West Hollywood forever and I said, 'You call me the minute you get out of there and you tell me everything!' He said she met him at the front door in full Dolly drag and that the house looked like Laura Ashley had thrown up in it -- that it was just bows and ribbons. And he said that the first thing when they started talking, Dolly said 'Now Del' -- he said when she talks to you she wants to pet you and arrange your clothes and pat you and she's just so sweet. And she said, 'There's this actor -- a little tiny man that I've seen on these television shows and I think he should play my brother.' And Del said, 'My God, Dolly, he would die. He is your biggest fan.' And Dolly said, 'Where's he from?' And Del said, 'He's just white trash from the hills of Tennessee,' and Dolly said, 'Well honey, aren't we all?' [Laughter] I'd also like to meet Bette Midler. Two tinys. I saw her once doing that little Bette Midler walk. And you know her husband is 90 feet tall -- a big old German! She used to say, 'I dress up like Poland and he invades me!'

She's in Vegas now.
Yessss. Wouldn't you kill to see that? I saw Elton there. Front row. Begged to meet him. I know the head of publicity there because we shot some Will & Grace there, and I said to him, 'Tell him that little guy off Will & Grace is here and that I'd love to meet him. Beg him!' Well he came back and said 'No, Elton don't want to meet you.' [Laughs.]

No! He didn't!
He said 'No. He don't want to meet you. But don't feel bad. He didn't want to meet Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz.' So I didn't feel bad. He said it's just what mood he's in. There's nights when anybody in the audience could come in there and meet him and then there's nights he just don't meet anybody.'

You talk about your excitement over Matt Lauer's appearance on Will & Grace and how you thought you had to explain to him what tea-bagging was. Obviously you need to go on the Today Show to promote the book.
I know! I was scared to death I was. I mean I couldn't even speak. I was just like a Japanese girl behind my hand fan just giggling. How could I talk about tea-bagging on the Today Show?

When does Sordid Lives start airing on LOGO?
The premiere is 10 o'clock on July 23rd. I have never been so proud of anything. We've got Olivia Newton-John, Rue McClanahan. We filmed in Shreveport, Louisiana, which is just a cesspool of vice -- it's just like way below even Vegas.

What can you tell me about the show?
They made me sign this huge confidentiality agreement, which I don't agree with because I thought, 'Honey, you don't know the gay community. We like to whisper. This one whispers to this one, and this one whispers to that one and that's how you get the buzz going. You know you can't keep a tap on it. But it's a prequel -- it's everything up to the movie. And it is out of control. Bonnie Bedelia is brilliant in it. I'll tell you who steals the whole damn TV series is Caroline Rhea. She took over for Delta Burke.

So what's next?
Listen, I'm along for the ride. I used to worry about, 'Oh my God is this gonna happen?' I'm 53 years old and I am in my prime, honey. I am like an aging show pony. They just trot me out. You know it's such a wonderful feeling when you're not thinking that you career is gonna fix you. I spent 20 years thinking, 'God, I can't wait. I'm gonna get a big series. I'll be like Madonna. I'll walk into gay bars and people will just die!' It's so funny cause I was at the Emmys, and I thought, you know what? Back in my drinking days honey, I would have been eating this shit up! Getting to work this red carpet and go out there with Cloris Leachman and stand there in front of Warren Beatty and Annette Benning and all those famous people. and all I could think of was I just want to be home watching Forensic Files.

You open your tour in New York?
Yes, I'm coming with my trainer!

I trust that's a euphemism?
Well, that's what my friends said. No, he's this big, gorgeous straight boy who just kind of goes everywhere with me. He played Scorpion on American Gladiators. He's huuuuuuuuge! And he's got blond dreadlocks. He's the most arresting human being. He walks down the street and people just -- he doesn't even look real.

If he goes everywhere with you, he's got some traveling ahead of him.
Yes, I'm doing 30 cities! I'm getting on a bus in Memphis, Tennessee, and doing 30 cities all the way to P-Town. When I told Lily Tomlin, she said, 'Oh honey, I played the Crown and Anchor. We all did P-Town back in the 60's.' I thought, 'That is so cool!'

Read an excerpt from My Trip Down the Pink Carpet.

The book is currently available for pre-orders on Amazon.com and will be released by Simon Spotlight Entertainment in June. See www.thelesliejordan.com for tour date details.

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