Leslie Jordan (center) with 'Southern Baptist Sissies' co-stars Willam Belli and Emerson Collins | Photo by Paul Boulon
Tall in spirit, Leslie Jordan is a sassy, salty funny man with a kick in his gallop and some glitter in his giggle. The Chattanooga-born actor was recently visible as Quentin Fleming of the witches council on American Horror Story: Coven and in Del Shores’s coming-of-age dramedy Southern Baptist Sissies, which is having a limited release, bravely including some places in the South. And that’s not the end of his artistic availability.
The Emmy winner (for Will & Grace) is cohosting Rentboy.com’s annual Hookies—a.k.a. the International Escort Awards—with drag star Shequida this Friday at New York’s BPM nightclub. As one of the event’s illustrious presenters, I sat Leslie down—or actually stood him up—and talked turkey.
Musto: Hi, Leslie. You’re up to a lot of stuff, no?
Leslie Jordan: I won that Emmy in 2006 and thought I’d sit back and big things would happen. But nothing! Career went in the shitter. But then I had to recreate. Madonna taught us all to recreate ourselves. I had a friend who runs this huge marketing firm in Palm Springs. I called him and said, “Bitch, market me. I’m so popular with the gay community. Trot me out for parades, anything that will get me a job.” The television stuff is now what I do on the side. [As a result of the personal appearances,] I bought my mother and twin sisters condos.
And do they throw confetti at you at these parades?
Yes. In Palm Springs a couple of years ago, I was on what the musclemen carry the beautiful maiden on, and I whipped them with pink feather boas.
Hot. When you won that Emmy [for playing Karen’s Republican rival, Beverley Leslie], was it on the actual telecast?
It was the Outstanding Guest Actor, and that is presented at the Creative Arts Emmys, which did air [only] on Bravo. NBC sent a limo. I flew my mother out in a $500 dress, we get to the red carpet, and the only person there is Kathy Griffin. I said, “Where are all the celebrities?” I was told, “This isn’t the Emmys.” It’s 75 of the most boring awards—the technical stuff. I won Guest Actor and Cloris Leachman won Guest Actress. They thought we were adorable together and asked us to present Best Comedy Writing on the Emmys.
So you did get on! Speaking of gala awards shows, you’re cohosting the Hookies with Shequida.
Queen Latifah? [laughs]
I don’t know who that is.
She went to Juilliard and sings opera, but she has a trash mouth.
I can’t wait. The last time I did it, Chi Chi LaRue had his stomach stapled and lost all that weight and was still getting loaded and fell onstage and was bleeding. I said, “Honey, we’re gonna marry you.” And now he’s on the straight and narrow. You get to an age where you can’t keep that up. I didn’t get sober till 42, so I know. There’s nothing sadder than an old fucked up queen. You can‘t tweak in your forties and your breath smells like cat shit and you think you look fabulous, but you look like a Dachau victim.
But otherwise, it’s great. Hey, what happened to that hulking stud I saw you dragging around a few years ago?
Speaking of hookies! That Adonis went on tour with the Men of Thunder, stripping in the straight clubs with the women. Some girl came backstage and gave some of the other boys blowjobs. When her boyfriend found out, she cried rape, and they were in jail, and in jail, the Adonis found Jesus, and I haven’t seen him since. There goes the dick.
How much did you spend on him?
Oh, honey. I tell them, “I’m much too young and fancy to pay for this sex. Why don’t I buy you tennis shoes?” I’ll cut deals, though it would probably save me more if I just gave them the money. A friend said, “Get it on tape. ‘We will play twice—agreed? I’ll pay you $1,000 at the end of the cruise.' ” I was giving boys my lunch money way back in junior high school to go into the woods. I’m a whoremonger. I love that word.
Well, it helps to be a bit of a whore, careerwise. In the aughts, you filmed a sake commercial in the Mojave desert with Boy George and a Japanese crew, though that turned out rather sour, right?
Back in the day, when we were on the pills and the sauce, we could get a little catty. George was awful to me. He played that joke on me where I asked, “How do you say, ‘One more take’ in Japanese?” He taught me, and I start yelling it, and I’m actually saying, “Do you have a big dick?” Everyone was horrified. One day, he went off to Vegas. I’m sitting in the desert heat with all that makeup on and we waited and waited. He finally came back. He said, “We saw a show called Boylesque. It was fabulous.” I said, “Am I listening to the most famous drag queen in the world say that he went to his first drag show?” The whole room went silent. He said, “I’m not a drag queen, and I’m not a female impersonator, and I doubt your little pea brain could understand what I am.” I wanted to say, “Don’t you fuck with me, drag queen!”
Is there love in your life nowadays?
I’m living with a straight guy, Brannon. He’s 34 now. He was 26 when I dragged him out of Swinging Richards in Atlanta. People have misunderstood our relationship. I have never had sex with that boy. He just won’t. He’s flatlined on the heterosexual side of the Kinsey scale. But he’s really good at taking care of me. He runs all my errands. I guess I’m as married as I’ve ever been.
He’s run off with women, but they try to make him get a job. When I suggested that, he said, “Maybe I can pass out Jell-O shots in bars.” I said, “That’s the best you can come up with?”
But he hasn’t lost his looks, right?
No, and that amazes me because he’s continued to drink. Once on Fire Island, this one queen was looking at him and walked right into a pole. Another one stepped off the boardwalk and fell into the sand.
Back on dry ground, tell me about Southern Baptist Sissies.
Before I got sober many years ago, I used to sit down at Hunter’s Bar on Santa Monica Boulevard, when I ran a little shelter out of my apartment for wayward boys. [laughs] I’d sit on a barstool and drink myself blind, thinking I was doing this Truman Capote thing—gathering life as I sat on that stool. I’d give these boys names like “Fast Eddy” and “Traveling Ray.”
I told my friend Del Shores all my stories. He said, “I’ve written this play.” I read it and said, “Bitch, you’ve used every story.” But when I saw the movie, I turned to Del and said, “This has humbled me, because you trot me out with zingers and I’m funny. I’m the little show pony. But this is not my movie at all. It’s about four boys in the Baptist church and their different journeys. I’ll do all the press you want for this movie, but I’ll defer all the glory and questions to those boys and their wonderful performances.”
You are so not a fucked-up old queen. See you at the Hookies, doll.
Watch an exclusive clip from Southern Baptist Sissies with Jordan & co-star Dale Dickey: