Leslie Jordan stole the show through eight seasons of Will & Grace as guest rival to Karen, Beverley Leslie. He is currently in an autobiographical show called My Trip Down the Pink Carpet. On the day of Rue McClanahan’s death he spoke with Nunn on the Runn.
Jerry Nunn: Hi, Leslie. How are you?
Leslie Jordan: Well, I don’t know if you have heard but Rue McClanahan died today.
JN: I didn’t know.
LJ: I knew two days ago that she had a really bad stroke. They were waiting and keeping it really quiet because they knew they were going to have to pull the plug. They were waiting for her son to get in. It was one o’clock last night. I think it is already on the internet because my phone has been ringing but I haven’t answered it. I’m very sad. Only one Golden Girl left.
JN: I know! And she is doing really well.
LJ: She will be here when she is 120. She is too naughty to die. I did five episodes of Boston Legal with Miss Betty White. I had a love affair with her and then she killed me with a skillet! Every night we would be walking out to our cars and I would say, “Now Miss White, you go straight home.” And she would look at me and say, “Mind your own damn business!”
JN: Last time we chatted was when I was working waiting tables at Weber Grill downtown.
LJ: Ohhh, I loved the Weber Grill and I love grilled meat! I am an old Southern boy. I love the smell of it.
We have Chicago on our list now that we have taken the show to New York. What happened last time is that we didn’t realize the advertising budget you need there. Chicago is a huge theater town. It is like New York. You can go to Atlanta and put a few ads in the gay rags, do a bar appearance and you have a full house.
If we come back with the show with new producers on this trip, we will have a much bigger advertising budget and we will be ready for Chicago.
JN: I would love for you to bring it here.
LJ: Everyone told me last time I came to Chicago, do not open the show in August. If it is pretty outside in Chicago people do not want to go in a darkened theater, because of the long winters. They were exactly right. I was playing in Atlanta, Ga., to packed houses with a 400-seat theater. I get to Chicago and played to 35 people some nights.
JN: I went to see your show and loved it.
LJ: Was it called My Trip Down the Pink Carpet?
JN: I don’t remember but you were great in it!
LJ: Honey, I am so old I can’t keep up. I think you saw the show Like a Dog on Linoleum.
JN: That was it!
LJ: It was a show more about my addiction to drugs. This show, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, is lighter and much more fun. It is about Hollywood and dish but it is my journey. The journey of a gay actor, I was open in Hollywood way before it was time, like I could have hidden it, you know?
JN: I just missed your show when I was in New York.
LJ: It was based on a book I wrote. Simon and Schuster put it out a few years ago. It sort of got lost. I came out in the same department as Chelsea Handler, who is huge. That bitch Lance Bass decided to come out and his book overshadowed mine! He is a good friend of mine but anyway the book didn’t do as well as I had hoped so I took the book and put it on its feet and made a one man show about it. I did 45 cities with it over the last two years. We land in New York and it’s doing really well Off Broadway.
JN: That is wonderful. How is your schedule?
LJ: I questioned it when I first got here. It is so hard. Honey, all I do is five shows a week. I don’t know how people like Nathan Lane, who are my age, do eight performances a week. You have to take the veil and live like a nun.
JN: I know how that is…
LJ: You do. It is not just performing. It is the publicity that is necessary to keep the show afloat. They have trotted me out. I have done everything from host a talent show for autistic children to leading the AIDS Walk through Central Park. There is so much that you have to do.
JN: I bet people don’t think about it.
LJ: I am just exhausted. I gave an interview yesterday flat on my back. I was lying in my bed. “Mr. Jordan you sound tired.” I was live on the radio. I meant to say that I was “prostrate” but I said “prostate.”
JN: Oh, brother. I just went to New York recently to see Promises, Promises with your buddy, Sean Hayes.
LJ: He’s very good in it. It’s hard for someone that plays a character that iconic. My little character, Beverley Leslie, was nowhere near his level of fame. It was a smart move for him to move to New York and do theater. You have to reinvent yourself. If he went back on TV now he would be Jack no matter what he did. He has the pipes, he sings, plays the piano. He’s very musical. He’s not like me. I can’t do anything but tell a joke and steal a scene!
JN: Well, you won an Emmy for it. You have a few movies coming out this year.
LJ: I have a movie that is coming out that I did three years ago. I don’t know when it is ever going to come out. I met the director Taylor Hackford, who did An Officer and a Gentleman. He wanted me to meet his wife and I thought, “Why do I want to meet his wife?” So I showed up and it was Helen Mirren! I walked through the door and I said, “You played The Queen, I am a queen!” The movie we did together was called Love Ranch and I had a couple of scenes in it.
JN: I heard it’s about a brothel.
LJ: I want to do this movie called The Help but because of scheduling I might not be able to. It is breaking my heart. I am booked the same day in Anaheim to do the Orange County Gay Mens Chorus. You go for months with nothing happening then everything wants to happen on the same day.
JN: Jennifer Coolidge told me you are doing a movie with her.
LJ: Oh, I forgot about that one! That was a blast. It is called Mangus! You know who got me involved with that? A lesbian named Heather Matarazzo who was in Welcome to the Dollhouse as a kid.
JN: I loved that movie!
LJ: I did too. She is producing this movie. It is hilarious. Did Jennifer tell you about it?
JN: A little. She was filming it when we talked.
LJ: She plays Cookie, this trailer trash woman who has a son. I am the high school drama teacher. It is kind of like Glee. We can’t afford the rights to Jesus Christ Superstar so my character writes his own version called Jesus Christ Spectacular! The boy wants to play Jesus because his daddy played Jesus. He thinks he’s a shoe-in but he’s in a wheelchair! You can’t have a crippled Jesus. If he were Jesus he would heal himself!
JN: [ Laughs ] That’s a good point.
LJ: All this stuff happens, it is very irreverent. The tomb opens up for Jesus to come out and rise from the dead and I walk out as Santa Claus. I say, “You were expecting someone else?” Jesus and I get in a big fight because it is supposed to be the commercialism of Christmas versus the religious aspect. It is hilarious.
JN: That sounds so funny. I have to see it. Well, let me know when you are back in Chicago and visitors should check out your show when they are in New York.