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Continued: C.J.: When Leslie Jordan first knew he was funny

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 24, 2012 - 6:41 PM

Minnesotans already adore Leslie Jordan, the cartwheel-turning scene-stealer from "The Help" whose work on "Will & Grace" earned him an Emmy.

It's obvious we adore Jordan because he sold out four of six performances of his one-man play "Fruit Fly" during his recent stand at St. Paul's Camp Bar. The two shows that were not sell-outs were full. Prepare to love him even more. In this Q&A, Jordan puts Vogue editor Anna Wintour in her place. Always a crowd-pleaser when mentioning the sharp tongue behind this quote: "I had just been on a trip to Minnesota, where I can only kindly describe most of the people I saw as little houses." Jordan also takes on another fashion charmer Karl Lagerfeld. Had Jordan landed the role of a coach in "The Mighty Ducks," we might be ready to adopt him. You can hear why he didn't get that "Mighty Ducks" role in the video or read about it here.

Q When did you first realize you were funny?

A It's a wonderful story. My daddy used to tell this story. I was probably 4 or 5 and I walked out of Sunday school one day and I stomped my foot. I said, "I'm never going back, ever." My daddy said, "Leslie Allen, you love Sunday school, you love your teacher, the Bible games and the stories." I said, "Daddy, they laugh at me." I don't remember this but Momma said he got down on one knee; it was probably my first man-to-man talk. And my daddy began to explain to me the difference between laughing at me and laughing with me. He said: Son, you've got a gift. He told me a Bible story about hiding one's light under a bushel. Now here's the interesting thing. It kept the bullies at bay. If you're not good at sports and you're not good at this and that -- you know during dodge ball when someone's hollering "Smear the queer" and being mean -- if you can make them laugh [you survive].

Q Do you think your dad [who died when he was 11] would have had a problem with you being gay?

A I think the journey would have been the journey I've taken with mother. That is, it would have been rough. It wasn't just gay. I was drugs and alcohol, because I figured out at 14 or 15 years old that it was a lot easier to be gay when I was loaded. My mother had remarried and I didn't like my stepfather. My mother thinks he would have had no problem. She knew him like [nobody else]. He was a career Army man. A man's man.

Q How has Hollywood changed toward gays?

A When I got to Hollywood in 1982 it was wink, wink. Everybody knew. The casting people were gay, the producers were gay. I had a gay agent and he would just flat tell me: OK, honey. Feet on the ground. Hands at the side. Butch it up on this one. We're taking the journey that [black] characters took in the '70s. Started out as the funny neighbor, then the neighbor got the spin-off. It's certainly a good time in Hollywood to be gay.

Q New York City is not your kind of town?

A I hate New York. I lived there in the '80s. I feel overwhelmed. I feel under-dressed. Believe it or not, I'm probably the only homosexual on the planet who thinks fashion is silly. I look at the Karl Largerfeld and think, "Someone just needs to slap him with that hair." And that Anna Wintour, with her nose in the air. You want to say, "You know, dear, you edit a magazine. There are people who would maybe call you an artist, but it does not give you the right to lord it over us."

Q What are you like when you're having quiet time?

A I am a gregarious recluse. I think it goes back to having twin sisters and at school I wouldn't let people get close to me because I had a secret. I can spend hours alone.

Q Can you speak without a Tennessee accent?

A Not at all.

Q Can you recall any parts you didn't get because you were gay?

A You never know. I read for "The Mighty Ducks" to play a hockey coach. I called my manager and said, "Who are they kidding?" He said: They love you. When I didn't get it I said, "I was too sissy, huh?" He said, You know what. They had problems with the Southern accent. Because it's Minnesota.

Q Who's the tallest woman you've played opposite?

A I auditioned with Brooke Shields. I asked why I didn't get it and they said, She loved you but she said you cannot put him next to me. I look like an Amazon.

Q Is "Dancing With the Stars" knocking on your door since seeing you in "The Help"?

A I've tried. I said Margaret Cho, Kathy Griffin, Alec Mapa, we started out the same time. We did the same gay events. Kathy Griffin makes $7 million a year on standup alone. Maybe I should do something reality-wise. My manager was adamant: No. I've tried to get on "Dancing With The Stars" four times. They just didn't think I was big enough. When I did "The Help," they said, Had you been on 'Dancing With the Stars,' I would not have used you. [In "The Help" Jordan had a dance scene.] The director said to me, Why did you do a cartwheel that was not scripted? I said "because I'm fighting for screen time with these seven talented [b-words]."

Interviews are edited for space and clarity. Reach C.J. at cj@startribune.com and see her on Fox 9.

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