Entertainment » Theatre

Leslie Jordan Returns

by Adam Sandel
Thursday Jan 30, 2014

Leslie Jordan has had trouble with women. Betty White killed him with a frying pan on "Boston Legal"; he was convinced that he was Tammy Wynette in the film and TV series "Sordid Lives"; he was Karen Walker's arch-nemesis for six seasons on "Will & Grace"; and this season, he tangled with the witches of "American Horror Story: Coven."

But the first woman in his life, his 78-year-old Southern Baptist mother from Chattanooga, Tennessee, is the inspiration for his latest one-man show "Fruit Fly," which he'll bring to Feinstein's on Fri., Jan. 31.

"When I was back home, my mother showed me these slides of me as a child," he says with his trademark Southern drawl. "I saw this amazing journey of a gay boy and his mom. I took her with me on a gay cruise to Alaska a few years ago, and she just loved it. We've been on a few more gay cruises since then, and I've developed the mantra: 'Mother does the best she can with the light she has to see with.'"

Jordan took the family slides and sat down with his longtime friend and director David Galligan, and together, they developed the show. "I wrote Fruit Fly to answer the age-old question: Does a gay boy become his mother?" He's performed the show in L.A., on London's West End, in Toronto, and at New York's One for All Play Festival. This will be its San Francisco premiere.

He's no stranger to working in female-heavy ensembles, having played the crotchety editor who hires Emma Stone in "The Help," but he was nearly overwhelmed to be among the Oscar and Tony Award-winning witches of "American Horror Story: Coven."

"I would sit there and need to pinch myself," he says. "Jessica Lange is a real movie star who has breathed that rarified air, but she's very accessible, sweet, kind, and very serious about the work. And my new favorite actress is Frances Conroy.

"Kathy Bates is as Southern as I am," he says. "She's from Memphis, and when I first heard that accent, I thought she was making fun of me! I'd be sitting in the makeup trailer, and on my right was [Broadway's] Patti Lupone, and on my left was Christine Ebersole."

Jordan also enjoyed the amenities of working on location in New Orleans. "They set you up in a huge apartment in The Ponchartrain, and although I didn't get to work with her, I met Angela Bassett in the elevator."

There was a great deal of buzz on the set about the show's upcoming guest star. "We were shooting in the Southern mansion they built on a soundstage, and sitting at the baby grand was Stevie Nicks tinkling on the piano, wearing black sunglasses, platform shoes and a full-length fur coat. And she had a huge entourage. I asked some of them, 'What do you do?' and they said, 'We take care of Miss Nicks.'"

While his "American Horror Story" escapades may have provided him with enough material for his next one-man show, Jordan recently found a new outlet for his rambling, dishy diatribes: the Official Page of Leslie Jordan on Facebook.

"I just discovered Facebook, but I'm starting to feel vulnerable when I put myself out there," he says. "A lot of my jokes are tongue-in-cheek, and not everyone gets my humor, so I get into these big bitch-fights with fans. But on the other hand, ticket sales for my shows have gone through the roof!"

Whether he's cavorting on the big screen, the small screen, on stage or online, Leslie Jordan is a force of nature, and a fun act to follow.

"Leslie Jordan: Fruit Fly," Fri., Jan. 31 at 8 p.m., Feinstein's at the Nikko, 222 Mason St., SF

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.ebar.com


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