Monday, August 4, 2014

An Evening with Leslie Jordan

We recently made a trip to New Hope, PA, to the Rrazz Room supper club, to see Leslie Jordan’s one-man show “Show Pony”. Jordan is, of course, best known for his role as Beverly Leslie on TV’s “Will and Grace”, as well as the film “Sordid Lives” in which he plays Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram,  a mental patient  who’s convinced he’s Tammy Wynette. He makes his entrance in a clown’s outfit, complete with enormous yellow shoes, a red fright wig and the requisite red nose. The outfit comes off early in the show, but it serves to underscore the putative theme of “poor, sad clown”. (That and the loop of circus music that played pre-show and all through dinner.)

To say Jordan’s life has been interesting is to understate the case. Sober by his own admission for something like 17 years, it’s been the proverbial roller coaster. While the show chronicles his fascination and disastrous relationships with otherwise “straight” young men, it’s not as comprehensively autobiographical as the other show of his, “Like a Dog on Linoleum”, which I saw some years back. Still, it does give the audience a glimpse into his background in the South, his relationship with his parents, his early school days and anecdotes about his life in show business.

Jordan was born in Chattanooga, TN to devoutly Christian parents. His father was a lieutenant colonel in the Army who died when Jordan was still a child. For years he thought his father was ashamed of him and didn’t love him, until his mother told him of the Christmas eve, when Jordan was three, that his daddy spent scouring Chattanooga for the bride doll Jordan had pleaded for from Santa. His mother, proud of her son’s success, nevertheless wonders why he has to air his dirty laundry in public. “Why,” she asks, “can’t you just whisper it to a therapist?” His fascination with straight men began early, in junior high, with his attraction to a 19 year-old janitor named Elrod. Pulling no punches, he describes this first “relationship” in hilarious, if intimate, detail.

There are several of these relationships with straight men that Jordan goes through, keeping us laughing all the while. (And “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” with the reveal of each of the mens’ portraits, larger than life size, as though to prove they were all real.) Still, there was an undercurrent of regret there, over the fact that he’s apparently not been able to maintain a true relationship with a gay man for all these years. A touch of wistfulness crept in at a couple of points, not enough to bring the show to a melodramatic halt; just enough to let us know that the poor, sad clown is, in fact, flesh-and-blood.

By the way, the club itself is a very nice, very intimate venue where there’s a constant stream of cabaret acts week after week. The food was fine, if a bit pricey, as was the service. Depending on the headliner we might just go back.