Leslie Jordan is one of those actors whose name might not ring a bell, but anyone who sees or hears the diminutive and sassy Southerner is likely to recognize him from one of his many small roles in film and television — his biggest one being Beverly Leslie on the series Will & Grace. His other roles haven't reached the level of mainstream success of that Emmy-winning turn, but that didn't matter to the rowdy crowd who packed the AllWays Lounge and Theatre for Jordan's one-man show Stories I Can't Tell Mama.
Jordan arrived ready to dish, and he launched into a show rife with gossip, one-liners (he opened by saying he was "hotter than a pedophile in a Barney costume") and frequent digressions. The approach is reminiscent of a Kathy Griffin set in that it was part gabfest, part confessional and part standup comedy.
He began by discussing Sordid Lives, the play-turned-cult movie (the script of which Jordan claims to have written essentially with his ad libs) and finally, a series for the cable channel Logo. The play was staged at a tiny theater in Los Angeles that shared an alley with a methadone clinic, and Jordan told many stories about the show's run (including a playfully cruel closing-night prank pulled on him). He also talked about his Will & Grace role, repeating the story he told Gambit about snagging the part from Joan Collins.
All of this was interspersed with tidbits about former co-stars; Rue McClanahan and Bonnie Bedelia are "bitches," and Billy Bob Thornton is supposedly well-endowed (although Jordan never experienced it firsthand), and very racy tales sweetened by Jordan's drawl and his tendency to say things like, "Oh, honey." He offered some hilarious and astute observations about the difference between gay and straight porn, comparing the pubic landscaping of porn actresses to a "Hitler mustache."
Despite Jordan's blithe demeanor, he did have some sadder tales about his childhood and personal life. He described his show-namesake "Mama" as a "hat-wearing Southern belle addicted to drama and pills," and she was nurturing of his feminine sensibilities as a child, but his Army dad was more distant. His father died when Jordan was 11, and he says he believes he died being ashamed of his son. Jordan also has been in jail five times, and he had to quit drinking and using drugs years ago.
But he didn't dwell on the negativity, seamlessly vacillating between bitter and sweet throughout the show. Jordan may often appear in small character roles, but he's proved he's captivating enough to be the star of a show. — LAUREN LABORDE