by David Cohen Publisher
In 1982, Leslie Jordan stepped off a Greyhound bus and said “hello” to Hollywood and has never looked back since. Growing up in the hills of Tennessee, his mother always assured him that “he was special.” With his innate ability to be funny, Jordan instantly became an recognizable face in the film and television industry.
PINK: Why did you come to Hollywood in 1982?
Leslie Jordan: I had a degree in theater from my hometown—the University of Tennessee. And I thought, I either have to go to New York or Los Angeles and if I’m going to starve, I am going to starve with a tan. So, I got on a bus. I literally could not afford a plane ticket, I had $1,400 that I had saved waiting tables during college pinned into my underpants so that I wouldn’t get robbed on the bus.
PINK: What did you do upon your arrival?
L J: I stepped off at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. I enrolled in an acting class that would teach you how to do sitcoms.
PINK: Did you know you were going to make it?
L J: I never had a doubt.
PINK: What made you so sure?
L J: I don’t know. I had wonderful parents who would tell me that I was special and that I could achieve anything. I had always been funny. I learned to be funny to keep the bullies away because I was such a little sissy; I had learned to be funny, so I knew I had that.
PINK: How was it to work as an openly gay man when you first arrived in LA ?
L J: You know, everybody was gay—my agent. the casting directors, and the producers were all gay. Nobody talked about it, and it was very important on camera to not come off as “too gay.” It was wink-wink. My agent would say to me, “Now listen, keep your feet on the ground and keep your hands at your side. You’ve got to butch it up for this one you know.”
PINK: What was the first role that gave you your big break?
L J: The first thing the teacher in my sitcom class said to me was, “You’re a commercial gold mine! You should be doing commercials, television commercials!” “Oh no, no, no! I want to do big movies and television,” I said. She then told me, “Well honey, you have to start somewhere.” So I got an agent who only handled TV commercials for me. There was a very famous commercial back in 1982, for Wendy’s Hamburgers with this old lady eating a hamburger and she lifts up the bun and says, “Where’s the Beef?”
PINK: I remember that commercial—it was real funny.
L J: Well, that was the director who kind of ushered in this whole new era in commercials where they wanted characters. They wanted funny, funny characters. They thought you had to be gorgeous so everyone would say, “Oh, I want to look like him so I’ll brush my teeth with that toothpaste.” Well, the directors realized funny makes people laugh and they’ll remember the product. So I started working. The first year I was in Hollywood I did nine national television commercials. I was the bellhop, the beach boy, the window washer and usually I didn’t speak. Then they discovered I had this very thick, sort of southern accent.
PINK: Something a little bit more serious?
L J: Yeah. So my first job was a commercial for Aunt Jemima pancakes. Actually it was Aunt Jemima syrup. I was lost at sea, the ship had gone down, and I am floating in a life raft dreaming about pancakes.
PINK: So, what happened next?
L J: I start doing all these commercials. People would recognize me, “Oh, there’s that guy. There’s the guy from the commercials.” From there I got on a TV show called The Fall Guy, which starred a very young Lee Majors who went on to do the bionic man or the six million dollar man. I was a murderer.
PINK: Why do you call yourself the gayest person in the world?
L J: I don’t think I ever said that, and that’s been in every article. It’s so funny that somebody in the media twisted what I meant. I think it came from my one-man show where I say, “I fell out the womb. I landed in my momma’s high heels, and I am probably the gayest personI know.” From that, someone took it and said that I used to say that I was the ‘gayest person in the world’. What I meant by that was there’s no choice here. These right-wing Christians talk about how we have a choice. Honey, I’ve been on the prance ever since.
PINK: Surronded by hot guys, have you ever had a crush on anyone, and how was it to work with him?
L J: My show, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet is all about that. I have a theory that straight guys got to flirt when they were young and they learned healthy ways to deal with love affairs. They would date this girl then break-up, and their heart would be broken. The way gay people in my generation do it—all of our love affairs were in our head. We’d sit and stare at the football players. I don’t know about other gay people but I had fantasies.
PINK: Talking about fantasies—who would be your fantasy and why?
L J: George Clooney. I did a movie with George Clooney, where he knew I was in love with him. I mean he knew. He’s very gay friendly though.
PINK: Did he tease or flirt with you?
L J: Oh my God, he would flirt with me and pat me on the bottom. He used to say, “You’re just a little butthole bandit.”
PINK: People say he’s gay. What do you think—is he gay?
L J: Of course not. He’s totally straight, and completely surrounded by gay men. I saw him one time at Tom’s Steakhouse. It was George Clooney and about 14 gay men. I said, “What did you do? Bring the gay bar with you?” and he said, “No, these are the men that work for me. You know, my publicist, my this, my that.” He is so gay friendly, but he loves motorcycles, and he’s all man.
PINK: So, you can’t have Clooney, Who else would you invite on a romantic dinner date?
L J: Ben Cohen. Do you know who that is? He’s a beautiful rugby star. I’ve seen him because he is going to be at the opening of the Softball Gay World Series ceremonies with me. I didn’t know who he was but when I saw him I said, “Oh My God!”
PINK: Are you currently single, or are you in a relationship ?
L J: No, I live with a straight boy. He’s the best relationship I’ve ever had.
PINK: Why a straight man? How old is he?
L J: He’s 34. I’ve lived with him for years and years. We’ve been through everything—went through cancer when he was diagnosed. He’s presently straight, in my building he’s every girl’s dream. I just adore him; he takes wonderful care of me. People ask me how can he be straight? Well, I screwed girls in high school, does that make me straight? Not one bit. My friends keep telling me I need to find a nice gay boy, but I say, “Honey, I am perfectly happy with the boy I have.”
PINK: Have you ever been in a relationship?
L J: No, not really. I am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. Fifteen years clean. I could have had a relationship. I was out at the bars every night and always hunting for Mr. Right, but when you all in the throes of drinking and doing drugs you can’t have a relationship. I tried couple of times.
PINK: Do you like being single?
L J: I love being single. I think the problem with gay people is that we’re always hunting for Mr. Prince Charming, and he’s just not out there.
PINK: Do you think it’s a fantasy?
L J: We look for people to make us feel better about ourselves. You have to be perfectly content with yourself.
PINK: What do you think about gay marriage?
L J: I think it’s wonderful for the younger generation. I have no interest in it at all. I had this discussion with Lily Tomlin because we were the generation that went against anything of the establishment. We didn’t want to be conservative. We were gay; we wanted to be out there. So now all the younger gays are really kind of conservative. They want to get married, they want to have children. You know, for the younger generation I will fight with my dying breathe for gay marriage. I will fight, fight, fight for you. If you want to get married you should have the right, “abso-fucking-lutely.” For me personally, I have no interest. God knows that if we could have gotten married when I was young, I would have ended up in Las Vegas with some hustler, married. Honey, I would have been married 20 times. I would have been just like Elizabeth Taylor, I would have married all of them.
PINK: If you had the choice to work with anyone in Hollywood, who would it be and why?
L J: Dolly Parton. I have a long, long love affair with Dolly. It’s so funny, I knew she was gay friendly long before she ever said so. When I was a little kid growing up in Chattanooga, and she’s from right about Knoxville, I was a country music fan and she always looked like a little drag queen to me. I just did a documentary called Hollywood to Dollywood. It’s about these two identical twins who take off in search of Dolly. Because of that movie, she gave us 14 songs to use for free, that’s probably worth a million dollars right there.
PINK: Are you involved with any charity work?
L J: Everything. I have three charities that I work with a lot. One is HRC, the Human Rights Campaign. I go all over the place for them. The second charity I work with is the Trevor Project for suicidal kids. You know, when the Trevor Project plugged in, they were overwhelmed, and this was years ago. They had almost 15,000 calls in the first couple of months. Do you know where the calls came from? The Bible Belt. See, that’s my story. I learned to hate myself in the pew of a church. The third charity I work with is a recovery center out of San Diego called Stepping Stone, which deals with gay people addicted to crystal meth and alcohol.
PINK: What makes you really happy?
L J: Work, I love working, I am married to my career.
PINK: Out of all the roles you’ve done, which one means the most to you?
L J: It would probably be the part of Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace. When I won the Emmy, I received wonderful accolades for my work as an actor. This television show helped gay people. In my opinion, this is where the tide turned. People started watching Will & Grace all over the country. The character I played was probably the first openly gay person in many people’s living rooms, even though it was on TV. The people loved those characters. Through them, a lot of progress was made and the show ran for eight successful years. At the beginning, straight guys would always come up to me and say, “My wife watches that show or my girlfriend watches it, and you’re so funny.” By the end of the show, I would have these big straight guys come up to me and say, “You are so funny. I love that show. It’s such good writing.” And it was. Funny is funny. One time Rosie O’Donnell came to see my stand-up comedy act, and she said, “You should do the casinos. You’d make a lot of money.” I said, “The casinos,but my stuff is so gay.” She said, “Funny is Funny. That’s like saying my stuff is too black.”
PINK: So, what can we expect from you in the near future?
L J: I’ve got a great big movie opening in a couple of weeks called The Help. Mr. Steven Spielberg produced it with Chris Columbus, who did all the Harry Potter movies. It’s going to win every award known to man. It’s been testing higher than The Color Purple or Forest Gump.
PINK: What part do you play?
L J: Well, I have a tiny part. I play the editor of the hometown newspaper with a wonderful actress named Emma Stone. The Help will open August 10, 2011. I’ve been working all this week on a Disney kid’s show, which has been so much fun. It’s called Shake It Up and it takes place in Chicago. It’s a little dance troupe for kids. We did our taping last night and oh, the kids! I really didn’t want to do it, but it was good money and I had the time.
PINK: hat message would you give to the gay community?
L J: Okay, here’s the message. A big source of my shame is I was 42 years old before I ever voted. I was of that generation that said ‘who had time to vote?’ My generation marched in the streets and we accomplished a lot, but we learned that it has tc come from within. You have to work within the establishment, you have to vote. These kids have got to get up! There’s too much at stake for us not to vote. That’s my new platform for all the young gay people: You have to register; you have to be involved so that we can make the change so that you can vote for our rights and have a say. Otherwise, you can’t complain. If you want to sit around and complain about things, ask yourself, did you vote? We’ve got to make it happen, but we’ve got to make it happen within. You can march in the streets until the cows come home, but that may not change the system, but voting will. So vote for our gay existence!”
Leslie Jordan will appear at the Opening Ceremonies of the Gay Softball World Series. The ceremonies will be held at the Ball Room on Navy Pier Monday, August 29, 2011. So, come and see Mr. Jordan, and find out why I have crowned “her” as “The Queen of Comedy.”
Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Michael Salvatore’s debut novel, BETWEEN BOYFRIENDS, is in stores now. This fresh, funny and sexy story is sure to get you attention on Fire Island, Provincetown…or even the Jersey Shore. Whatever your “situation”, BETWEEN BOYFRIENDS is sure to please.
Published by Kensington, Paperback, $15.00 ($17.95 Canada)
PINK: Why did you want to write this novel?
Michael: I simply set out to write a story about a gay man that is both honest and hysterically funny and I believe I achieved my goal.
Do you think your novel has crossover appeal to a straight audience?
Definitely. While Steven, the main character, and his friends are gay, what grounds the book is Steven’s relationship with his family, especially his mother. This relationship broadens the appeal of the book so it’s more of one man’s journey to find his place in this world and not just a gay man’s search for the perfect boyfriend. Because of that difference the characters and their exploits will appeal to everyone.
Is this novel autobiographical?
No, not in the true sense. There are elements of the book that mimic pieces of my own life such as being a Jersey boy and having strong family ties in New Jersey. My mother did live in the Rocco Impreveduto Towers which I turned into the Salvatore DeNuccio Towers so there are things like that, but sadly I don’t produce a soap opera nor am I friends with any Olympic figure skaters.
How did you pick the careers and likes of all the characters?
That’s where art does imitate life. I love figure skating, soap operas, theatre, ‘70s television, and London so I threw all of that stuff into the novel. I thought I may never get another chance to write a novel so I might as well use all my favorite things in this book. It also made it easier to focus on plot and characterization since I didn’t have to do any research to find out specific things like how to spell a certain Russian figure skater’s name.
Who should play Steven in the TV series?
I actually didn’t write the part of Steven with anyone specific in mind, but I think when it becomes a TV series, which it definitely needs to be since TV needs a new gay role model, it should be an unknown, somebody who doesn’t come with any baggage and someone the audience can relate to. Having said that, however, Kevin Rikaart, an actor on my favorite soap, The Young and The Restless, would be perfect. Beyond that, John Stamos would make the ideal Gus and I’m sure he can do a British accent. I also really like Marc Blucas who was Buffy’s boyfriend for a while as Flynn and there has to be a blonde Mario Cantone out there who could bring Lindsay to life.
The novel does have some dramatic elements, did you include these specifically to offset the humor?
Yes, I wanted the novel to portray the real year in the life of a gay man and in order for the reader to accept the madcap adventures I think they need to root for the protagonist, a good way to do that is to put him into some real, dramatic situations. The struggle for me has been to find a balance since I have a tendency to write a bit melodramatically in the first draft or in an outline. The dramatic beats are there, but I tend to overplay them and make them larger than life so they don’t have the same impact. Larger than life works when it’s comedy, but if you’re trying to convey honest, raw emotion, I believe, it’s best to simplify. Simply write the situation with some grace and the reader will have an emotional reaction. The most important thing I’ve discovered is that readers and audiences respond to the humor in my writing, whether it be a play or fiction, so I have decided to stick with what I know I can do.
Thursday, March 18th, 2010 By Duane Wells Jackie Collins
is part of that rare breed of person who has figured out exactly what she enjoys and manifested it into a true and lucrative calling.
“I love what I do
!“ The best-selling author exclaimed during a recent telephone conversation about her newest bestseller, Poor Little Bitch Girl. “
People are always surprised, but I do.”
And still, after twenty-seven New York Times
bestsellers that have collectively sold over 400 million copies in more than 40 countries, with not a one ever going out of print, Collins’ love affair with her craft continues.
Her latest novel, Poor Little Bitch Girl
is Jackie Collins at her deliciously naughty, gossipy best and may well be one of her most contemporary novels in the sense that the story it tells brilliantly dissects the increasingly intense relationship between Hollywood, international society and Washington, D.C.
At its core, the book tells is the story of three twenty-something women, one hot rich guy, two mega movie stars, and a devastating murder. There’s Denver Jones
, a twenty-something attorney working in Los Angeles; Carolyn Henderson
, personal assistant to a powerful and very married Senator in Washington, with whom she is having an affair; and there’s Annabelle Maestro
– daughter of two movie stars – has carved out a career for herself in New York as a madame of choice for discerning famous men. The three women, all of whom went to high school together in Beverly Hills, are reunited when Annabelle’s beautiful movie-star mother is found dead in the bedroom of her Beverly Hills mansion and the secrets from begin to come back to haunt them. Poor Little Bitch Girl
is a particularly juicy read because significant parts of the story feel ripped straight from the headlines, a fact that Collins readily acknowledges.
“The Eliot Spitzer case did absolutely inspire me,” the author admits without hesitation. “So I created [the character] Annabelle who’s lying in bed with Frankie Romano after they’ve just made love and they’re thinking about what they’re going to do next…they’re lying there reading the paper and they’re reading about Elliott Spitzer. So that’s how that all came about.”
“And then with Carolyn in Washington, I’ve always had that Chandra Levy case on my mind and I wanted to kind of mirror that a little bit” Collins continues.
With that kind of storyline it’s no wonder that Poor Little Bitch Girl
continues to top the New York Times bestseller list a month after its release.
Aside from churning out bestsellers, the woman dubbed by some as the “Queen of Hollywood” is busier than ever.
Not only is she out pushing her latest tome up the bestseller list with a slew of media interviews and appearances, the ever groundbreaking Miss Collins is writing a cookbook with delectable recipes from one of her most memorable characters, Lucky Santangelo, and producing a direct to DVD film based on one of her original stories which will be mass distributed in the United Kingdom by Tesco, the British mega supermarket chain.
On the subject of her latest venture, the authoress is particularly excited. “We’ve got Nicole Steinwedell from The Unit
, we have Anthony Delon, the son of the famous French movie star Alain Delon — he’s so gorgeous — and we have Trudy Styler (Sting’s wife) and Charles Dance. So we’ve got a fabulous cast,” Collins say of the project.
“I think it’s [about] the future. The future is selling a movie like you sell a book. You put it on the supermarket shelves and people buy it. People are absolutely going to be jumping on this bandwagon.”
With more direct to DVD movies in the pipeline and at least two other Tinseltown -inspired books already in the pipeline, Jackie Collins shows no signs of slowing down, which is a very good thing since her home domain of Hollywood just gets more and more interesting by the day.
Find out more about Jackie Collins and her latest novel Poor Little Bitch Girl
RUMINATING OVER ROLES, ROMANCE AND LIFE IN GENERAL WITH THE 40-YEAR COMEDY VETERAN by Jason P Freeman • photos by Dan Dion
Lily Tomlin brings her telephone into the “utility room” of her and her partner’s Sherman Oaks, Calif. home. Located between the kitchen and her home office, Tomlin doesn’t know what the room’s actual architectural name or intended function is, but for her and her partner, play/screenwriter and producer Jane Wagner, it’s become an
all-purpose etcetera space. It’s the room in their house where the two receive massages, where they keep some of their kitschy collectibles and where a small marble table is kept that Tomlin has taken to sitting at for phone interviews. “I don’t know why,” she starts to explain, but cuts herself off, distracted by numerous stacks of Wagner’s magazines. She says they’re just piled up all around her. “We must get like 300 magazines a month,” she remarks, “They’re everywhere ... [Wagner] must like, take them and pass them over her forehead, you know, like scanning, because I don’t know how she could possibly get through them all. We have everything in the world from Scientific American to Entertainment Weekly, or whatever that’s called; Vogue and Vanity Fair.”
As the interviewer, just trying to stay in the conversation, I arbitrarily pointed out that the latter two publications she mentioned are produced by Condé Nast.
“Condé Nast?” Tomlin questions, “I’m not even conversant.” This thought was then immediately followed by an oral editorialization on what Tomlin feels is the plight of print media. Commenting on the industry’s humble origins, how it was once of noble profession, the recent number of folding newspapers, the lost art of investigative reporting and the compromised integrity of most “objective” modern-day reporters, “I worry about journalism,” she starts. Ten minutes later she laughs, “Don’t get me started.” Then she starts up again on something else. Tomlin is apt to talk in tangents.
However, this shouldn’t seem out of place or awkward for the 71-year-old actress and comedian, nor does it. While Tomlin may be best known for her iconic film roles—such as the pint-sized housewife in The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Violet Newstead in 9 to 5, playing identical twins opposite Bette Midler in Big Business and more recently as the existential investigator Vivian Jaffe in I Heart Huckabees—Tomlin’s claim to fame comes from the sketch comedy characters she created and enacted for the 1970’s variety comedy show Laugh In as well as those she performed on the Broadway Stage for 1985’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (adapted to film in 1991). Her oeuvre encompasses over 20 characters, a handful of which were male (account- ing for Tomlin being known as one of the “found- ing fathers” of drag kings). Some characters, like the off-cuff telephone operator Ernestine and the precocious five-year-old Edith Ann, still resound with poignant popularity over 30 years later. Tomlin’s successfully longstanding repertoire is based on her being of one mind and two dozen different people at the same time. And after three decades of practice, she has mastered doing so in a way that comes off as casual and completely natural.
So it doesn’t seem awkward or weird when, while discussing the activities of her daily life, she bluntly digresses to describe the poster she notices leaning against a wall in her “utility room.”
“It was given to me as a gift,” she says of the print, featuring a love clutch between Richard Egan and Beverly Michaels, as depicted in the 1953 B- Movie Wicked Woman. Tomlin first saw the film in her teens, working as an usher for Detroit’s Avalon Theater.
“I was mad for this movie because it was about a bad woman,” she says. “There were only good women and bad women at that time.”
Tomlin was so powerfully moved by, and since continued to greatly identify with, the “wicked woman,” her passions influenced the focus of a cover feature for The Movies Magazine in 1983, 30-years following Wicked Woman’s release. In it, Tomlin quotes herself as saying, about identifying with the bad woman, “...the bad woman was punished at the end of the movie, but the good woman was punished throughout the entire film,” she laughs. “The bad woman at least had her way for at least 90 minutes, and then she was sent to another town, disgraced or put in jail or whatever.”
Getting “her bad-woman way,” despite social stigma, and refusing condemnation for getting so, played a strong part in Tomlin’s subscription to feminism, the ideals of which she carried into her early stand-up comedy career in the late ‘60s-1970’s. “...there weren’t really any [strong women] doing stand up [at that time],” Tomlin recounts. “Then Phyllis Diller came along and she was one of the first really outrageous women to stand up and do comedy, but she made fun of herself. And most of the women did. ... They were all trying to get a man; they were too homely, they were too flat- chested, they were too scatter-brained and always getting into trouble and stuff like that. Women didn’t stand up and do really intelligent stuff ... they used themselves as the object of humor, and there was not much more than that. ... you weren’t re- ally supposed to be attractive to stand up and do comedy, because men didn’t want to see attractive women doing that ... People used to say to me, ‘How can you do stand up? You’re going to lose your femininity.’”
But losing her femininity was never a concern for Tomlin (“I thought those people were nuts!” she argues). Her famed roles performing in male drag can serve as a testament to her as-of-then point of view.
However, fans may be surprised to learn that Tomlin’s staged assimilation into Vegas headliner Tommy Velour and/or The Search’s crotchety Lud were not motivated by the cross-dressing proclivities analogous to gay community members. Tomlin does not view herself in these roles as a lesbian in male drag but as an actor playing a part.
“It was like, if I was doing all these characters, I should be able to do as many men as I do women ... It never was meant to be for any adamant political reason. I did it to add to my range, and it suited a story.”
However, this isn’t to imply that Tomlin does not live and love, in and for, her LGBT community. While she wasn’t professionally out at first per say, Tomlin has always been very open about her long relationship with Wagner during interviews and the like (while also making sure to respect the privacy of her immediate family.)
“No one ever ostracized me, or treated me badly, and Jane and I were always together and so on, but I was not out proselytizing to my Christian relatives,” she says.
Additionally, she has continuously been active in LGBT concerns, such as fundraising for gay social programs, campaigning for openly gay Boston legislator Elaine Noble and speaking out at LGBT community centers. Career-wise, Tomlin has also been known for taking on roles that directly relate to the gay sensibility, like that of the gay-focused documentary The Celluloid Closet (1996) and the early HIV/AIDS- themed docudrama And the Band Played On (1993).
“I never shied away from doing anything; I just never had anybody write in a newspaper: ‘Lily is a lesbian!’” That is until she deemed herself “openly gay” via an official announcement in 2001.
Since, the gay community has been seeing more of Tomlin by way of public functions and discussions for LGBT lifestyle groups and events, as it did November 13, 2010 when she M.C.-ed the 39th Anniversary Gala and Auction for the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. It was a romantically notable time for Tomlin since The Center’s 39th anniversary runs parallel to her and Wagner’s 39th anniversary as well.
Yet as to how she and Wagner managed to reach 39 years together, Tomlin says, “I don’t know. You either you do or you don’t.”
“Let’s face it,” she later adds, speaking in Edith Ann inflection. “If you’re a human being you’re going to rub a lot of people the wrong way.” She laughs, “So, you know, we’re just all human. You start overlooking all kinds of habits and things that reveal themselves in a long-term relationship, like how people handle the toothpaste. Like, how can you use the roll in a certain way, or leave the cap off the toothpaste and now I can’t squeeze it out. You just have to accept that stuff, you realize that’s just kind of like small stuff.”
So, with over 40 years of combined life, love and career under her belt, does the septuagenarian have any thoughts on retirement, or at least slowing down?
“No, not really.” She “supposes” there are things she’d still like to do artistically and then laughs, “but not that much.”
At interview’s end, after she concluded what seemed her 10th consecutive tangent, I, as the interviewer just trying to stay in the conversation, arbitrarily asked if there was any points or facts from our preceding discussion that she feels a need to clarify or follow up on.
To which Lily Tomlin responded, “I don’t even know what we talked about.”
Lily Tomlin performs a special “Valentine’s Day Show
” at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake
, IL, 8:00 p.m., February 12, 2010
. For tickets and other information, visit www.rauecenter.org