Leslie Jordan On Fame, Daddy Issues, Internalized Homophobia and Death

LAMag celebrates the late comic actor and web sensation by looking back at his best moments with our podcast, ”The Originals”
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Beloved actor, comedian, and internet personality Leslie Jordan died Monday at 67 after crashing into a building on the corner of Cahuenga Build and Romaine Street in Los Angeles.

Born in 1955, Jordan started his screen career later in life in 1986 on the ABC series, The Fall Guy. His career steadily grew, with his most notable roles being in television shows Will and Grace, American Horror Story, and Hearts Afire. Leslie’s rep, David Shaul, described his impact in a statement this week.

Not only was he a mega talent and joy to work with, but he provided an emotional sanctuary to the nation at one of its most difficult times… Knowing that he has left the world at the height of both his professional and personal life is the only solace one can have today,” he said. 

To celebrate his memory, we’ve collected his best, funniest, and most profound quotes from an interview with Los Angeles magazine’s The Originals podcast. Enjoy.

On becoming famous:

“I had $1,200 that I had saved waiting tables, for any waiters that are out there with big hopes and dreams, and my mother had pinned it into my underpants, and I got on a bus. I couldn’t even afford Greyhound. I got on a Trailways bus and stepped off in Hollywood, California, with some big, big, big dreams.”

On his massive internet following: 

“I decided early on, I thought, I don’t want to talk about politics, I don’t want to talk about religion, I don’t want to sell anybody anything.” I just want to say something, I think I just said what everybody else was thinking, like, “Shit, what are we going to do? We’re stuck at home, my god. Help us, I’m bored.” And I just thought the people would tune in, and so now it’s at a point where I have been approached by people that, to tell you the truth, I don’t really need the money, and until something comes along that I think I want to sell, I’ll get behind charities and this and that, but right now I’m just having a good time, you know?

“I couldn’t possibly become a diva. The minute I start acting like a diva people just, “Shut up.”

On his complicated relationship with his father:

“I would watch Hullabaloo and Shindig, and I would get up on the piano bench and go-go dance much to the dismay of my dad, who would come home with all of his Army buddies. My dad was a career Army man, and I’m go-go dancing to “These Boots Are Made For Walking.”

“What a terrible time to lose your dad. You know, 11 years old, and also haunted with the feeling that perhaps I’d been somewhat of a disappointment because I wasn’t good at sports, and I mentioned that many years later to my mother. And you would’ve thought I’d slapped her. She was absolutely flabbergasted. She said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know what you based that upon. Your daddy adored you and supported you.’:

On internalized homophobia:

“What is an effeminate man? What is that about? You know, what does that entail? Is that what I’m to become? And I was just fascinated and repulsed by it. It’s so hard to explain, and what it is, it’s just internal homophobia. It’s what every gay man on the planet has dealt with and that is this internal thing that we were raised with.”

And you know, it took me getting sober, which I did 22 years ago, for me to have someone look at me, and this is a terrible way to put it, but having heard my story, you get these sorts of spiritual advisors within your recovery program, he said, ‘You’re a fag hating fag.’ I thought, ‘That’s a horrible thing to say … I’m a fag hating fag.'”

“I have a southern accent, absolutely, but I’ve also got that gay accent. You know, I open my mouth and 50 yards of purple chiffon come flying out, and if there was any doubt, and I don’t know what that is, either.”

On his experience with Lady Gaga in AHS:

They said, “Action!” and she rode me like she was in the rodeo, rubbing her hoo-ha and throwing her hair, and it was 3 o’clock in the morning, and I remember just lying there thinking, “How do I get myself into these situations?”

On becoming sober:

“You go from it being recreational where we were just dancing in the bars, and doing bumps, and oo-la-la, and here we are, and the sun’s coming up, to realizing, “Oh, wait a minute. This is medicinal. I’m in trouble here.” And I didn’t really get—even though my drug career was long, long, long—I never really got too far past recreational into just plain out medicinal. So you know, I knew that I had to clean it up.”

“The cornerstone of our recovery is one drunk talking to another. You’ve got to. You’ve got to reach out, you’ve got to pick up that phone. Don’t sit at home and let it just, a mind is like a bad neighborhood. You do not want to go up there alone. That’s what I always say, “Do not go up there alone.”

On spirituality and death:

“I don’t know what your beliefs are, but I’m going to tell you something. When someone is near the end, they became bathed in some kind of Godly light. The telephone lines go up. There’s…something happens, you know. And it isn’t always like the movies where there’s someone just laying there going, ‘Just let go, just let go.’ It can be pretty gruesome. There really is like a death rattle when a person takes that last gasp. But if you can see beyond that, and … woo, what lessons I learned there. I mean, you think, ‘Oh, my poor life, la, la, la, me,’ and then you go into the hospice there.”

“That’s why I think near the end there’s usually a peace with something. Over the years, with all my very strict upbringing and everything, I’ve found that it’s in the seeking that you find faith. Whether you were raised Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, whatever, however, there are so many paths to God but if you just seek, because people say, “Oh, no, there’s a God.” You don’t know that. “Oh, no, I don’t … there’s not a God.” No, you don’t know that. Nobody knows, you know? You keep an open heart and you keep seeking and that works for me.

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