Leslie Jordan: Facts About The Comedian And Actor

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Leslie Jordan may not have been quite an A-list star in show business, but he definitely established himself as a fan-favorite. You may have first watched him as Lonnie Garr in "Hearts Afire," per IMDb, or you might have adored seeing him pop up as Beverly Leslie on "Will & Grace." He also played multiple characters in the "American Horror Story" series, which allowed him to both thrill fans with his signature charm and display a surprisingly chilling side of himself. Frankly, whatever role he took on, he always seemed to infuse it with his own personal style, making him a hit with fans.

That's why, as Variety noted, "[i]f Leslie Jordan didn't exist we'd have to invent him, this irrepressible, garrulous Chattanooga pixie who got through a Southern Baptist childhood and stirrings of Gay Lib and lived triumphantly to tell the tale." Fortunately for fans, Jordan did indeed exist, and there happen to be a few intriguing untold truths about this particular star.

Leslie Jordan lived out loud as a gay man

Leslie Jordan knew who he was and what his strengths were. According to Savannah Now, the comedian had always been "tiny and openly gay" at 4 feet 11 inches tall, and he "began using humor early in life as a defense against bullies." Indeed, he was apparently known for saying, "I fell out of the womb and landed in my mama's high heels." While you might wonder if Jordan being gay caused issues with his conservative, religious parents, it turns out that they offered him a great deal of support, the outlet reported. Frankly, when he was young and asked for a certain Christmas present, his soldier dad gifted him "the prettiest bride doll you ever saw," he said.

As an adult, Jordan said that his life in California in the '80s involved bars, which were the only places "to see other gay people and meet other gay people," he told Philadelphia Gay News. However, the star — who got the opportunity to act as the grand marshal of the Capital Pride Parade in 2016 — saw how things changed. He explained, "Now I think, 'My gosh, we have everything. We have choirs. And we have gay camping. We have gay this, we have gay that.' There's a lot of ways, plus the internet, where you can meet people."

Granted, that's far from the only way that Jordan's life changed over the years.

His parents were 'babies raising babies'

Leslie Jordan's parents were a young couple when he was born in Tennessee. His mother was only 19 years old at the time of his birth, while his Father was in his early 20s. In an interview with Katie Couric, Jordan described them as "Just babies raising babies."

While it took his dad a while to get into the thick of things, his mother and maternal grandmother knew from the get-go that Jordan was going to be brought up differently. They built a protective haven in which he would play with dolls and live his truth wholly. Unfortunately, there was one rule of engagement: "You just knew, you don't tell Daddy," he let Couric in the know.

As a firstborn son, Jordan's relationship with his father was a bit complex. According to an excerpt from his memoir, "My Trip Down the Pink Carpet," whenever he did anything out of the ordinary, like living a go-go dancer fantasy, for instance, his father's go-to phrase would be "Oh, son," said with a nuanced sense of disappointment. "My daddy used to call me 'son' as if he was in deep pain. He'd say, 'Oh, son,' and it would sound like 'sohhhn,'" wrote Jordan. Find a Grave reports that his father, Major Allen Bernard Jordan, died in a 1967 plane crash when Leslie was only a few weeks shy of his 12th birthday.

He was a man of great faith

Leslie Jordan had a strong religious upbringing. In a 2013 conversation with Theater Mania, Jordan revealed that the church played a significant role in his childhood. "The church was everything: our social engagements, Sunday morning, Sunday evening. Wednesday night was the hour of power. We had Bible study on certain days. Saturday afternoon was choir practice," he told the publication.

Though he'd have loved to keep his relationship with the church going, Jordan eventually had to opt out when questions about his sexuality began to crop up. Speaking to musician Shania Twain on the podcast "Home Now Radio" (via People), he said, "Well, I grew up in the church, but I walked away because the whole gay thing came around. I firmly believe that God made me this way. I'm not a mistake."

In 2021, Jordan affirmed his faith by releasing a debut gospel album named "Company's Coming," featuring a number of artists including Tanya Tucker, Chris Stapleton, T.J Osborne, and more. The move, he said in an interview with Esquire, was one he never saw coming. What started as a hymning ritual on Sundays birthed a wholesome body of work, beautifully so.

Leslie Jordan was once a jockey

There are stars who work regular jobs on top of their well-known professional roles. When it came to Leslie Jordan, he was someone who had an arguably unusual job, though one that isn't so surprising when you consider his shorter stature. Before he was a popular actor, the star enjoyed "a brief career as a jockey," according to his website.

"I heard about a horse farm down below Atlanta where they bred racehorses in Cartersville. It was owned by a Southern belle who had married an Argentinian horse farmer," Jordan told Savannah Now. "I spent summers in New York and winters at the Hialeah Race Track in Miami." However, Jordan had to give up competitive riding in a professional manner when he was nearly 27 due to the fact that his health suffered as he attempted to force his body into a required form. "I dieted so strenuously, I had to go to the hospital for infectious hepatitis," he said.

When Jordan had to abandon being a jockey, he returned to school. "I was going to be a journalist," he said of his second career choice. But he also recalled, "Everyone said to take Introduction to Theater, that it was an easy course." Luckily for Jordan, it was also an introduction to his time in the spotlight.

He had problems with drugs and alcohol

Leslie Jordan may have seemed like a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, but that doesn't mean that he didn't experienced dark times. In fact, he once dealt with serious addiction issues involving drugs and alcohol.

"In college, I loved to take diet pills to study. We'd pass out what we called trucker speed or black beauties," he told Isthmus. He also noted, "And then within the gay community, all of a sudden everybody was doing little bumps of crystal meth, which has such a horrible name now. Back then it was called Tina." He explained that he would take a bump on the dance floor, which would make him "just want to go home and relax." However, Jordan eventually found himself in trouble with the law due to his substance abuse problems when he was arrested for drunk driving, according to the Los Angeles Times. Because of that, he even ended up in jail with none other than Robert Downey Jr., who has faced his own issues with drugs.

Fortunately for Jordan, he told Isthmus that he got sober in his early 40s. It was hard but was surely worth it as he later said, "I'm so content with my life. Everything is gravy." Frankly, things got even better for the onscreen celebrity when he became an online superstar.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

This actor was an Instagram sensation

If you ever need a boost, then you should definitely consider looking at Leslie Jordan on Instagram. That's because he was wildly entertaining on the platform. CNN notes that he shared a lot during the pandemic, including entertaining stories about other famous faces. In fact, his IG is so much fun that the star who once had around 100,000 followers saw a massive boost during the pandemic when he started going viral.

While that kind of popularity on social media is the kind of thing that many celebrities desperately try to achieve, Jordan wasn't really expecting it. According to Philadelphia Gay News, when he found out about his viral success, the star initially misunderstood, saying he was fine and hadn't contracted the virus.

With more than 5.6 million followers at the time, Jordan got a kick out of the situation, saying, "I don't know why that is or how that happened, but I think people were looking for just some laughter." He added, "I had three rules that I realized I had and didn't know I had: nothing about religion, nothing about politics, and no products. I'm kind of wanting to rethink that 'no products' part. Ha!" That may not totally be a joke as it turned out that the star could have used some extra income.

Leslie Jordan wasn't as rich as you might think

Leslie Jordan was a well-known figure in the entertainment industry, as he was both an accomplished actor and a social media sensation; however, there's one thing that he was not: ultra-wealthy. When Philadelphia Gay News pointed out that "People think that you're rich," Jordan revealed, "I'm not. Listen, she works hard for the money!"

Indeed, while the star wasn't destitute, he also wasn't super-duper well-off. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he had a relatively humble (by show business standards, at least) $1.5 million in funds and assets.

Jordan explained the somewhat inaccurate perception about his financial status by saying that he thinks that perhaps people think that he's achieved everything. He also noted, "I sit here (now) so comfortable with myself, with who I am and what I am. And that's a wonderful place to be. So everything from here on out is just gravy. It really is just living life one day at a time and having a really good time." And isn't truly enjoying your life absolutely priceless?

He appeared on Ellen's '90s sitcom

Long before Leslie Jordan had blown the internet away, he was an actor who'd been in the business for a hot minute, appearing on television shows such as "The People Next Door," "Top of the Heap," and the Randy Zisk-directed "Reasonable Doubts."

In 1998, Jordan played the role of a studio executive on television personality Ellen DeGeneres' self-titled sitcom, "Ellen." While Jordan was elated to have been part of the LGBTQ community at a time when DeGeneres had just come out on " The Puppy Episode" (via People), he wasn't very enthusiastic about playing the part of a non-LGBTQ character.

"I thought 'Oh wow! I get to be on this gay sitcom.' I get the script and I'm playing a straight guy," he revealed during a conversation with DeGeneres and Mila Kunis on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Try as he would, Jordan couldn't tame his authentic flamboyant persona. "I opened my mouth and 50 yards of purple chiffon come out," he hilariously narrated, much to the audience's delight.

Leslie Jordan's pursuit of fame

Growing up, Leslie Jordan took a liking to the spotlight. In an interview on the "Tamron Hall Show," he disclosed that the insatiable urge to be in the limelight was partially due to his ego as a man and his short stature. Armed with $1,200 in his pocket and the will to make a name for himself at any cost, Jordan landed in Tinseltown in 1982 at the age of 27.

While the idea of being a star was intriguing in his early years as an actor, the same could not be said for when Jordan hit the jackpot. "It's arrived, and I'm not too sure," he said to Tamron Hall. "I drive down the street ... I've got a wonderful little blue convertible, and people holler my name and it scares me!"

Not only did he become a celebrity in his own right, but Jordan also mingled with other stars as well. On "Watch What Happens Live with Any Cohen," Jordan confirmed through the game "Has ! Leslie! Met Them!" that he'd brushed shoulders with Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Jackée Harry, among so many others.

He once shared a jail cell with Robert Downey Jr.

In the late '90s, Leslie Jordan had a brush with the law which made for an exhilarating tale. During an appearance on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen," he recounted the experience, at the center of which is "Sherlock Holmes" actor Robert Downey Jr. "I was sentenced in 1997 to 120 days for several indiscretions I'd really rather not describe right now," he started. Jordan would later tell The Guardian that he was locked up due to driving while intoxicated.

"I was told by my lawyer, 'Ask for the homo tank the minute you get there because you won't survive on the main line,'" he detailed to Andy Cohen. On arrival at the Los Angeles men's county jail, Jordan was directed to what he called the "softy tank" instead. Right before he left, a surprise guest came around.

"On day 12, they said 'We've got good news. You're out, but we don't have a bed for Robert Downey Jr. He's downstairs.'" The pair shared the cell for a brief period, and when they later met on the set of "Ally McBeal," Jordan surely reminded the actor of the moment he likely would have preferred to forget. "Yep, 152, pod A, cell 13, you was top [bunk], I was bottom," said Jordan, per The Guardian.

His dream of working with Dolly Parton came true

All his life, Leslie Jordan had idolized the idea of working with country singer Dolly Parton. Just like everything he had set out to do in life, that dream was realized. The pair became very good allies, according to Parton's introduction of the "Goodbye Lover" actor at the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards, as seen in this clip from the "Tamron Hall Show."

For Jordan, however, linking up with Parton was quite overwhelming because, although they met in a professional setting, he was still a solid fan at heart. "Dolly Parton, oh my gosh! I got to do, like, a music video with her and I was so ... that's the one fan that I was, uh, just I ... I didn't know ... I couldn't even speak," he revealed in an interview with ET Canada.

Upon Jordan's untimely death, the "Jolene" singer was amongst those who paid tribute to the "The Cool Kids" star. Parton released a statement on Twitter that read in part: "I am as hurt and shocked as if I have lost a family member. Leslie and I had a special bond, I think the world felt they had a special bond with him."

He was a New York Times bestselling author

As an all-round entertainer, Leslie Jordan left no stone unturned in using different avenues to make a living. In addition to his 2008 memoir " My Trip Down the Red Carpet," Jordan released a 2021 autobiography titled, "How Y'all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived." Per The Nerd Daily, Jordan's masterpiece provides an entertaining account of the actor's life — delving into lighthearted topics such as navigating newfound fame, causing trouble at Starbucks, and planning spontaneous road trips — and much more serious yet side-splitting stories like the time Debbie Reynolds rang his mom.

Jordan made it to the New York Times bestsellers list, per his website, securing position No. 4. In an interview with the Library of Congress, he divulged that, unlike other authors who have to fight furiously to get publishers' attention, his was a smooth sail.

"They came to me. The publishers came to me and they said 'We think you have a book. We want you to call it How Y'all Doing,'" said Jordan. "We want you to write about this and we want you to use this Instagram post ... and they laid it out, I mean chapter by chapter."

Inside Leslie Jordan's exciting love life

Of lovers, Leslie Jordan had quite a thrilling ride. In a 2017 interview with The Gay Times (via Yahoo! News), Jordan gave away that he so happened to meet a lover who was more than ready to put a ring on it. After going back and forth on the web for months, the said suitor — 20 years his junior — proposed in a record three days.

"It was this connection. We tried to have sex about 10 times but we couldn't because we'd keep talking," Jordan further revealed. The relationship had shown up on his doorstep at a time when he had wrapped up a 10-year romance with a straight man.

Only eight months before his passing, Jordan had more on his love life to dish out, this time in a conversation with Pride Source. His then-boyfriend, he disclosed, had taught him a thing or two about accepting admiration — something he wasn't entirely good at. "My boyfriend constantly says to me, 'When someone compliments you, Leslie, you compliment them back ... own it.'"

He died in a car crash at age 67

On October 24, 2022, TMZ exclusively broke the news that Leslie Jordan had died in a tragic car accident. The "Call me Kat" actor was driving on his own when a medical mishap occurred, leading him to lose control and ram into the side of a building.

According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, Jordan was unresponsive when they arrived at the scene, and remained in that state after a 40-minute attempt at resuscitation. As of this writing, the exact cause of the actor's death is yet to be determined.

A number of Jordan's "Will & Grace" co-stars — including actor Megan Mullally, television writer Gary Janetti, and actor Eric McCormack – took to social media to pay tribute to the star. Likewise, condolence tweets came from "The Real" host Loni Love, "RuPaul's Drag Race," and many other clebrities, each a reminder of what was — in Jordan's own words — a life well-lived.