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My Trip Down the Pink Carpet

My Trip Down the Pink Carpet

4.1 16
by Leslie Jordan

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A hilarious romp from small-town USA to the pink carpet of Hollywood with the beloved Emmy-winning actor, playwright, and gay icon

Leslie Jordan is a small man with a giant propensity for scene stealing. Best known for his bravura recurring role as Karen's nemesis, Beverley Leslie, on Will&Grace (for which he won a Best


A hilarious romp from small-town USA to the pink carpet of Hollywood with the beloved Emmy-winning actor, playwright, and gay icon

Leslie Jordan is a small man with a giant propensity for scene stealing. Best known for his bravura recurring role as Karen's nemesis, Beverley Leslie, on Will&Grace (for which he won a Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy in 2006), he has also made memorable appearances on Ally McBeal, Boston Public, Monk, and Murphy Brown.

Raised in a conservative family in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Leslie -- who describes himself as "the gayest man I know" -- boarded a Greyhound bus bound for LA with $1,200 sewn into his underpants and never looked back. His pocket-sized physique and inescapable talent for high camp paved the way to a lucrative and varied career in commercials and on television. Along the way he immersed himself in writing for the stage, and his one-man testimonials have become cult off-Broadway hits. But with success came dangerous temptations: a self-proclaimed former substance abuser and sexaholic, Leslie has spent time in jail and struggled to overcome his addictions and self-loathing.

My Trip Down the Pink Carpet is a rollicking, fast-paced collection of stories, served up with wit, panache, and plenty of biting asides. Filled with comically overwrought childhood agonies, offbeat observations, and revealing celebrity encounters -- from Boy George to George Clooney -- it delivers a fresh, laugh-out-loud take on Hollywood, fame, addiction, gay culture, and learning to love oneself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Actor and playwright Jordan, who calls himself "the gayest man I know," makes a raucous, energetic and occasionally wistful tour guide to his life in Hollywood and out. Readers may know Jordan best as "Beverley Leslie," his Emmy-winning recurring role on TV sitcom "Will & Grace," but Jordan spends remarkably little time dishing about that, or any other, job. Instead, he focuses much of the book on his personal life, especially the challenge and isolation of growing up gay in Chattanooga, Tenn., dealing with alcohol addiction and learning to accept himself. Sober since 1997, readers might wish for more details of his "drunken-addled sex life, a soap opera unto itself" (his harshest anecdote is a catty story about buying underwear for Beverly D'Angelo), but Jordan is funny and entertaining throughout. His grateful and optimistic tone is likable, and he proves most memorable when he gets serious; a story about joining an addiction recovery group populated entirely by heterosexual men sums up his appeal: vulnerable, wise, eye-opening and welcoming, Jordan should connect with just about anyone who's felt like an outsider.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Read an Excerpt

Good Southern Stock

My mother always said, "Stop making a spectacle of yourself," something that I have obviously made a career out of.
- John Waters, Spectacle

My mother was a bashful champagne blonde who always smelled of White Shoulders perfume. On special occasions she would dab on a little Shalimar. She always conducted herself with a great amount of class. She was never one to succumb to fads, and she wore her hair in a modified bouffant. It was very glamorous -- Jackie Kennedy with just a little touch of the Supremes -- and it had an amazing flip to the side that she sprayed with a cloud of Aqua Net.

I was so proud that she was my mom. Her name was Peggy Ann and to me she was the most beautiful woman in the world. I thought she was a fairy princess. When the other mothers showed up for the Parent Teacher Association meetings in frumpy housedresses, my mother was always perfectly turned out. Until I was almost out of grammar school, she wore white gloves when she left the house. She looked like a fashion model from the pages of a magazine.

I also adored my mother's mother. Her name was Mary Lucille Griffin. My mother was the baby of eight children, and I suppose that's why she was so spoiled. When she was growing up, what she couldn't get from her mother and father, she got from her brothers and sisters. Mary Lucille had raised all of her children on a plumber's salary and was known for feeding the neighborhood kids as well. She was the best cook in all of Hamilton County. It was more than just a rumor that Grandmother Griffin's red velvet cake could make a Baptist get up and dance.

When poor Mary Lucille was practically on her deathbed, my mother decided that it would be a shame for all those wonderful recipes to go with her. My grandmother, like most Southern cooks of her era, cooked without any written recipes. It was a pinch of this and a little of that. I know, because out of all the grandkids I was the only one who took a real interest in the way she cooked. I would follow beside her in the kitchen as she whirled about in her flour-covered apron, making her delicious tea cakes.

My mother decided that it was up to us to get all those recipes on paper. So off we went to Grandmother's house with my Big Chief tablet in hand. Mary Lucille was trying to nap, but my mother was not to be deterred. She gently poked her and whispered, "Mama? About your biscuits?"

"What?" Mary Lucille asked, without opening her eyes.

"Leslie Allen and I are going to write down the recipe for your biscuits."

"Oh Lord, Peggy Ann, do we have to do it now? I wanted to rest a little before my stories come on."

Mary Lucille's "stories" were her beloved soap operas. She watched them every afternoon without fail. One time we went to her house and the television was off. She was in bed during her stories and got us all worried. Granddaddy Griffin explained that Lynette had been framed and was in jail. She'd just found out she was pregnant with Hawk's baby. Poor Lynette was going to have the baby behind bars. It had upset my grandmother so much she had to take to the bed. We thought he was talking about some of our trashy relatives, but it turned out Lynette was the heroine of Mary Lucille's soap opera.

My mother persisted. "It's now or never. How much flour, Mama?"

Mary Lucille thought for a while, then opened her eyes. "Well, let me see. Enough to make a nest."

"Make a nest? That doesn't make sense."

"I know what she means," I piped in. "You pour enough fl our in the bowl to pat it out and then it looks like a nest."

"Well, all right. Write that down. How much shortening, Mama?"

As I scribbled in my Big Chief tablet, Mary Lucille held up two shaky fingers, then promptly rolled over and went right back to sleep.

My mother sat there looking befuddled.

"I know what she means," I said again. "She means you take your two fingers and scrape them into the Crisco. And that's how much shortening you plop in the bowl."

"Well, Lord help us all, we can't write that down."

So our little project came to a disappointing end.

I get most of my sense of humor from my Granddaddy Griffin. Homer Howard Griffin was a stitch until the day they put him in his grave. Even in his nineties he had the nurses at the hospital eating out of his hand because of his amazing sense of humor. He liked to talk a little dirty, much to the delight of us grandkids. And Lord knows, with eight children there were a lot of grandkids.

One time, he was cutting up at the dinner table, and my favorite aunt Dot said, "Daddy, when you talk like that in front of the children it makes my skin crawl."

Granddaddy Griffin cocked his head inquisitively and said, "Well, Dot, what does your heinie smell like when it crawls past your face?"

All of us kids just hollered.

When Grandaddy died, I was performing with a melodrama troupe in Bakersfield, California. It was my first acting job after college and I was in heaven. I was making $165 a week! My mother called and tearfully told me, "Your biggest fan passed on this morning."

And he was. He really was my biggest fan. Even toward the end, when he was crazy as a bedbug and did not recognize anyone else, I would walk in the room and he'd say, "Leslie Allen, can you help spring me out of here?"

I had other fans from the beginning. When I was little, I think both Peggy Ann and Mary Lucille took one look at me and thought, He's going to need some help!

They circled the wagons, as only true Southern women can do, and created a secret garden where it was okay for little boys to play with dolls. How sweet is that? It was also okay for little boys to read about Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew instead of those rambunctious Hardy Boys. And it was okay for little boys to make potholders and sew doll clothes. I was "artistic," and they encouraged me in that arena. But somehow, even at a young age, I knew it was best to not let Daddy into our little secret garden. So even though I was allowed to do what I wanted, I knew it was somehow shameful.

My daddy, Allen Bernard Jordan, was a man's man. He was as handsome as a movie star. Even though he stood a little less than five feet five, he was in possession of an easy kind of masculinity that both awes and terrifi es me -- and that I am extremely attracted to. I've been in therapy about that for years.

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."

One of my early ambitions was to be a go-go dancer. I used to sit and watch the dancers on a TV show called Hullabaloo, which was the MTV of my generation. I was transfixed as the dancers wildly cavorted on white platforms. I knew it took a lot of practice to achieve that level of expertise, so I pushed all the furniture in the living room out of the way and commandeered the coffee table. Once I had mastered "the Jerk," I moved on to the next level, which included "the Swim" and "the Hitchhiker." After several weeks of intense practice, I also had "the Batman" and "Mashed Potato" under my belt. By the time my repertoire included "the Dirty Dog," which involved a whole lot of hunching and some really intricate facial expressions, I was on my way.

My poor daddy would come home and his firstborn son would be feverishly go-go dancing on the coffee table to "Wipeout" by the Safaris.

"Daddy, watch me do the Pony!" I'd squeal as I hopped from foot to foot, jerking my head back and forth.

"Oh, son," he'd sigh.

My career hopes were dashed when I noticed that one of the boy dancers on Hullabaloo had bleached bangs. This was before even the Beach Boys had bleached bangs, and I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I talked my friend Charlie into helping me achieve my new look. We took hydrogen peroxide and combed it through my bangs, which promptly turned bright orange. When confronted by my daddy at the dinner table, I swore right over my Chef Boyardee ravioli that I didn't know what had happened. I just woke up that morning and there it was. Orange bangs. Can you believe it?

He did not believe it.

I got a good whipping for that. Not because I bleached my hair but because I lied. The whipping apparently did not do a lick of good, since when I was growing up I could lie with the greatest of ease. I have been in therapy about this, too.

Anyway, it was so disheartening. If I couldn't even get away with bleached bangs, how on earth was I ever, ever going to get away with high-heeled, pointy-toed Italian boots and skintight, striped pencil pants?

So I gave up my dream of becoming a go-go dancer and replaced it with dreams of becoming a majorette. My mother had been a majorette in high school (aren't they all in Tennessee?). I pulled out her baton one sweltering summer afternoon and begged her to show me a routine. I had always been fascinated with batons. My daddy had once taken me to a football game and tried patiently to explain all the ins and outs of football.

"Now, son, that is the offense and that is the defense."

I tugged on his sleeve and asked impatiently,

"Daddy, when do the majorettes come out?"

"Oh, son..."

On that summer afternoon, Mother showed me a few of her best moves and that was all it took. I began to practice with a vengeance. I was in the front yard going to town with my baton when my daddy pulled up with his army buddies in tow.

"Daddy! Daddy! Watch me twirl!" I yelled in my high, squeaky voice.

"Oh, son," he lamented, pulling me aside, away from the pitying eyes of his buddies. "Why don't you twirl that little baton in the house?"

"Mama's afraid I'll break something!" I threw the baton over my head, did a big final twirl, and caught it in a pose. I wanted to show those big, butch army boys a thing or two.

"Son, I'll pay for whatever you break! Just please twirl in the house." Now, don't get me wrong. My daddy was a good man. I adored my daddy. Everyone did. My daddy was a churchgoing man who lived his faith. He was a man with a code and he lived by that code. He was a deacon, a Sunday school teacher, and a pillar of the community. It was said that he "never met a stranger." My daddy was the kind of man who talked to people in the grocery store checkout lane. When all the car windows were rolled down in the summertime, he'd strike up conversations with other drivers at stoplights. My sisters and I would get down on the floorboard of the car because we were so embarrassed.

My daddy could walk into a room and light it up. And he was doing the best he could with "the light he had to see with," as my spiritual advisor once told me. It was the 1950s, and what was the greatest fear a man could have? That his son would turn out queer.

My daddy was killed in a plane crash when I was eleven years old. That is a terrible time for any boy to lose his daddy. He was so loved in the community that all the schools closed for his funeral and the church was packed to capacity with mourners.

But when my daddy died, I just knew to the very core of my being that he went to his grave a little ashamed to have a son like me. And at that age I didn't even know what "like me" meant. I just knew I was different.

I sometimes feel like I was born ashamed.

Copyright © 2008 by Leslie Jordan

Meet the Author

Leslie Jordan hails from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Standing at just four feet eleven inches, he has become an instantly recognizable face in film and television. He is best known for his role as Beverley Leslie in the hit series Will&Grace, for which he won an Emmy in 2006. He lives in Los Angeles.

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My Trip Down the Pink Carpet 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'It is a terrible feeling when you cannot find your way home,' Jordan writes, describing a night out clubbing as a very young man in Atlanta. The sentiment is also a metaphor for Leslie's life, as well as for many of the rest of us. Finding your way home takes years of wondering, searching and facing disappointments. What I love most about this book is that Leslie Jordan has found his way home, and his famiiy of fans are here for him. The book ends with hope and help. Like Leslie, I'm a gay Southerner. 'They circled the wagons, as only true Southern [I'd add and Jewish] women can do, and created a secret garden where it was okay for little boys to play with dools.' They knew, they loved us, and they wanted in their own best way to protect us. God bless our Southern Mamas! Memoirs are tricky because how does one write about oneself subjectively? Usually too self-praising, or the other extreme self-deprecating. Leslie gets that tone just right. 'I would never be the kind of actor who could disappear into the roles he or she played. And quite frankly, I have never been asked to play a character I felt was more interesting than me in real life.' And how true! 'I've decided almost all gay men my age have what I call 'Marilyn Monroe syndrome.' We love to fall apart. We love to take pills and cry and carry on. We love self-recreated drama.' This book is funny, well-written (and well-edited) concise and a short-read. Enjoy it laugh and take away the few important lessons at that end.
ebnozn01 More than 1 year ago
Open, honest and heartfelt, Leslie Jordan takes you on his journey with him in a way that will make you laugh, cry and feel good. For anyone that is struggling to come to terms with themselves, this is a must read. It is inspiring to know that he emerged from the South, which is a very prejudiced area, and rose above it all. Definitely worth the read and if you can catch the video, definitely do so.
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lorabele More than 1 year ago
I thought there would be a lot more to this book, at least a lot more humor. It was a snore. It focused exclusively on his sexuality, and it just got boring after a while. He's so funny as an actor; I expected more.
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DwayneEConner More than 1 year ago
Leslie Jordan's "My Trip Down the Pink Carpet" is hysterical! I laughed out loud and teared up too.

Jordan's pace is quick, his humor outstanding and his life lessons and observations brilliant. Jordan has a gorgeous blend of healing humor with daring honesty and painful self discovery.

I believe "Truth is Simple" and that truth comes from the most unlikely places. Like Leslie, I too am a southern boy who quietly tip-toed from my southern baptist roots and followed my heart and dreams to a better quality of life through Spirituality, Self Help and the School of Hard Knocks.

I want to say "Thank You" Leslie for making us laugh out loud and for taking the time to create a hi-frequency product that uplifts, nurtures and empowers others. Through following your dreams and aspirations you remind us to hold steadfast to our dreams while following our heart.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
My mother has always been a devout reader my entire life and has passed this on to her daughters. Both of our husbands support the reading habit but have become increasingly resistant to rooms and rooms of books. So we have come up with a creative and generous scheme to feed our need and keep peace at home. My mother belongs to publisher's book clubs and she orders new or advanced copy books almost weekly. She works nights and lives alone so she generally watches when an author is doing press tours so she buys books in a wide variety. Then she passes them to my sister and I. After reading such touching and profound books as this we now donate them to small town libraries so the books can touch countless others. I have purchased this book in hard cover and plan on getting several more for the library closet to where my husband and I grew up in eastern KY.