Exploring Books

Southern
to the
Core

By Pam Windsor  |  Photography Credits: Book cover – CJ Armenta, Blue shirt photos – Courtesy of FOX-TV’s “Call Me Kat”, Emmy photo – Leslie Jordan, Gold suit – Miller Mobley

Actor Leslie Jordan asks ‘How Y’all Doing?’ in his humorous, conversational memoir.

Leslie Jordan is quirky, funny, and one of the most familiar faces in entertainment. He has a long list of TV, movie, and theater acting credits, but may be best known for playing Lonnie Garr on “Hearts Afire” and his Emmy-winning role as Beverley Leslie on “Will & Grace.”

The Chattanooga, Tennessee, native also has a gift for telling great stories and his book, “How Y’all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived,” is full of them.

“The thing about Southerners, I don’t know what it is, but we just love stories,” Jordan says. “You know, at family reunions people sit around and say things like, ‘Run get your Aunt Nita in the back room and have her come up here and tell us that story we love so well.’”

His writing style is open, honest, and conversational, guiding readers throughout the book as he shares short, insightful accounts of acting or auditioning experiences, interactions with celebrities like Carrie Fisher, Jessica Lange, Lady Gaga, Martin Mull, Dolly Parton, as well as some personal stories and life lessons. Each one is written with heart, humor, and Jordan’s own unique take on what’s happening around him at the time.

The idea to write “How Y’all Doing?” came during the pandemic. Jordan, who lives in Los Angeles, returned to Chattanooga to stay with his mother and sisters during the lockdown. With so much downtime, he soon became bored and started posting humorous, off-beat videos on Instagram. Although relatively new to the social media platform, he quickly built a huge following.

“I posted something,” Jordan says. “I don’t know which one it was, and a friend called me and said, ‘You’ve gone viral.’ I said, ‘No, honey, I don’t have COVID.’ And he goes, ‘No, not that viral. You’ve gone VIRAL.”

Jordan soon had more than 5 million Instagram followers. His sense of humor in sharing bits and pieces of what was happening in his everyday life was resonating with a lot of people.

“Harper Collins came to me and said, ‘We love your Instagram posts, and we want to set you up with an editor,” he says.

He began writing and found he enjoyed the process.

“I had the best time,” he says. “It was such a joy to write, a wonderful experience.”

Jordan goes from one entertaining story to the next with chapter titles ranging from “The Time Debbie Reynolds Called My Mother” to “America Horror Storytime” to “The Mississippi Delta,” and more. He takes an easy-going, no-holds barred approach, whether he’s sharing memories about his time spent in Greenwood, Mississippi, shooting scenes for the 2011 film “The Help” or his love of horses (he had a brief career in the equine industry), growing up as a gay man in the South, or his years of struggling with alcohol. And he has a way of finding the humor in all of it.“I’ve been in recovery for, I think it’s been 25 years now,” he says. “And a big part of recovery is telling the story. You begin with what was it like, what happened, and what’s it like now? Well, I was drunk in a ditch, I got arrested, and now I’m just living the good life.”

He laughs, then gets serious for a minute, as he reflects on how the lessons of the past tend to pave the way for the future.

“You know, I didn’t get sober until I was in my late 40s,” Jordan says. “Forty-seven, I think. And I don’t think any of this could have happened if I’d continued on the path I was on.”

And now, he’s having the time of his life. At age 66, it seems like things should be winding down, but Jordan feels like it’s all beginning. He’s busy shooting his FOX TV show, “Call Me Kat” starring Mayim Bialik, and earlier this year he released a hymns album featuring duets with some of country music’s biggest stars, including Dolly Parton.

As far as his book goes, while he’s not making any promises now, it’s possible there could be another one down the road. After all, “How Y’all Doing?” made it all the way to No. 4 on the New York Times bestseller list. Besides, as with all good Southerners, there are still plenty more stories to tell. And though Jordan spends a lot of his time in Hollywood, he never strays too far from his roots.

“I have friends that I’ll bump into in L.A. who are from my hometown, and they’ve gotten rid of their accent,” he says. “I’ll ask, ‘Why are you talking like that?’ And they’ll say ‘Well as an actor, I just felt it would limit me.’ Who cares! It’s not going to limit you. With me, especially, it’s what I am. Southern born and bred, to the core.”

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