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Leslie Jordan 

Popular character actor

Through May 21, Atlanta gets to enjoy a little quality time with popular character actor Leslie Jordan. He'll reprise his recurring role as Beverley Leslie, nemesis of Megan Mullally's Karen on the upcoming series finale of NBC's "Will & Grace." He continues to bring Like a Dog on Linoleum, his one-man show about growing up in the South as "the gayest man I know," to the 14th Street Playhouse on weekends. He talked about his fondness for Atlanta past and present.

You brought your one-man show to Atlanta last year. Why did you bring it back for a three-month run?

I've done my play everywhere -- Los Angeles, Chicago, cruise ships to Alaska -- but I never had the reaction that I had in Atlanta. People got every single joke. I grew up Baptist in Chattanooga, and when I'd tell people in Chicago that "I was baptized 13 times," they'd greet me with silence -- but not in Atlanta. I'm very busy, but I jumped at the chance to bring it back to the 14th Street Playhouse. I work in Los Angeles Monday through Thursday, and then fly in for shows Friday through Sunday. I don't have as much time as I'd like to see the city, but I go out all the time to Swinging Richards. For a gay man of a certain age with a little money, that's just heaven on Earth.

In your play, you talk about living here in the early 1970s. How has the city changed?

When I moved here in the early 1970s, Atlanta was one of the meccas for gays, especially Southern gays, along with San Francisco, Fire Island and Key West. Those were the vestiges of the hippie days. Buckhead was like this little hippie town, and the smell of marijuana wafted everywhere in Piedmont Park. I lived at the Pershing Point Hotel, which was filled with queers and drag queens and dope dealers -- it was a den of debauchery. I could never find my apartment because we were so loaded all the time. I had long hair then and looked like a rock-and-roll troll doll.

How did you hold your own for so long against Megan Mullally, who plays such a scene-stealing character on "Will & Grace"?

Look, I'm 4-foot-11, I've got big ears and this accent -- I can trot in anywhere like a show pony and be the scene stealer. Until I started working with Megan Mullally. I have met my match, right there. We're exactly the same kind of actor -- we don't do a lot of preparation, we work on instinct, and whatever I throw her way, that bitch throws it back at me faster and harder and higher. I'm in the last episode and it's a beautiful script -- it's not as funny as some, but it's heart-wrenching.

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