Updated: Jun 28
As to rectify the absence during the In Memoriam at the 2023 Oscars, we remember two queer icons that gave film and theater remarkable gifts. We're thankful AF for their contributions to film and stage AND how they moved equity forward for LGBTQ people.
Leslie Jordan was such a charmer. He bewitched us with his delightful southern draw on commercials for brands like Taco Bell, roles on popular TV shows like Newhart, movies like Jason Goes to Hell, and the ridiculously delicious movie Sordid Lives (he plays a Tammy Wynette-lovin' drag queen that is SO GOOD). Despite his 4'11 height, the ongoing contemptuous relationship with Karen Walker on Will and Grace showed his expertise as a mesmerizing, scene-stealing actor.
"I was baptized 14 times. every time I’d go up there, the preacher would say, ‘I believe I baptized you in the revival this summer.’ I said, ‘I don’t think it took.’ I had so many secrets and so much shame, and all that’s gone now."
On stage, he used storytelling to share not-always-easy life challenges, including his autobiographical stage show, Hysterical Blindness and Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far, where he was accompanied by a gospel choir singing satirical songs about racism and homophobia.
"If you had any doubt about me when I open my mouth, 50 yards of purple chiffon come out." Openly gay, he lived through the AIDS crisis and got + stayed sober for two decades. During the pandemic, he spotlighted his plucky charm, humor, and lovability on Instagram. He made us feel as if we were his good friend. We miss him.
Pop culture attempts to tell her story as a tragedy, but Anne is so much more than her challenges. Her father died of AIDS in 1983, with her family knowing relatively little about the disease, not to mention that he was a closeted gay man. In an interview, Anne said that her father's secret ultimately "destroyed his happiness and our family. But it did teach me to tell the truth. nothing else is worth anything."
Her career started playing twins on Another World, a role that landed her a daytime Emmy. O'pioneers, Donnie Brasco, If Walls Could Talk 2, and the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho: Her acting chops are spread across 80+ roles where she shines as a talented actor. She got the GLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak Award award in 2000, as well as a handful of other enviable honors.
I've always wanted to heal my life. I always wanted to see the good side of life. I've always wanted to see the good in everything that happened to me.
Referred to as the first gay super couple, she and Ellen Degeneres dated from 1997 through 2000. The hype of their breakup in 2000 centered on her mental wellness, and her book Call Me Crazy shares her journey with mental health and the long-term impact of her childhood abuse. Shortly before her death, her memoir Call Me Anne writes that she never regarded gay or straight as relevant to her.
High-profile romances, Barbara Walters stating she was the "weirdest interview she's ever done," and financial burdens serve the tabloid media as excellent fodder. Still, Anne leaves a legacy much more significant than splashy covers. She spoke candidly about mental health, something that we hold in the highest regard. She challenged social norms, and for that and so much more, we're endlessly thankful.