So you might have expected some Will & Grace moments from Jordan when he took the stage at the Kentucky Theatre for his one-man show, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet. And there were a few moments, as he started us out at the 2006 Emmy Awards, where he had won his Emmy and was preparing to accompany eight-time Emmy winner Cloris Leachman onto the stage to present a comedy writing award.
Some in the crowd at the Kentucky clearly remembered the moment. Leachman had a line about always remembering her first Emmy, and Jordan, who had just collected his at a separate ceremony a week before, said he took his everywhere, even to bed.
"It's the only woman I ever slept with," he declared.
It was one of the first of many huge laughs during the night, but the line also served as the catalyst for the rest of the show, as Jordan laid out the journey that brought him to a point he could make such an openly gay declaration before a packed auditorium and a national television audience.
My Trip is based on Jordan's forthcoming memoir of the same name. In fact, the show is essentially serving as its book tour, scheduled to hit nearly 30 cities after this opening night in Lexington.
And it's somewhat appropriate the show starts in the South as that's where Jordan started, growing in up in Chattanooga, Tenn., indulging in a crush on the quarterback for the high school football team. He was also a former University of Kentucky student who once aspired to be a jockey.
Jordan regaled us with tales of a number of his crushes after he moved to Hollywood in the early 1980s and landed supporting roles on TV series with men such as Robert Urich, Mark Harmon and our own George Clooney. His best of the these stories is about how he kept dropping a line in the 1992 series Reasonable Doubts so that they would have to repeat a scene where Harmon pushed him to the ground and straddled him.
In the midst of these tales, Jordan kept winding back to a few important themes: an isolation he felt growing up gay in the Bible Belt and self-loathing that would manifest itself in a simultaneous fascination with and repulsion from people like author Truman Capote and center square Paul Lynde who, like Jordan, were effeminate gay men.
Not that he was always as comfortable in those shoes.
Jordan talked quite a bit about how he often numbed the stigma he felt being gay with alcohol and drugs from age 14 until he sobered up at 42 and how he felt he never learned to have normal relationships because he didn't experience dating the way straight kids did in school.
There was quite a bit of humor in this too, such as his description of his first visit to a gay bar when he was a junior in high school and his Alcoholics Anonymous group of intimidating straight men.
The show's emotional pinnacle comes at his first AA meeting where he stands up and says, "I'm an alcoholic, and I'm a homosexual."
That self acceptance and subsequent acceptance by his support group is the point of the evening: a tale that was familiar to many people Jordan met and, judging by the reaction, many people in the audience Thursday night. And in most instances, Jordan's story was effectively told, reaching you even if you haven't taken his journey.
The show could still use some trimming and refining. Sometimes Jordan got a little lost in his bawdy tales of co-star crushes and misadventures. His repeated breaks for a "gay anthem" were a bit perfunctory, except on two occasions -- at the bar and at the end of the show -- and then the repetition of previous anthems robbed those moments of their full effect.
At the end of the show, Jordan got a little speechy, particularly when advocating for the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning teens. It is an extremely worthwhile cause. And as Jordan tours the show and aims for a possible Off-Broadway run, he could make the piece more effective by bringing greater theatricality to those moments of advocacy and maybe editing and focusing some of the earlier comedy material.
My Trip Down the Pink Carpet is definitely worth refining. Jordan is a joy to spend and evening with and he has a hilarious and moving story to tell.
Busy night: While Jordan was taking his trip on the Kentucky Theatre stage, a block away, veteran stage and screen actor Michelle Hurst (Copyrighted LexGo photo, right, by David Perry) was portraying Daphney Oldham in LexArts' production, In This Place . . . Read Candace Chaney's review.