Gene: Del, welcome to the Chartreuse Couch again. You look fabulous. Many in San Antonio will remember you and your play presented here in 2007 at the Church Theatre, Southern Baptist Sissies, which is now a film. Let’s start with that. How has that been going? Slide your butt onto the Chartreuse and feel the love.
Del: It’s been an amazing journey. It’s a film of the play, and it was a risk. But it turned out amazing with my beautiful actors. We went to 28 film festivals, won 15 awards, and nine of those were audience awards–my favorite! The journey continues and I’m thrilled that the response from audiences and critics has been so favorable.
Gene: And Sordid Lives has been an interesting project over the years. Give us some dirt on the actors and how Texas has influenced this sordid creation.
Del: Well, I’ve said it before and it’s true:I just write what I know and have taken from my life and my family, filled in a few blanks, and out came Sordid Lives. It just seems to be everybody’s favorite and the journey continues. I’ve written a final chapter called A Very Sordid Wedding, and we plan to shoot in Dallas in 2015.
Let’s see… dirt on actors. Leslie Jordan continues to be my friend and makes me laugh so hard. He has a new boyfriend and he just texted me a picture of his stomach–pooching out–and wrote, “Look how fat I am!! I don’t think it’s good to have a boyfriend who ‘loves you just the way you are.’ It gives you a license to go down to Erewhon and down a whole carton of chocolate soy dessert. My man is going to have to roll me in flour to find a wet spot.” He’s a mess!
Gene: Well I am always interested in how OUT theater is changing the landscape for the gay and lesbian community in America. I know we are suppose to say LGBTQ every time we refer to ourselves, but I am tired of reciting the alphabet, so I just say gay to keep it short and sweet. You must have gathered some real and valuable knowledge over the years. Speak to our theater listeners about that.
Del: You know, I find that mainstream audiences are so much more accepting of any gay-themed play these days. I just love how I go to productions of Sordid Lives or Southern Baptist Sissies and it’s not just a gay audience. We are putting a face on gay, hearts and minds are changing … and of course, many who aren’t changing are simply dying … and our world, our country is seeing the results. And that goes for theater. We are living in gay historical times and how amazing has this march to equality been?!
Gene: Well, I will state for the record that the arts have been on the forefront of this battle and all civil-rights battles through the years. And theater has led the way. After that, the journalists have reported on the artists and the arrests. I think the art world has been the bravest of all in these fights. Then a few brave lawyers crept out from under their oriental rugs and defended some gay people, and a few doctors stepped forward and lived up to their responsibilities. And we see how chicken-shit the military has been all these years about changing their policies–and had to be made to change–and, of course, tying for last is the football team and politicians for the most gutless of them all. You can fit religion in there whereever you want.
I just cannot applaud the theater world enough, and that goes for Hollywood, too, for facing this battle with such determination and bravery. I think we should start giving out rainbow hearts, and not just purple hearts, for heroism above and beyond the call of duty. To me that is the next thing that needs to happen in our GayBLTQ-AEIOU community. I have said before, “I will be glad when we all march down the street with our mile-long rainbow flag singing the new national anthem, the Alphabet Song. Don’t get me started.
Del: Amen! Thank you for saying that so well!
Gene: You are welcome. I’ve been wanting to get that off my chest for a long time. See, this is a healing sofa. You need any healing? This is the couch to do it on. I see we have a caller on our phone to ask a question. It is an Emerson Collins. Hello, Emerson! Who are you and who do you hope to be and you better have a question.
Emerson: Having worked in so many different kinds of television, what are you favorite kinds of TV writers and shows to watch?
Del: I like smart writing, unexpected plots and twists, a good sitcom (which I find rare). Shows I admire on the air are American Horror Story, Modern Family. I miss Sex and the City and I think we need another gay show in the vein of Queer As Folk.
Emerson: And about songs? What do you go to when you need motivation?
Gene: Good questions, Emerson. What about songs?
Del: Well, Tammy Wynette, of course, drove so much of my writing early on. Country music always inspires me, especially old-school. And hymns. They bring back a feeling I don’t get from any other kind of music.
Emerson: What are your three favorite things to do completely alone?
Del: Write, watch reality TV–my guilty pleasure–and masturbate, of course.
Gene: Well, that is good to know. Emerson, is that good for you? That was good for me.Would you like to try for four?
Emerson: If you could slap three celebrities in the face, who would they be and why?
Del: Kirk Cameron, Kanye West, and Nicolas Cage–just so I could say, “Snap out of it!” in my best Cher impersonation.
Gene:Well we are just chatty Cathy here. Nice to meet you, Emerson.
You said there is a new Sordid Lives movie? In Dallas? Let’s go there next.
Del: Sordid Lives movie is in the works! We just had a wonderful Indiegogo campaign. The film is called A Very Sordid Wedding and brings the sordid characters to July 2014. Most of the cast of the film combined with some from the series are back. I wanted to finish the franchise with one final chapter, addressing this rich time in gay history. I plan to film in Dallas, hopefully in May of 2015 if all the financing comes together.
Gene: Well, a Sordid Wedding! Sounds timely. Now I want to know if you have ever seen a UFO. I ask that of everyone.
Del: Not sober.
Gene: Oh, gosh! Oh, well! Well, then, moving right along. We are all so interested in Hollywood in San Antonio. I know you probably get tired of those questions, but you have chosen the great state of Texas to drag through the mud and I want to know how the other actors feel about portraying Texas this way.
Del: Well, I think you are wrong to make the assessment that I “drag Texas through the mud.” I have written six plays based in Texas, four became films. All of them celebrate the colorful characters that many of us grew up with. Yes, I expose racism, homophobia, and flaws in humanity that are not exclusive to Texas, to people. I try and paint a picture, tell the truth, not write caricatures of Texans. So, I see it differently than you. I see it as celebrating Texans and Texas, my home state, though my work.
Gene: Well, you think I was being ugly about Texas, but I say that with great affection. I support the MUD underground, which is a group of artists who are determined to take over the world through art, con mucho gusto! I know you are a Texan, and I greatly enjoy any art about Texas.Well, as you may remember, we are always aware of how the other 49 states feel about Texas. We are the state they love to hate. With good reason I might add. But, you know, I think it is just as funny that California hasn’t made any better progress politically than Texas on the marriage front. Texas is not the only guilty party. Enlighten us about gay marriage.
Del: Well, first of all, gay marriage is legal in California, thanks to court decisions; it is not in Texas. It was legal here not once, but twice, and although voters (by a tiny margin) voted for Prop 8, I believe that Prop 8 was one of the main reasons gay marriage has taken strides nationwide, because of the two couples who sued and won. Please tell me how we haven’t made more progress than Texas? At least our politicians were and are on our side, and now over 59 percent of the population of California believe in gay marriage compared to 48 percent of Texans. Our governor believes in gay marriage, most of our elected officials do. So, Gene, my friend, please tell me how you can make this statement, “that California hasn’t made any better progress politically than Texas on the marriage front.” I’m confused by your statement because, with all due respect, statistics prove your statement is inaccurate. I say, let’s celebrate all this progress and Texas will get there soon!
Gene: Thank you for that correction. I have not kept up with California in detail, only with the various battles. California seemed to be ahead of the rest of the United States but still having to fight the conservative politics we all face. And I might add that I think the reason that California is always ahead of the rest of America is because Hollywood has always been ahead of America. And again the arts have always been in the vanguard leading America. However I must wave the Lawrence v. Texas flag at this time. Texas took the sodomy issue to the Supreme Court and knocked that out of the way, invalidating all the sodomy laws in all the states for good. So there! I would say that was a home run for Texas. Which state do you think will be the last to give in to gay marriage? We are taking bets here.
Del: Lord, you know that Mississippi will be fighting Alabama for that last position. I’d go with Mississippi. But, in that, with all these court decisions, who would have ever thought Oklahoma would have gay marriage? And North Carolina? Lots of conservatives and Baptists are gnashing their teeth in these Southern states. Don’t you just love it?
Gene: Yes, I do. And I have been thinking Mississippi as well. Oh, good! We have a caller and it is my friend from New York City, Jack Hyman. Jack is a native San Antonian. How is New York treating you Jack? And give us a question.
Jack: New York is treating me terrific! No complaints … except that winter is sneaking up on us. And here is my question: With all the incredible progress we have made recently with same-sex marriage, I still have the opinion that we so often settle for less than what we should in the way of equality in almost all other areas. It’s like we are so desperate for any kind of tolerance or acknowledgement that we lean toward accepting any crumbs thrown our way rather than a full and equal slice. Do you see that trend or mindset in our community? Good to talk with you, Gene. I can’t wait to be invited to the Couch.
Gene: You will be. Let me know when your schedule will permit. So, Del? Your comments for Jack?
Del: I’m not sure without specifics that I can answer this question. I think that we are screaming pretty loudly for all rights and are getting them. Marriage, no discrimination in workplace laws happening, trans rights being addressed. Yes, we have a ways to go, and we must confront and expose when things are not just and right–but great things are happening so fast, I think that maybe we need to pause and celebrate and then evaluate and see what else needs to be done, then get it all done. I do think there are those who are so used to being inferior and that the fight is how they are defined–so perhaps there is some panic that we are getting closer and closer and there goes our identity of being the underdog having to fight. Just another thought.
Gene: You wear a lot of hats: Directing, writing, acting, standup. What is your favorite?
Del: Well, I’m a little ADD so I really love the crazy of my career. But I must say, if I had to choose one thing, it would be directing my own play in a theater. I’m in heaven when I’m in the theater directing my plays.
Gene: On a related matter, how do you feel about the Pope being more receptive to accepting extraterrestrial beings into Catholicism than the gay community?
Del: I think, actually, this Pope has done more for gays than any other. Remember he did say, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can’t marginalize these people.” He’s trying, but has a lot of conservatives to fight. But again, I do celebrate the small victories.
Gene: Well, what else should we talk about? World politics? President Obama? Did you see the Harvey Milk opera? I very much want to see that.
Del: I did not see the Harvey Milk opera. I just played an Atlantis vacation in Puerto Vallarta. All the gays from San Antonio told me I need to come back and do a show there. I have never played San Antonio. Someone, bring me in! Woodlawn Theatre?? I’m waiting. I love Obama, by the way. He has done more for our community than all presidents combined. He was left a mess by that asshat Bush. But I am ready for Hilary. Gene, I’d love you to listen to my new radio show with Emerson Collins on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. your time. It’s called “The Del and Emerson Show. Straight Talk. Real Gay.” It’s right up your alley! Thanks for this interview. Always a pleasure to talk to you, my friend.
Gene: Well, I most certainly would like to hear your radio show. How do I find it? Do tell. We will all want this information. And I bet Elaine Wolff, our fabulous Out in SA editor would like to entertain bringing you here, but it will be awhile before she can think about that. But sometime in 2015 we should talk.
Del: I will look forward to that. Ubnradio.com (channel 1), every Wednesday at 3 p.m. Pacific. You can go to Ubnradio.com/delandemersonshow and hear all the past podcasts. And you can also listen live each week on your phone by downloading APP UbnRadio.
Gene: Gosh, I see we have a caller. Bill Goodman, a San Antonio voice for sanity wants to ask a question. Bill ask away.
Bill: So Del, with all this “normalization” of gay sensibility in the wider culture, what is the future of Camp? When two gay guys put geraniums in their window boxes, everyone else on the block plants geraniums. Will gay comedy/satire/sarcasm be co-opted by the general population?
Del: To a degree yes–and they will be so happy to embrace what we know is fun, funny, witty and GAY!
Gene: HAPPY and GAY, I always say. I see we are out of time here on the Chartreuse …
Bill: Wait, I want to say hi to Jack. And, Jack, call me next time you are in town.
Gene: And, Jack, call me, too. Del, tell us how to find you on the internet. And then we can wish everyone a Merry Christmas and HAPPY Holidays.
Gene: I always let my guest ask me the last question. And then you get to sign the Chartreuse Couch.
Del: Gene, I admire you and so many who have fought our fight for so long. So, instead of a question, I just want to say thanks. When many of us were in the closet, still just trying to figure out ourselves, you were there for us before we even knew it. I’m so thrilled that you are seeing this march to equality. It’s because of you and so many others who fought when it was much harder. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Gene Elder is the Archives Director for the HAPPY Foundation, a GayBLT history archives. [email protected]