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Del Shores Continues Ministry With ‘A Very Sordid Wedding’

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It’s 4 o’clock on a Friday and playwright-director Del Shores is already in a celebratory mood. “It’s like 6 o’clock on any other day, right?” asks the playful storyteller, whose comical tales of dysfunctional family homophobia (“Sordid Lives”) and life as a preacher’s gay son (“Southern Baptist Sissies”) are cult favorites.

But it’s not just the cocktails at favorite West Hollywood haunts such as the Abby and St. Felix that Shores is looking forward to on this day.  Just as Wolfe Video has made “Sordid Lives” available on Blu-ray and DVD, Shores reveals that he is at work on the third film in his semi-autobiographical series, “A Very Sordid Wedding.” He spoke about the new film, as well as his success at documenting the absurdities of growing up gay in the South, with Goweho Managing Editor Laurie Schenden.

Goweho: We’re excited to see that your “black comedy about white trash” is coming full circle. And it all started with a little play called “Sordid Lives.” How did you get it to the screen in the first place?

Del Shores: It was a pretty solid hit in LA. I started thinking, ‘Ya know, this would not be a bad little movie. One weekend I went home and I knocked that screenplay out so fast, it translated so easily into screen.
My late partner, Sharon Lane, was very instrumental in passionately wanting this to be made. I’d worked with Beau Bridges before, he’d seen the play and literally the day after the play he called me and said Dell there’s a movie there you should do it, and if you do it, I want to wear that black bra.

Goweho: He looked pretty good in a bra.

Del: I know! And I was glad he said black bra not red bra, because I just don’t think he could’ve pulled that off. [laugh]

Goweho: How did Olivia Newton-John get involved, playing the bad girl?

Del: I was in acting class with her sister Rona and we became friends and Olivia and I became friends. One birthday she called me up and … she asked about my life and I told her, I’m trying to attach stars to ‘Sordid Lives.’ And she said, ‘oh, you should let me play one of those women,’ half joking. I called her back the next day and said, “would you play Bitsy Mae if I taught you the accent?” When Olivia came onboard then the drive started happening, and I got Bonnie Bedelia and Delta Burke, then at that point I felt I had enough stars and I could cast the rest with the play cast. Aren’t we glad I did; we got Leslie Jordan, Ann Walker, out of that. It is a cast I keep working with.

Goweho: How did the new film come about?

Del: The fans especially have been prodding me for several years, so [I] launched the indie-gogo campaign. It’s a lot of the same cast. Bonnie [Bedelia] and Kirk [Geiger] from the film, Ann Walker, Leslie Jordan, Caroline Rai, then I’m replacing Beth Grant, she turned down the role, and Olivia Newton John’s commitments take her into 2016, so her role will not be in the new movie.

Goweho: Did the legalization of gay marriage influence your decision to make this film?

Del: Yes, it had a huge impact. I always say, I’m so passionate about equality, literally, I have the red HRC equality emblem tattooed on my back.

Goweho: Does the lovable dysfunctional family dynamic still come into play?

Del: I had a great time deciding which characters had evolved to not be onboard with this. And the conflict is intense, yet it continues to have that sordid, crazy fun. Brother Boy [Leslie Jordan] is out of the mental institution and, oh, he’s got such problems. I’m really excited to work with Leslie Jordan again, he’s one of my favorite actors.

Goweho: The characters, like their hairdos, seem larger than life, and can be wonderful and awful. Has your opinion of them evolved over the years?

Del: Yes, the evolution of Latrelle by the end of the movie is exactly what happened to my mother. I often say, you put a face on gay and it changes your mind and your heart sometimes. I’ve really been able to have that happen with my characters.

Goweho: Some reviews of your “Sordid Lives” characters say they are over-the-top and insist these people don’t exist. What do you say to that?

Del: Well, you go down to the South, you’re going to find the Sissies, you’re going to find the LaVonda. I don’t stray too far from the tree.

Goweho: Even though the things these characters say seem absurd, you can’t help but like them, so it sort of a love-hate relationship you have with them?

Del: You’re right, I feel that way about the church to this today. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I mean there was so much about the church that I loved. I loved being the little boy sitting in the pew and listening to that amazing music, and feeling that, and the sweet old ladies with the horrible perfume, I just I miss that part of it. But I don’t miss the hatred that is spewed in the name of the Lord.
So I feel like someone has to counter that, and that has become, if you will my ministry.

Get “Sordid Lives” on Blu-ray or DVD at www.wolfevideo.com, or see at Amazon video. 

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and is currently producing a documentary for her own company, Saving Grace Films.

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