Tampa – When the film Sordid Lives was released in 2000, it was an instant cult classic, especially among LGBTs. The self-labeled “Black comedy about white trash” made Del Shores a household name—at least in same-sex-led households.
Now, five years after his spin-off series was canceled by LOGO, Shores is doing standup to pay the bills, and he has two stops scheduled in Tampa Bay this October. He’ll appear at the Flamingo Resort Oct. 3. On Oct. 4, he’ll appear at the Tampa Theatre following the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival’s screening of Naked. Sordid. Reality, a filmed version of his stand up.
He also has appearances scheduled in Wilton Manors and Fort Myers while he’s in the Sunshine State. But before beginning his tour, Shores took time to talk with Watermark his shift to stand-up, the inspiration provided by his recent divorce, convincing his fellow Queer as Folk writers that his southern upbringing is real, and those very true rumors about a Sordid sequel.
WATERMARK: So tell us a little bit about the movie Naked. Sordid. Reality.
DEL SHORES: This was my most successful tour. I always include ‘sordid’ in the title. I always say in the show ‘I’m the guy who is known for writing Sordid Lives,’ so I’d be stupid not to market myself that way. (laughs).
I always include that word just in case. In fact, the other day I was the Grand Marshal of Calgary Pride in Canada and I’m passing by, and the sign says ‘Del Shores, Grand Marshal,’ and someone really loud goes, ‘Who the hell is Del Shores?’ And I feel like if it had said ‘author of Sordid Lives’ it would have helped. (laughs). The reality in the show is because I’m obsessed with reality shows; they’re my guilty pleasure and I actually act out, verbatim, a couple of scenes from the shows.
As for the naked part, I love the word naked, I like being naked , but the show is about exposure, and telling the truth. I try to find the humor, and there’s a little bit of confession in it.
I noticed that you talk a lot about using pain in your writing. Do you think your divorce (from long-time husband and star of Sordid Lives: The Series Jason Dottley) will be a motif in future works?
I do. I think there is probably a play in me a little bit later on. It was a really painful part of my life. My first divorce was from a woman and it was all about me coming out and figuring out who I was. This one just came out of the blue. I had no idea it was coming. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with this person. The departure happened in November 2011 and I had to be back on stage in January.
The night I got back on stage I was petrified; I don’t have nerves but I still have fear and I thought ‘Given what’s going on in my heart and soul am I going to be able to go out there and be funny?’ And it’s not like you can hide it. Everyone knows your shit, even when you’re marginally famous. But the show worked and it was a very cathartic night for me. There was just something about that laughter that was healing to me.
And I know you aren’t afraid to shit talk in your performances either. Now, about Sordid Lives: The Series. I had read that the producers got too greedy and that’s why the series wasn’t picked up for a second season. What was going on there?
It was either greed or stupidity, in my opinion. What happened was we had a hit series on Logo. We had several financial partners. The owner, the producer, the big motherload,if you will, was Once Upon a Time Films. The episodes had aired and they were successful. The reviews were great and they were repeating them nonstop and Logo had ordered a second season at that point, but it was contingent on all the financial partners coming back together.
But the foreign company wasn’t on yet, as they were behind and were releasing things later than the Americans. So we were in a holding pattern, but while that was happening we started being owed residuals. So money wasn’t coming in so we said “Wait. We are on hold with you and you have to pay us so we can make a living while we wait for the second season.”
Well, he refused and because he refused the union stepped in and they all filed lawsuits against him, and that slaughtered the series because we were doing depositions, arbitrations, hearings. And no money was coming in, which is why I started doing stand-up, because I was tied to a man who was not paying me.
It was horrible. It took two years and we won every single one and we were awarded, collectively, 2.7 million.
Well, wait. That was on a Friday. On Monday he filed for bankruptcy and we got nothing. So I’m not nearly as rich as people think I am! (laughs)
But there is a happy ending, at least for us, and I guess for you creatively is that Sordid is going to have a final incarnation.
Well, I was going to do two but after I finished writing A Very Sordid Wedding, I felt like it was finished. I know, never say never.
What I did was bring everything to 2014. It’s set on the date Peggy dies, 16 years after her death. What’s great is I’m able to write about equality and the journey that we’re on because there’s (switches into a deep southern accent) a big anti-equality revival in town. (laughs).
The banner literally says “Anti-Equality Revival Begins This Saturday!” and equality is not biblical, according to the pastor. I love the script and you get to see the evolution of the characters, especially Ty and him being in a relationship. And we are launching an IndieGogo campaign, if you are interested in that.
When you were on Queer as Folk, you pitched a story in the writer’s room and nobody believed it actually happened. I wanted to know if that was true or not.
Well, it wasn’t that it was a story they were going to use, but I would always get these emails from my relatives. I would bring them in and tell them, ‘Oh my god, you won’t believe this. My aunt went to my Uncle Cecil’s funeral and my cousin showed up in shackles and chains because he’s in prison,” and they would say,’Del, you’ve got to be making some of this stuff up!’
Well, one day I got an email from Aunt Rita. She said that my Uncle Humpty was in the hospital and they were going to amputate his second leg; they had already amputated his first one from diabetes. She said, ‘You may want to call his hospital room.’ So I thought ‘“Oh my god, I’m going to go to the writer’s room and see if they want to listen in.’
So I did, and I called my Uncle Humpty’s room and my Aunt Betty Ruth answers. She is the slowest talker on the planet. We’re all listening and she gives us the update on what’s going on. Now the foot had already come off, and I said ‘Is he alright?’ And she says (in a deep, female southern accent),’Oh honey? Have you ever heard of phantom pain? It’s when you have a pain in your ankle but your ankle ain’t there anymore. Or you have a pain right below the knee but they cut off the leg right above the knee!’
Well, they were dying in the writer’s room and they never ever doubted me again.
WHO: Del Shores
WHERE: Friday, Oct. 3 at Flamingo Resort, St. Petersburg (727-321-5000); Saturday, Oct. 4 at the Tampa Theatre (TIGLFF.com)