Leslie Jordan, the actor, comedian and musician known for his roles in “Will & Grace” and “American Horror Story” and for his uplifting pandemic Instagram videos, died after a car crash Monday in Hollywood.
Jordan, 67, won an Emmy in 2006 for his performance as the snide Beverley Leslie in the hit TV show “Will & Grace.” His co-stars were among the many who paid tribute on social media Monday.
Jordan was behind the wheel of a BMW when he crashed into the side of a building at Cahuenga Boulevard and Romaine Street at 9:30 a.m., Los Angeles Police Department Officer Lizeth Lomeli told The Times. The longtime actor and writer was declared dead at the scene.
It was not immediately clear whether Jordan was killed in the crash or suffered a medical emergency beforehand, but the condition of the vehicle suggested Jordan may have lost control before slamming into the building, a law enforcement source said.
At the scene of the crash, black skid marks from Cahuenga Boulevard led onto the sidewalk where Jordan’s BMW had slammed into the building, its metal facade dented.
By late Monday afternoon, the BMW had been replaced by bundles of lilies and chrysanthemums and a handwritten note on lined paper: “Thank you for being a light in this world! You will be missed. RIP!”
Several people visited the site to take photos and somberly stare at the makeshift memorial.
Dan Mryglot, a resident of West Hollywood and managing editor of the WeHo Times, stopped by after working out at the nearby Gold’s Gym.
“He was in on the joke,” he said. “He knew he was a little effeminate man and he profited from it — it’s great.”
Aaron Rosenberg, who lives down the street from the crash site, said he felt a strong connection to Jordan, calling him a “gay icon.”
“He opened a lot of doors for the whole community,” he said.
Joey Wiser and Felipe Araipa also dropped by on their way home to visit the memorial. Both grew up watching Jordan on “Will & Grace” and were among the millions who tuned into his amusing pandemic dispatches.
“I think it brought a lot of us together in a time when we were not sure what was going on,” Wiser said of Jordan’s Instagram videos.
Chloë Phoenix, who drove to the site with her mother, Jessie, and sister Jazmine, gleefully pulled out her phone and grinned while watching one of Jordan’s viral videos, where he spins with a baton in hand, yelling, “Daddy, watch me twirl!”
Phoenix and her sister said they admired how he represented the LGBTQ community. Their mother said Jazmine was in tears after learning about Jordan’s death.
“Not a lot of celebrities touch you in that way,” Jessie said after the family lighted a prayer candle alongside the flowers. “This was a total crush for us.”
After Jordan got his big break in 1989 when he was cast in the first season of “Murphy Brown,” his 30-year career was marked by scene-stealing roles in TV shows such as “Bodies of Evidence” and “Hearts Afire.”
His fame grew while starring in NBC’s “Will & Grace,” as well as stints on Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story” franchise and “The Cool Kids,” in which he played queer, confident senior citizen Sid Delacroix. More recently, Jordan was starring in the Fox sitcom “Call Me Kat,” which premiered its third season last month.
While holed up in an apartment in his native Chattanooga, Tenn., during the early months of the pandemic in 2020, Jordan found viral fame with a constant string of comedic videos posted to his Instagram. He amassed 5.8 million followers, including many celebrities, who tuned in to hear his sassy stories relayed in his Southern accent.
Greeting his followers with his iconic sign-on, “Well, s—, what are y’all doin’?” and posting twice a day for 80 days, Jordan would quip about day-to-day life during the pandemic. He gave colorful reactions to new music, such as Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s single, “WAP.” He created dance montages to pop music from his backyard to his living room. And while on walks, he humorously recalled moments from his acting career.
“A friend of mine called from California and said, ‘You have gone viral.’ And I said, ‘No, honey, I’m fine. I don’t have COVID,’” Jordan joked in one of the videos. “I don’t know how I did it because now I scramble for content…. Every day, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my God! I need to post. What should I come up with?’”
David Shaul, the actor’s representative, issued a statement on his death.
“The world is definitely a much darker place today without the love and light of Leslie Jordan,” Shaul said. “Not only was he a mega talent and joy to work with, but he provided an emotional sanctuary to the nation at one of its most difficult times. What he lacked in height he made up for in generosity and greatness as a son, brother, artist, comedian, partner and human being. Knowing that he has left the world at the height of both his professional and personal life is the only solace one can have today.”
Tributes from Hollywood began pouring in after news of Jordan’s death spread on social media, including from his “Will & Grace” co-stars.
Eric McCormack, who starred as Will Truman on the sitcom, celebrated the diminutive dandy — Jordan was 4 feet 11 — as the “funniest & flirtiest Southern gent I’ve ever known.”
“The joy and laughter he brought to every one of his #WillandGrace episodes was palpable. Gone about thirty years too soon. You were loved, sweet man,” McCormack tweeted.
“Will & Grace” co-star Sean Hayes also chimed in, saying: “Leslie Jordan was one of the funniest people I ever had the pleasure of working with.”
“Everyone who ever met him, loved him,” Hayes tweeted. “There will never be anyone like him. A unique talent with an enormous, caring heart. You will be missed, my dear friend.”
“Leslie was flawlessly funny, a virtuoso of comedy. his timing, his delivery, all apparently effortless. you can’t get any better than that,” wrote Megan Mullally, who played Karen Walker, Jordan’s archrival, on “Will & Grace.”
Actor Lynda Carter, who portrayed Wonder Woman in the eponymous 1970s TV show, said Jordan’s pandemic-era videos “put a smile on the faces of so many.”
“What a feat to keep us all laughing and connected in such difficult times…. It feels so cruel that this could happen to such a beautiful soul,” Carter wrote.
Some mourners also celebrated Jordan, who was openly gay, as an LGBTQ icon who expanded the possibilities of queer identity on and off the screen.
Drag queen Trinity the Tuck said she had just seen Jordan in L.A. last week and considered the actor “such a queer icon to me.”
Trinity said she drew inspiration from the LGBTQ cult classic “Sordid Lives,” a 2000 film based on a play of the same name, in which Jordan played Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram, a gay drag queen whose Texas family struggles to accept him.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said Jordan “was a multi-talented entertainer who charmed audiences for decades with heartfelt characters on-screen and passionate LGBTQ advocacy off-screen.” The advocacy group called him “a loyal friend to so many LGBTQ organizations including GLAAD,” who also “made it a priority to help increase visibility for LGBTQ for people in the South.”
In many of his Instagram videos, Jordan shared stories of the difficulties growing up gay in a religious environment with a father who served in the military. Jordan, who had been sober for two decades, said he coped by turning to alcohol and drugs.
“There was a feeling that I was a little bit of a disappointment,” he recalled during one video. The actor then revealed that he struggled more with being “effeminate” than with being gay. “I open my mouth and 50 yards of purple chiffon come out,” he said.
In a June 2020 interview with the New York Times, Jordan said his queer identity allowed him to find solidarity during the uprisings following the murder of George Floyd. He turned over his Instagram account to Deesha Dyer, a former Cabinet member of the Obama administration, to lead a conversation on systemic racism.
“I’m really divided whether I would go on Instagram or anything about it,” Jordan said. “But when you have 4.7 million followers, I mean, you can’t just sit silent. I’m a gay man who went through a lot of the early gay rights movement.”
Beyond acting, Jordan also dabbled in music as an extension of his Instagram posts where he sang hymns on Sundays. Rooted in his church upbringing, those videos inspired him to make an album of country gospel, 2021’s “Company’s Comin’,” which featured guests such as Dolly Parton and Brandi Carlile.
Talking to the Los Angeles Times to promote the album, Jordan reflected on his journey in Hollywood.
“When I got off the bus in 1982, I had $1,200. I came from Tennessee to L.A., and I had a little bit of money and I had my degree in theater. I couldn’t pronounce it. I called it ‘THEE-ate-er,’” he said.
“So I had a list of what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to be in movies and TV, but this [album] was so far off the radar. It’s not like I sit and think, ‘What’s the next big challenge?’ It has just always happened for me. I’ve had a really blessed career. I’m just along for the ride.”