Leon Acord came to my attention through Goddess Fish Promotions.
Leon Acord is an award-winning actor and writer who has appeared in over 35 films you’ve never seen and 30 plays you’ve never heard of. Possible exceptions include the digital TV series Old Dogs & New Tricks on Amazon Prime Video (which he created, wrote & co-produced), and the stage hit Carved in Stone (in which he played Quentin Crisp in both SF and LA productions). His memoir, SUB-LEBRITY: The Queer Life of a Show-Biz Footnote, is now available in paperback & e-book on Amazon. He wrote his one-man show Last Sunday in June (1996) and co-authored the 2014 play Setting the Record Gay. He was a “Take Five” columnist for Back Stage West throughout 2009 and a former contributor to Huffington Post. He has also written for San Francisco Examiner and the journal Human Prospect. He currently lives in West LA with husband Laurence Whiting & their cat Toby. Learn more at www.LeonAcord.com
Tell us about yourself.
I’m out-and-loud middle-aged gay actor who, after 30 years in the business, remains remarkably under-exposed! I grew up very gay in rural Indiana in the ‘60s and ‘70s, moved to San Francisco where I worked constantly as an actor in the ‘80s and ‘90s. But after I moved to LA in 2004, my career lost a lot of steam. So, I created and wrote and acted in the web series Old Dogs & New Tricks [2011-2016, Amazon Prime] and my acting career, as well as my life, found its second wind.
And then, there’s my “feud” with Susan Olsen, who played “Cindy” in The Brady Bunch. We had a very public and very publicized blow-up after I guested on her political radio talk show, and she called me the “f word,” back in 2016. It was a media firestorm for about three days back then. It’s all but forgotten now, as we’ve been bashed by scandals on the daily. But folks can read all the details about that in my book, too.
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I knew I always wanted to be an actor, since very early on. As for writing, well, writing was something I’d always done, always enjoyed, and always took for granted. I dabbled in it, off and on. I actually got paid as a reporter on my hometown daily newspaper, the Kokomo Tribune, when I was a teenager. Then, during a break in college, when I thought I’d give up acting, I wrote a very trashy novel that I never tried to get published because it was instantly dated the moment it was completed. Ahh, the ‘80s! I still have it stashed around here somewhere!
Off and on, I toyed with writing a book. But it wasn’t until after I created and wrote my series Old Dogs & New Tricks [2011-2016, Amazon Prime] that I truly felt I earned the right to call myself a writer. I then had the confidence to try writing something else.
What genres do you like to read? Are these the same genres you write in?
My favorite genre, yes, is show-business biographies and memoirs. It doesn’t matter if its an actor or actress I admire, or writer, or whatever. I’ll want to read them! I found they really helped keep me inspired when I was a young actor starting out. It helped to read about the set-backs actors I admired had suffered through as I was suffering through them myself the first time.
And because SUB-LEBRITY* is also a show-biz memoir, albeit written by a non-famous actor, all those books inspired me all over again.
Is your book for adults, young adults or children?
Oh, SUB-LEBRITY* is most definitely not for children. Young adults? I don’t know, I read Valley of the Dolls when I was 12, and that was a century ago. So perhaps for the precocious young adult reader, it’s okay. I mean, its titillating but not terribly explicit, really. I could be wrong, though!
What is your current release or project?
SUB-LEBRITY* is out now. It’s my first book. It’s what I call, with tongue-in-cheek, a “comic Hollywood memoir by a non-famous actor.”
Tell us about the key characters
Well, SUB-LEBRITY* is my memoir, so the main character is me (he said, egotistically). An assortment of high school chums, a lot of ex-boyfriends and one terrific husband. Lots of show-biz colleagues, some of them famous, most of them nice, some of them not. The cast and folks behind the camera on Old Dogs feature heavily, as does my good friend Jeffrey Hartgraves, who gave me my best stage role ever, as Quentin Crisp in Carved in Stone, and who passed away tragically. But from the feedback I’m getting, the favorite “supporting characters” of readers have been my parents. All my friends loved them when I was a kid. And it hasn’t changed. Now, even I love them even more than before. If that’s possible! Writing the book really showed me the absolutely wonderful parents I have.
What is your blurb or synopsis of the book?
A droll, oddly inspirational memoir from the actor Breitbart called “a gay leftist activist,” SUB-LEBRITY* The Queer Life of a Show-Biz Footnote by Leon Acord (Old Dogs & New Tricks) is an honest, sometimes bitchy but always sincere story about growing up (very) gay in rural Indiana, achieving acting success outside the closet, and generating headlines with his very-public smackdown with Trump-loving Susan Olsen (Cindy, The Brady Bunch).
“A life in the arts is richly rewarding, even if it doesn’t reward one with riches.”
From Indiana farm boy to San Francisco queer-theatre veteran…
From creator/star of the seminal gay web TV series Old Dogs & New Tricks
to his infamous role as Cindy Brady’s political archenemy…
Actor Leon Acord’s story, told in his singular, cheeky voice, is “like any other Hollywood memoir, with affairs, feuds, flops & triumphs. The only difference is, I’m not famous!”
With photos & stories from dozens of film & theatre roles, plus tales of bad auditions and a sampling of his hate mail, you’ll learn exactly why Acord never became a star!
Share an excerpt
(Here’s a bit, about my “Ah Ha!” moment on a high-school stage.)
I didn’t bother auditioning for the school musical that year. There was no point. The new plug-up-her-butt choir teacher was in charge of casting – and earlier that year, she’d slapped me in front of the entire choir after she heard me call her a “grumpy bitch” to another student. That kind of thing sorta kills your chances. (I took the slap like a man. I’d earned it, after all!)
I was now taking drama with Miss Patsie Ronk, another remarkable teacher who became an inspiration. She recognized my driving interest in acting and my wildly unexplored, undeveloped talent, and encouraged me to pursue my theatrical aspirations.
She suggested I check Pasadena Playhouse’s training program in LA as a higher-learning option. For the first time, a grown-up was encouraging me to pursue acting!
She was in charge of the school’s junior and senior class plays, so I knew I had a chance. I auditioned for Arsenic & Old Lace, and was cast in the lead, Mortimer Brewster.
After how Harry Beaton screamingly made his presence known, I had trouble at first finding nervous, neurotic Mortimer.
“I can’t find this character!” I cried to Dibble at rehearsal one after-noon.
“Stop trying,” he advised. “You are this character!”
I was so busy at school, so focused on so many things I loved, I stopped noticing if or when bully-boy classmates said hateful remarks. Were they still carrying on with that nonsense?
Oh, they were. In fact, the bullies were quietly plotting their biggest stunt yet.
One of my nemeses from the jock clique, Rick Sisson, was slumming, playing the bit part of an “Old Man” about to be poisoned by two murderous old ladies in Arsenic & Old Lace.
As Mortimer, I was to rush on stage, see the Old Man about to drink a glass of poisoned elderberry wine, grab him by the jacket, and shove him out of my crazy aunts’ house.
That was how we’d been playing it.
For closing night, he and his jock buddies thought of a hilarious prank. Instead of setting his glass of fake wine on the table before I grabbed him, he’d throw the full glass of Hawaiian Punch into my face! It was closing night, why not? Smear the queer!
The sizable high-school auditorium was packed with a rowdy closing-night crowd of parents, faculty and friends, unaware they were about to witness my humiliation.
The moment arrived. I entered, rushed to the Old Man with the glass near his lips, and SPLASH!
I was stunned. Rick rushed through the door and off stage before I could do a thing.
The audience erupted with laughter. Erupted! And didn’t stop!
I’d seen it on sitcoms all my short life. Actors forced to hold for a laugh. I lived for the moments on the Carol Burnett Show when something went wrong or when the actors tried not to laugh. And now, I was experiencing that myself. It felt wonderful!
Rick wanted me to feel like Carrie White. Instead, I felt like Cary Grant.
The two teenaged actresses playing my aunts just watched, trying not to laugh themselves.
I felt myself about to smile. I turned my back to the audience and fumbled through a desk on stage, pretending to blindly look for a handkerchief – a cover until I could wipe the now-gigantic smile off my face. The audience found this hilarious and continued howling.
Back in character, I gave up at the desk and turned to face the audience just as the laugh was softening. I instinctively yanked off my clip-on tie and began dabbing my wet face with it.
The audience screamed with laughter again – this time, the laughter morphed into applause.
The song from the Broadway musical Applause is right – it’s better than pot, it’s better than booze. Waiting out a long laugh break, instinctively finding ways to prolong it, riding it like a surfer on a wave, then crashing against the shore in a loud burst of applause, is the best feeling in the world.
I had flirted with the idea of being an actor, among other creative pursuits, all though childhood.
But in this moment, I knew. I’d spend the rest of my life chasing that feeling.
Do you have a favorite scene?
Ha! My favorite scene was always the last scene I’d just finished. Since the book came out, I haven’t really thought about it. Let’s see. There’s the time the famous San Francisco casting director told me I was “too gay” to ever find acting success! It was also fun to write the chapter “Kissing the Frogs,” about all the awful guys I’d dated before I met my wonderful husband, Laurence Whiting.
I suppose the most emotional part of the book is the section about Jeffrey Hartgraves’ fight against cancer, and our race against time to produce Carved in Stone a second time. I thought that would be the hardest part of the book to write, so I saved it until last. Surprisingly, it turned out to be the easiest part of the book to write.
What advice would you give a beginner?
Just write. Keep a journal, write in it every day. Read as much as you can get your hands on. Be involved in current events. And slowly find your groove. Do you prefer writing by hand or by computer? Do you write better late at night, first thing in the morning? Play around. Have fun while you find your “voice.” And know that your voice can and will change project to project.
And, oh yeah, vote, please!
Old Dogs & New Tricks website: www.odnt.tva Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js