Friday, October 06, 2006

Sordid Lives

In 2000, a cheaply made film adaptation of a play by Del Shores called "Sordid Lives" started a run at Palm Springs' art-house movie theaters, and two years later the movie was still running, leading to the literal financial salvation of the theaters.

The cult movie's fans in Coachella Valley would come see the movie repeatedly, and they were equal parts gay men and older women (the blue-hair set, as they are known), a potent combo down in the desert.

Del Shores, the Los Angeles based, 49-year-old writer/director/producer, has written a handful of plays that seem to straddle the "Greater Tuna" and "Steel Magnolias" divide, being both humorous and sentimental takes about Texas working-class trash and their travails.

A three-play series has pulled into Palm Springs this weekend featuring the entire Shores theater troupe, most of whom appeared in the "Sordid Lies" movie and who have appeared in his other plays in Los Angeles.

In celebration, the City of Palm Springs awarded Del a star on Palm Canyon Drive in front of the Palm Canyon Theater where the local community theatre group puts on its season.

After the sidewalk star coronation, the Camelot Theatres had a free showing of "Sordid Lives"...

...along with a party featuring the cast. That's Ann Walker (LaVonda DuPree) above.

budiklavan, a commentator from Irving, TX had this to say about the DVD on the IMDB database:

"As a rule, I hate superlatives, but this is one of the 4 or 5 funniest movies I've ever seen. Everyone in the cast is excellent, though I have to single out Beth Grant and Leslie Jordan, who give the greatest performances of their great careers (so far). The only shortcoming of the film is the Ty-in-L.A. scenes. They aren't really bad per se, but "coming out angst" scenes appeal to virtually no one besides the screenwriter. If you're gay, you're sick of them, and if you aren't, they either offend you or mean nothing to you. They should've been left out (or at least scaled back)."

The "coming out" storyline was tiresome, but it was obviously sincere as Del Shores himself had been married with kids before coming out himself. In fact, he cast both his mother-in-law and father-in-law, Rosemary and Newell Alexander with juicy roles in his plays and the movie and they were at the screening hanging out with their fans (see above).

There are a number of "minor" actors who give major comic performances in their roles, and one of the most amazing is Sarah Hunley as the ubiquitous barfly, Juanita Bartlett.

Her steady application of blood-red lipstick to her lips while never taking her cigarette out of her mouth is an instant classic.

A gentlemen next to me who had seen the film three times refused to believe that the woman in front of us had actually played the part of Juanita in the movie, which left her a bit nonplused.

It was easy to see the appeal of the film. Hollywood and New York entertainment conglomerates tend to patronize Southerners and working people and just plain regular, fucked-up folks.

Like the "Greater Tuna" series, "Sordid Lives" makes fun of people with serious affection running through the satire, and that's rare.

Plus, there are enough classic one-liners to populate dozens of movies.

The one that's made it onto a T-shirt already is "Just shoot her Wardell. Shoot her in the head." which in context is almost worth the price of admission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You know, I'd heard of "Sordid Lives," but never really understood what the heck it was about, or why it was so hugely popular...thanks for filling us in. Now I want to see it just for the ubiquitous barfly...