A memoir by Leon Acord

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A droll, oddly inspirational memoir from the actor Breitbart once called \”a gay leftist activist,\” SUB-LEBRITY 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)


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.

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A Guest Post from Leon Acord

“The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence.” Gertrude Stein

Thanks a lot, Gertie! You clearly never lived through a pandemic!

Whoops! Google quickly reveals Ms. Stein was born in 1874, meaning she was 43-ish when the “Spanish Flu” ravaged the world.

I stand corrected. So much for that opener! So, let’s cut to the chase.

My point is, it’s a damned rotten time to be a comic actor or writer.

Yes, the world could use more laughs right now. And even with most of “legitimate” entertainment industry shuttered for the duration, many artists are finding inspiring new ways of working, and of sharing that work.

God bless everyone who have risen to the occasion, from Randy Rainbow to Tordick Hall to every TV show that has staged a Zoom-based reunion. I even did one of those myself, with the cast from my 2011-2016 gay sitcom Old Dogs & New Tricks (shameless plug: you can watch it on Amazon Prime).

See what just happened? My train of thought completely jumped the tracks, right off the bridge, and into a ravine below. (Again!)

That’s the problem, at least for me, during this bizarre time. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to focus. As life becomes more depressing, finding “the funny” gets more elusive.

Case in point:

I was recently invited to submit a writer’s packet to a very respected, late-night network comedy program, for an opening on said show’s writing staff. It was the chance of a lifetime, right?

One little problem: I’ve never written “stand up” – much less political stand-up – in my life. When I wrote Old Dogs, I always “found the funny” with the interaction of the diverse characters. My show rarely resorted to “punch lines.” While we sometimes made political statements, we never directly commented on current events (save for when marriage equality became law. We had to address that!)

In my recently released, tongue-in-cheek memoir SUB-LEBRITY* The Queer Life of a Show-Biz Footnote, most of the humor is self-deprecating, stemming from almost 30 years in this bizarre business called show.

But I love a challenge. I can do this! I lied to myself.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always followed current events. But for the next three days, I nosedived deep into the news. I read the Los Angeles Times front to back (well, I skipped Sports). I watched CNN, MSNBC, even (gasp!) FOX News. I scoured the Times’ and the Post’s sites. I held my nose and went for a swim in the sewer that is the presidential Twitter feed.

But try as I might, the more informed I became, the less funny I grew. Adding to the pressure? These shows are written fast! There’s no time for indecision or navel-gazing as you comment on the news viewers just watched before your show came on.

I’m a writer who’ll spend an entire day agonizing over a sentence’s structure. I’ll spend an hour searching for the most concise, descriptive word. My work style seemed in direct opposition to the task at hand. But I still refused to give up.

I finally pulled together a monologue I was proud of, and a “roll in” – a fake commercial for the “Portland Tourist Bureau”. I wrote a pitchy cover email and hit “send.”

Ordinarily, I forget about a prospective gig as soon as the audition ends, or right after I drop the script in the mailbox. Not this time.

Leon, you made yourself sick this week, watching and reading the news, trying to find humor out of this national nightmare, trying to turn out ‘the funny’ on the dime, I scolded myself. What if you actually land this gig?”

My imagination jumped a year ahead. I saw my future self smoking furiously (even though I gave it up last year), drinking Maalox for an ulcer I don’t yet have, pacing like mad, driven crazy by the pressure to be funny, each day, every day, no matter how horrible the headlines.

I imagined leaving California, my home for the past 35 years, and relocating to Manhattan. When I was younger, New York City was enticing. But, at 57, was I ready now to trade LA mellow for NYC chaos?

Get a grip! They’ll never offer you the job in a million years, I reminded myself.

And I’m thrilled to report, I was right!

I’ve never been so happy to be rejected (and the email was very complimentary).

I realize, until our national prognosis improves, I’m lucky to pull off a mere blog post. I’m not so sure I was “lucky” this time! To see how what a good writer I used to be, when I could “find the funny” and maintain my point for more than just a few paragraphs, please read SUB-LEBRITY*. It has the feuds, affairs, flops & triumphs of any “Hollywood memoir” – the only difference is, I’m not famous! It might not provide an “antidote” to the despair we’re collectively going through, but it will provide you a temporary escape from the current headlines. And, I hope, more than a few laughs.

PS: Please vote!

About Leon Acord


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>

Find him online:
Old Dogs & New Tricks website


Leon Acord will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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