My interview with the incomparable Ann Walker, “LaVonda” from Sordid Lives!

Somewhere in Palm Springs, there is a couple running around who can say they were married by LaVonda Dupree, the red-haired, foul-mouthed hell raiser from Sordid Lives.

e343e95d-51c5-453e-a24f-59cc3727091c_annwalker “I performed my first ceremony in Palm Springs last weekend,” said Ann Walker, the award-winning actress who has portrayed LaVonda for nearly 20 years and who told me proudly that she recently became an ordained minister. “If you want me to marry you, track me down!”

Ms. Walker was gracious enough to spend a colorful morning with me, sharing her thoughts on her life and career, as well as the world around her. After spending decades in the limelight as a character actor, thespian of the stage, and now radio host, she has plenty of stories to tell and opinions to spout.

True to her most famous alter ago, when talking about politicians and the state of the country, the “F-bomb” flows freely…with no apologies.

“’Fuck’ has always been one of my favorite words,” Ann told me during our chat. “If I ever were to write a book about my life, that will be the title.”

Curious to see just how animated I could get the vocabulary, I asked Ann her thoughts on the recent government shutdown.

“It was the most ridiculous, insane act I have ever witnessed in all the years I have followed politics,” she told me. “(Senator Ted) Cruz is the last person who should have any kind of authority over anything. He is trying to recruit Fox listeners, and Cruz is only out for Cruz. The whole thing was an exercise in stupidity. We lost $24 billion in the 16 days of the shutdown. That could have fed the poor and the hungry in this country. I swear, they are motivated to pull their stunts just because they hate our black president; they don’t even try to hide it.”

In October of 2011, radio personality Tony Sweet started a radio station, and Ann jumped aboard with a talk show of her own. Today, the two are partners in the newest internet radio station, Universal Broadcasting Network, (, where Ann is more than happy to have an outlet for her views on life and politics.

“I definitely was bitten by the radio bug. I could be myself, outspoken and candid. It gave me so much joy and pleasure, and I built up a fan base.”

Since hitting the net last February, the station has grown by leaps and bounds, from 10 shows to 30…and more are in the works. Ann’s show deals not only with politics, but other important issues such as child protective services, Scientology, and of course, those issues affecting the LBGT community.

“This is the first time I have ever had a company, and it is never dull, whether you are balancing the personalities of the radio hosts or dealing with technical glitches,” Ann said. “We have created a wonderful group of people here. Every day is a new day, with new challenges, but I am a proponent of staying calm and figuring out what to do to fix a problem.”

Of course, Ann has come to terms with the fact that her biggest claim to fame and her lasting legacy will always be her portrayal of the rough but lovable sister and aunt, LaVonda from the acclaimed cult hit film and television series, Sordid Lives.

Click the photo to see a Sordid Lives:The Series clip featuring LaVonda!

Click here to see Ann in action as LaVonda, in a scene with Rue McClanahan!

“Sordid Lives is just something that won’t go away. We have so many fans, and it is a fiercely loyal family through their love for the movies and series.”

And fans of everyone’s favorite dysfunctional family have reason to rejoice. Del Shores recently told me there are more Sordid Lives movies in the works, something Ann confirmed.

“Even if they go straight to DVD, we don’t care,” she said. “We just know that the fans want to see more from us, and we are determined to get these characters back out there.”

Ann Walker grew up in Houston, moving to Los Angeles in 1974 to pursue a career in show business.

“I knew at the age of nine that I wanted to be an actress,” she said. “We had three beautiful downtown theaters where I grew up, and I watched movies all day on Saturdays. Susan Hayward, Joan Crawford, and Barbara Stanwyck were my inspirations.”

When she was old enough, Ann attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York (“Even before I left Houston, I was a big fish in a little pond.”), but soon decided that Los Angeles was the place to set up shop and begin her acting career (“In L.A., I could drive my car, and I had air conditioning.”)

In the ensuing years, she starred in a mittful of stage plays, including Rain, Steel Magnolias, and The Glass Menagerie, as well as film and television appearances such as Father of the Bride II, The Fanatics, MadTV, and Willing to Kill, The Texas Cheerleader Story.

One project, however, remains close to her heart.

“I played Leslie Jordan’s sister on the stage in Hysterical Blindness (and Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued My Life Thus Far). A young writer, Tyler Hansen, saw my performance and asked if I would read a play he wrote called Ballad. I read it cover to cover, laughing and crying my eyes out the whole time. I called him and said we need to do this. “

In Ballad, Ann plays an alcoholic mother whose son reveals he has AIDS shortly before succumbing to the disease.

“We tried for three years to get a backer, with no luck,” she said. “Finally, I did everything I could to raise money and we financed and produced the play ourselves. I got to do every emotion I have ever felt during the course of that play. I look back very fondly on that play and that period.

“And then LaVonda came along.”

Del Shores’ cult hit Sordid Lives made its first stage appearance in 1996 and ultimately won 14 Drama League Awards. The sidesplitting “Black Comedy about White Trash” struck a chord with scores of fans who could relate to the Southern sensibilities and prejudices.

1395902_414614815333704_1066404929_nAnn has performed as LaVonda Dupree, a role Del created with her in mind, since the play’s inception.

“He wrote that part for me. LaVonda is the extra part of me; she is a rebel-rouser.”

A film version followed in 2000, as well as a television series on LOGO in 2008. A favorite among fans is the “call waiting” episode, where LaVonda’s star shines as the spotlight of the piece.

“I had 23 pages of dialog I was doing that day,” Ann said. “We originally were going to use cue cards, and then I found out three days before the shoot that we couldn’t because of the mirrors in the beauty shop. Emerson (Collins) was lying on the floor, doing everyone else’s parts.  We filmed until 11:30 that night.

“I was so proud of that episode.”

The series also gave Ann the chance to perform alongside one of her idols, Rue McClanahan.

“Some of the best times I have had in all of my years in the business were working with Rue,” she said with a sigh of nostalgia and a touch of sadness in her voice.

Ann also stars in Del’s newest film, an adaptation of his popular stage play Southern Baptist Sissies.

“I originated the role in the play that Dale Dickey plays in the film. It is such a poignant play; the power and the message are amazing things. When I performed the play, people would line up after the performance and tell us their own stories. So many people can relate to being raised in this kind of religious environment.”

Tackling homophobia and bigotry much more directly and intensely than Sordid Lives, Southern Baptist Sissies is a sometimes heart wrenching look at blind hatred and how it affects vulnerable youth.

“To speak out in support of the gay community has been something I have always wanted to do,” Ann said. “I didn’t even know what ‘gay’ was until I was 17. I grew up in a home where you didn’t hear gay people being put down or made fun of. When you’re an actor, there are so many wonderful people who are co-stars, costumers, lighting engineers, and run the set who are gay. You don’t even think about it.

“I will continue to speak out as much as I can, in my work and on my show. The gay community needs all of the straight advocates it can get.”

Another of Ann’s recent projects is the web series Child of the 70s, created by Michael Vaccaro. Ann plays spoiled celebrity Kiki, married to lecherous agent Larry (played by Bruce Vilanch).

“I love getting to play a real bitch. I love Kiki; she is a hoot, poor thing. Michael wrote a wonderful character when he created her.

“The series is made on such a shoestring budget; it’s like shooting kamikaze television. And come on…I am playing a character who is married to Bruce Vilanch….Lord. I would never have thought I would be doing that. He is hysterical…I love working with Bruce.”

Click here to see Ann in "Child of the '70s"!
Click the photo to see Ann in “Child of the ’70s”!

Click here to see Ann as Kiki in Child of the ’70s!

And although Ann is very much like her characters, rough and outspoken, she also is very sweet and incredibly down-to-earth. During our conversation, I was never once “Fred” or “Mr. Pollard”; I was always “sweetie,” “honey,” or “dear.”

“In this business, I think you often have to have at least somewhat of a filter,” she says. “Well if you know me, you know have no filter these days. I am living more of an authentic life, but I think I have learned to be a little more tactful.

“For the first time in my life, what you see is what you get.”

Ann hosts her radio show every Wednesday evening from 6-7:30 PST, where you can hear her rooting for the underdog, welcoming guests, and taking calls from her listeners.

Check out the Ann Walker Show online here!

Walker can also be seen in the new theatrical film, Big Gay Love.

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