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Lea Delaria

Lea Delaria

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: May 23, 1958 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Belleville, Illinois, USA Profession: comedian, singer, actor, director, writer, playwright, construction worker

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A sparkplug comic performer, Lea DeLaria broke taboos and new ground in her now famous 1993 appearance on Arsenio Hall's talk show when she paraded around screaming "I'm a big bull dyke!" Not that anyone would confuse her with a demure young thing, but her declaration as an "out" performer came years before Ellen DeGeneres' and at a time when gays and lesbians were still virtually invisible on the small screen. Since then, DeLaria has tackled stage and screen and displayed her prodigious musical talents in nightclubs and on Broadway.The daughter of jazz pianist Robert DeLaria, she actually began her career as a jazz singer at age 16. By 1982, DeLaria had relocated to San Francisco and was persuaded to try her hand at standup. Instead of her own name, she first performed under the moniker 'the F--ing Dyke' and proved to be a hit with audiences. After a decade of playing clubs and college campuses, DeLaria made that appearance on Hall's show and her profile rose almost overnight. She debuted her club act, a mix of singing and comedy and performed at that year's gay and lesbian March on Washington. In 1994, she began acting the recurring role of a police detective in episodes of ABC's "Matlock". Her...

A sparkplug comic performer, Lea DeLaria broke taboos and new ground in her now famous 1993 appearance on Arsenio Hall's talk show when she paraded around screaming "I'm a big bull dyke!" Not that anyone would confuse her with a demure young thing, but her declaration as an "out" performer came years before Ellen DeGeneres' and at a time when gays and lesbians were still virtually invisible on the small screen. Since then, DeLaria has tackled stage and screen and displayed her prodigious musical talents in nightclubs and on Broadway.

The daughter of jazz pianist Robert DeLaria, she actually began her career as a jazz singer at age 16. By 1982, DeLaria had relocated to San Francisco and was persuaded to try her hand at standup. Instead of her own name, she first performed under the moniker 'the F--ing Dyke' and proved to be a hit with audiences. After a decade of playing clubs and college campuses, DeLaria made that appearance on Hall's show and her profile rose almost overnight. She debuted her club act, a mix of singing and comedy and performed at that year's gay and lesbian March on Washington. In 1994, she began acting the recurring role of a police detective in episodes of ABC's "Matlock". Her first film role came in 1996 in a bit part of a woman who makes a pass at Goldie Hawn in a lesbian bar in "The First Wives Club".

1997 proved a banner year for DeLaria when New York Shakespeare Festival artistic director George C Wolfe tapped her to portray the tough talking cabbie Hildy in his Central Park revival of "On the Town". While there were many who expressed disbelief at her casting, she eventually wowed critics and audiences. Those who knew her as "that lesbian comic" were shocked at her Ethel Merman-like vocal abilities and she once and for all proved she was capable of playing any role. Although the production was eventually recreated the following year indoors, it was not a success and DeLaria's much expected Tony nomination failed to materialize.

Undaunted, she soon found herself in demand and accepted a variety of roles that confounded stereotype and displayed her versatility. She crossed genders to play Marryin' Sam in a concert staging of "Li'l Abner" in 1998 and again played a taxi driver, this time chauffeuring Quentin Crisp in the indie feature "Homo Heights" (1998). DeLaria gave a nicely modulated performance as a lesbian bar owner who helps a teenager struggling with his sexual orientation in "Edge of Seventeen" (1999). She also returned to the stage in Paul Rudnick's spin on the bible "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told", toured as the prison matron Mama Morton in "Chicago" and took on a recurring role as an eccentric psychic on the ABC daytime drama "One Life to Live". DeLaria even tackled Shakespeare playing the shepherdess Audrey in a Williamstown Theatre Festival production of "As You Like It" headlined by Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow. Although her recurring role as a receptionist in a police station on UPN's "The Beat" disappeared from the airwaves rather quickly, DeLaria quickly switched gears again and accepted the roles of Eddie and Dr Scott (played by Meat Loaf in the original production) in the Broadway revival of "The Rocky Horror Show". Once again, she managed to wow audiences and critics with her charismatic stage presence and terrific vocal prowess. Aside from a voice role on the animated cartoon "The Oblongs" (WB 2001 / Adult Swim 2002), DeLaria focused almost entirely on her music career for the next decade, recording several albums of originals and jazz standards. Aside from guest appearances on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC 1999- ) and "Californication" (Showtime 2007- ), DeLaria's next acting job came in the supporting role of "Big Boo," an animal-loving member of the lesbian population in a women's prison on the critically-acclaimed series "Orange is the New Black" (Netflix 2013- ).

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Ass Backwards (2013)
2.
3.
4.
 Plump Fiction (1998) Mr Purple
5.
 Edge of Seventeen (1998) Angie
6.
 Homo Heights (1997) Clementine
7.
 First Wives Club, The (1996) Elise'S Fan
8.
 Rescuing Desire (1996) Sadie
9.
 Camp Christmas (1993) Herself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Belleville, Illinois
1974:
Began professional career at age 16 as a jazz singer (date approximate)
1982:
Moved to San Francisco
1982:
Made debut as a stand-up comic, billed as 'The Fucking Dyke'
:
Appeared frequently in comedy clubs around the USA
1993:
Appeared on the Arsenio Hall show and announced "I'm a big dyke!"
1993:
Debut comedy and music act in L.A. at Highways Performance Space
1993:
Performed at the March on Washington
1994:
Had recurring role as a detective in episodes of "Matlock" (ABC)
1995:
Acted in "Op Center"
1996:
Had cameo in "The First Wives Club"; played lesbian who makes a pass at Goldie Hawn's character
1996:
Portrayed a pool hall denizen in "Rescuing Desire"
1997:
Breakthrough stage role, played Hildy the cab driver in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of "On the Town"; show remounted in 1998 with new choreography but failed to win an audience
1998:
Cast as Marryin' Sam in the concert staging of "Li'l Abner"
1998:
Portrayed a lesbian cab driver in "Homo Heights", starring Quentin Crisp
1998:
Acted in Paul Rudnick's Off-Broadway play "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told"
1999:
Had featured role as a mentor to a young man struggling with his sexual orientation in "Edge of Seventeen"
:
Toured as Mama Morton in "Chicago"
1999:
Debuted club act "It's Delightful, It's Delicious, It's DeLaria" at Joe's Pub in NYC
1999:
Had recurring role of a psychic named Delphina on the ABC daytime drama "One Live to Live"
1999:
Played Audrey in "As You Like It" at Williamstown Theatre Festival; production starred Gwyneth Paltrow
2000:
Had recurring role as a police precinct receptionist in "The Beat", a short-lived police drama aired on UPN
2000:
Cast as Eddie/Dr Scott in the Broadway revival of "The Rocky Horror Show"
2001:
Played small role in "Armistead Maupin's Further Tales of the City" (Showtime)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

" ... in a nutshell, femme dykes pass and butch dykes don't. Even femme dykes have sort of a goddess worship that sort of surround them that comes from society, with this 'lesbian chic' kind of thing. And butch dykes don't.

"We're that dirty little secret you want to sweep under the carpet, like drag queens or nellie fags, so we get negative stuff from society and our own people," she says. "I've had people say to me -- I won't say who their names are, but they are famous people -- they have said, 'You're perpetuating a stereotype about lesbians as being truck drivers and masculine.' But, you know, we are. What's wrong with being truck drivers and masculine? I just am, I'm a butch dyke and that's the way it is." --Lea DeLaria quoted in Oasis, April 1997.

"... on stage, in trying to make points about things, the reason why I have a foul mouth is that women aren't allowed to have a foul mouth. Women aren't supposed to have a foul mouth. They're not supposed to spit and holler.

"So, when I get on-stage and do that, I'm challenging the norm of what women are allowed to be. And, it gets harsh for some people who don't get it," she says. "People are used to gay comics talking about their sexuality, but not used to them talking about sex. And that's a big difference, and women aren't supposed to talk about sex." --DeLaria to Jeff Walsh in Oasis, April 1997.

"Nobody knew I could sing like that until I did "On the Town". It really blew people away. Of course, my family came to "On the Town", and to them it was nothing. My sister said, 'I don't know what all the hype is about, Lea. I've seen you do this your whole life.' I was like, 'Well you haven't seen me quite do it on Broadway yet, have you?'" --DeLaria to Playbill online, July 29, 1999.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Jennifer Foley. Model. Met in 1996.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Robert DeLaria. Jazz pianist.

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