Lea DeLaria Biography

23 May 1958, Belleville, Illinois, USA. DeLaria was raised in East St. Louis where her father played piano in a local jazz band. Becoming prominent in the world of lesbian stand-up comedy, DeLaria gained a reputation for her raunchy persona and the barbed political commentary that formed the core of her act. This controversial aspect of her work attracted attention outside the gay and lesbian community. Integrated into her stand-up comedy routines were musical numbers and, unusually for the genre, she focused on jazz. Among her comedy releases are Bulldyke In A China Shop and Box Lunch. She is also co-author with Maggie Cassella of a humorous book, Lea’s Book Of Rules For The World. From the mid-90s onwards her acting career became central and she has enjoyed success in New York where she gained a good following. Stage musicals in which DeLaria has appeared, in some instances on Broadway, include the 1999 revival of On The Town and the 2000 revival of The Rocky Horror Show. She also appeared in a production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, which starred Gwyneth Paltrow. In some instances producers have capitalized on DeLaria’s perceived persona by casting her in male roles. Although insiders considered some of her stage work in New York worthy of award, by the early 00s her only success was in winning a regional Emmy for The World According To Us. DeLaria has also appeared in supporting or guest roles on television in Matlock, Friends, The Beat, Further Tales Of The City, The Job, Will & Grace, among many. Her film roles include an appearance in Edge Of Seventeen (1998).

Building upon her lifelong love of jazz, in the early 00s DeLaria was singing more and soon had two albums and an appearance at the Monterey Jazz Festival to her credit. For Double Standards, DeLaria chose a mix of pop and rock songs that were put into a quasi-jazz setting. In March 2004, DeLaria extended her jazz affiliation with an appearance in Las Vegas, Nevada, as part of a package promoting that year’s Newport Jazz Festival. She was a member of an eight-piece band that played the University of Las Vegas’ Artemus Ham Hall, and her companions included Cedar Walton (piano), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Lew Tabackin and Ken Peplowski (saxophones), Howard Alden (guitar), Peter Washington (bass), and Karriem Riggins (drums). Not surprisingly, given her background, DeLaria was not overawed by her companions and it is to her credit that neither was she outclassed.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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