As one of Hollywood’s (and Instagram’s) most beloved comedians, it’s understandable why fans have questions over how Leslie Jordan died and what his cause of death was when he passed.
Jordan, whose full name was Leslie Allen Jordan, was born on April 29, 1955 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His first on-screen role was in 1986 in ABC’s TV series, The Fall Guy. After that, Jordan, who became known for his distinct Southern drawl, went on to star in shows like Murphy Brown, Will & Grace, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Star Trek: Voyager, Caroline in the City, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, Reba, Boston Public, Boston Legal, Nash Bridges, American Horror Story and Hearts Afire. He is perhaps best known for his role as Beverly Leslie in NBC’s Will & Grace, in which he played Karen Walker’s pretentious, sexually ambiguous rival. The show won him an Emmy Award in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series category at the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2006.
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At the time of his death, Jordan had more than 5.8 million Instagram followers, a majority of which came during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight in October 2020, Jordan explained how quarantine changed the course of his career. “I’m the only person that just used the pandemic to go to new heights,” he said. “Because we were hunkered down and didn’t have anything to do and I was in Tennessee with my mom and my identical twin sisters, who are 22 months younger than me…. I just started doing funny things on Instagram and [amassed] 5.5 million followers.” He continued, “I just wish it didn’t happen. I’m 65. Do you mind if I take a nap? I’m telling you, it’s just too much. Why didn’t this happen when I was in my twenties? I’d have messed it up. And I think I’ve just started, so we’ll see.”
After more than 35 years in Hollywood, Jordan died October 24, 2022. He was 67 years old. So how did Leslie Jordan die and what was his cause of death? Read on for what we know about how Leslie Jordan died and what caused his death moments before he passed.
How did Leslie Jordan die?
How did Leslie Jordan die? Jordan died in Los Angeles on the morning of Monday, October 24, 2022. He was 67 years old. TMZ reported at the time that Jordan died after he suffered a suspected medical emergency while driving to film scenes for FOX’s Call Me Kat and crashed his BMW in to a side of a building at Cahuenga Boulevard and Romaine Street in Hollywood. TMZ also reported that the crew on Call Me Kat became concerned when Jordan hadn’t arrived more than an hour after his call time, which is when they learned he had been involved in a fatal car accident. TMZ also shared a photo of the crash scene, which showed a white tent, yellow caution tape and Jordan’s car crashed head first into the side of a white building with tall glass windows. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to People that the accident occurred at around 9:30 a.m. PT.
“The world is definitely a much darker place today without the love and light of Leslie Jordan,” Jordan’s agent David Shaul said in a statement to People after his death. “Not only was he a mega talent and joy to work with, but he provided an emotional sanctuary to the nation at one of its most difficult times. What he lacked in height he made up for in generosity and greatness as a son, brother, artist, comedian, partner and human being. Knowing that he has left the world at the height of both his professional and personal life is the only solace one can have today.”
Sean Hayes, Jordan’s Will and Grace co-star, also wrote in a tweet at the time: “My heart is broken. Leslie Jordan was one of the funniest people I ever had the pleasure of working with. Everyone who ever met him, loved him. There will never be anyone like him. A unique talent with an enormous, caring heart. You will be missed, my dear friend. 😔❤️” George Takei also tweeted: “I am stunned at the death of Leslie Jordan, who delighted us with his many roles on television and film. The cause of death was a car crash after he suffered a medical emergency. Leslie, we are heartbroken at your loss and will miss your mirth and your inimitable spirit.” Ellen DeGeneres tweeted: “I just heard about Leslie Jordan. This is unbelievably tragic. He was such a light. Sending love to his family and friends.”
What was Leslie Jordan’s cause of death?
What was Leslie Jordan’s cause of death? Jordan’s cause of death was a “sudden cardiac dysfunction,” the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office confirmed in January 2023. The coroner’s office confirmed that Jordan’s death was from natural causes and listed arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease as a secondary factor. There was also no evidence of drugs or alcohol in Jordan’s system, as he had been sober for two decades at the time he died.
TMZ reported at the time he passed that Jordan’s cause of death was a suspected medical emergency he had before his car crashed. TMZ also reported that Jordan had been experiencing shortness of breath in the three weeks before his death and was scheduled to see a cardiologist the week after he passed to check out his heart and see if there were any underlying health issues. Other than the shortness of breath, sources told TMZ that Jordan was healthy, but did have COVID-19 in 2021.
Before his death, Jordan had also been open about his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, which he didn’t become sober from until he was 42 years old. In an interview with The Guardian in 2020, Jordan explained that he started using drugs after he moved to Los Angeles 1982 and became involved in West Hollywood’s gay club scene. “It started on the dancefloors and then it just escalated to where I’d get high at home and forget to leave the house,” he said at the time.
In the early 1990s, Jordan became involved with Project Angel Food, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that delivered food to people with HIV and Aids. He also became involved in a program called Project Nightlife, where he and other volunteers would provide emotional support to those dying of Aids. “I still had a little bit of a drug problem back then,” he said. “Me and my friends would do little bumps of crystal meth, then go dancing, so I’d be up all the next day and go sit with people. Smoke cigarettes and talk. At least they had company. I was wonderful company.”
Jordan became sober at the age of 42 after he served time in jail for three counts of driving under the influence in a year. “I ended up in the pokey,” he said. “That’s what I tell people: if you want to get sober, try 27 days in the LA men’s county jail. That will sober your ass up.” Jordan also revealed that he crossed paths with Robert Downey Jr., who has also been open about his struggles with addiction, while in jail.
He got sober at the age of 42. “I ended up in the pokey,” he said. “That’s what I tell people: if you want to get sober, try 27 days in the LA men’s county jail. That will sober your ass up.” “They came to me and said: ‘We don’t have any room for him, he’s downstairs waiting, but we can’t let you out until 2am.’ It’s a rule in California, that you can’t let a drunk out until after the bars close,” Jordan said, revealing that he and Downey Jr. became cellmates until Jordan was released. They met again in 2001 while filming Ally McBeal, though Downey Jr. didn’t recognize him. “He said: ‘Didn’t we? Are you?’ and I said: ‘Yep, 152, pod A, cell 13, you was top [bunk], I was bottom,'” he said.
For more about Leslie Jordan, read his memoir, How Y’all Doing?: Misadventures and Mischief from a Life Well Lived. The New York Times and USA Today bestseller, which was published just six months before Jordan’s death in a car crash on October 24, 2022, is a collection of “intimate and sassy” essays told by about the most memorable moments in Jordan’s life, from his altercation with a group of “ruffians” at a West Hollywood Starbucks to the unexpected, life-changing call he received from Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds. Told in his own words, How Y’all Doing is infused with Jordan’s “fresh and saucy humor and pure heart.” “How Y’all Doing? is an authentic, warm, and joyful portrait of an American Sweetheart— a Southern Baptist celebutante, first-rate raconteur, and keen observer of the odd side of life whose quirky wit rivals the likes of Amy Sedaris, Jenny Lawson, David Rakoff and Sarah Vowell,” the publisher’s description reads.
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