[quick aside – why on earth are women with beautiful Italian names pronouncing them so Americanized? Lea DeL/ae/ria — Laura Ben/ae/nti? Seriously, folks, people would be able to wrap their mouths around the taller /a/ vowel without any problem; pronounce your names the way they’re intended]
I have seen Lea DeLaria on TV since the 1990s, when she started doing stand-up as the first openly lesbian comic on late night and cable TV programs. And then I saw that she was doing Broadway, doing roles like Hildy in On the Town (with Jesse Tyler Ferguson as her love interest) and Eddie/Dr. Scott in Rocky Horror Picture Show.
But my fascination with Lea DeLaria came when she played the psychic Madame Delphina on One Life to Live. OLTL was a bizarre soap – it used a lot of New York actors (who were often doing double duty in roles on Broadway) and was much more socially conscious than your average soap. Yes, there were people returning from the dead, evil twins, multiple personalities, etc., but there were also storylines about equal marriage and antiwar sentiments. It was quirky. And then she played a drag role, Professor Del Fina (you see what they did there?). As Delphina, she would hear voices and randomly turn around and converse with them, usually in a somewhat irritated fashion.
Of course, since then I’ve seen her in things like Orange is the New Black, where she plays Boo.
It was an amazing show. She’s raunchy. Very raunchy. But her voice is capable of so much inflection. She can purr, she can growl, she can yell, she can croon.
I thought of Barbara Cook last night, even though vocally they could not be more different. Lea’s carrying on the tradition. She’s still telling the story, she’s true to the text, she’s authentic. There are still people out there who can tell the tales.