Take the glamour, style, and sophistication of show biz tradition, and add the digital era’s DYI energy, and you wind up with a transcendent and unique performer/artist like Victoria Gordon. With a touch of class she inherited from her show-business family and a keen eye and ear for what both physically present and socially distant audiences might want, the multitalented Gordon is a force to be admired.
This spring and summer will see Gordon debuting a new anthology web series, “Pilot Season,” bringing five completely different stories to life, with a comedic tone she describes as somewhere between “Gilmore Girls” and “Better Things.” Meanwhile, she’s also preparing for a series of sold-out, socially distanced cabaret performances, after spending the past year perfecting her act in quarantine via a series of Twitch performances called “Live on Sunday.”
Gordon grew up and attended Beverly Hills High School and graduated magna cum laude from USC before winning acclaim as a short filmmaker and continuing her lifelong passion for stage performance. It’s no surprise she turned to the performing arts, as her great-uncle Dr. Ernst Katz was founder and conductor of the legendary Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic, and her grandfather was television comedy writer Al Gordon, whose award-winning career spanned everything from “The Jack Benny Program” to “Three’s Company.” When you grow up with Army Archerd as a family friend and getting performance advice from the likes of Florence Henderson, like Gordon has, you develop a deep appreciation for the professional side of the business – and you also have a lot of great stories to share.
Victoria Gordon is a vibrant bridge between the rapidly-fading show business past and the new era of digital native creators, finding a way to connect that legacy and tradition to the new technologies and platforms and a new generation of audiences. Whether she’s behind the camera or with microphone in hand, there’s no denying she’s got what it takes to entertain. It’s in her blood.
What becomes a legacy most?
If you are actress-singer-creator VICTORIA GORDON, it means taking all of the things you learned growing up in a show business family and making it your own. To that end, Gordon, a third generation entertainer, turns her well-earned respect for the past into new creations for new audiences. In addition to preparing for some of her “sold-out” socially distanced cabaret concerts later this Spring, she’s also about to launch a new self-produced anthology web series that demonstrates how even in the pandemic era, the show must go on.
“The web series is based on a collection of stuff I’ve written over the years,” explains Gordon of the series, called – playfully – “Pilot Season.” “Every one has a different cast, a different story, and all fit the requirements for ‘pandemic’ filming – just a few characters and minimal, practical locations,” she explains. “So you’ll get not just one, but five different series pilots – Victoria Gordon style.” With a comedic tone she describes as “Gilmore Girls” meets “Better Things,” she admits to erring more towards the sophisticated and “classy” side of humor. “I don’t do a lot of anatomy jokes,” she says politely, “and it tends to not be very topical.” “Pilot Season” will be available in February, with a new episode every week through the beginning of March.
If the idea of a spirited young woman under the age of 30 producing her own comedy special seems daunting, it’d help to explain that Victoria was – literally – born that way. “I grew up in a family of storytellers and creators,” she says with pride. “Everyone on my mom’s side was a musician.” In fact, her great-uncle, Dr. Ernst Katz, was the founder of the world famous Los Angeles Junior Philharmonic Orchestra – and served as the conductor for 69 years, and was a Southern California institution for decades. It was with the Junior Philharmonic – at the ripe old age of two – when Victoria was first pushed out on stage by her mother, with the instruction to deliver the baton to Dr. Katz. “I don’t remember it, but apparently I stole the show,” she says today. “And that wasn’t something that happened too much when my great-uncle was on stage.”
On her dad’s side, Victoria is the granddaughter of legendary comedy writer Al Gordon, who joined the writing staff of the legendary “Jack Benny Program” just before it made the successful transition to Hollywood. In addition to decades of writing for Benny, the Emmy-winning Gordon later wrote for Carol Burnett, the Smothers Brothers, Flip Wilson, “Three’s Company,” and “227.” His two children also became show business professionals. “Growing up in that house, I had two options,” says Victoria. “I could either get some attention by talking, or let everyone else overtake me. Once I did, I didn’t hold back.”
While she went to Beverly Hills High School and USC (where she majored in Art History and graduated magna cum laude), and counted more than a few famous people as good family friends, Gordon had no illusions about what show business life was like. Although her parents’ social circle was among the “rich and famous” of the show business set, Victoria always saw them as real people, with ordinary struggles – and always delighted to make each other laugh and remind each other of the value of community and the value of the performing arts.
Seeing the entirety of the performing world in front of her, Victoria Gordon has embraced it all, and considers herself equal parts writer, producer, director, and performer. Her 2015 pilot “Behind the Times” (which she wrote, produced, and starred in) earned her festival acclaim, and she’s been regularly showcasing her cabaret/variety work during the pandemic with the “Live on Sunday” (webcast on Twitch and available on Vimeo). Addicted to the “buzz” of performing from a young age, that meant learning the show tunes and standards of her parents’ (and grandparents’) generation. As an established pop-standards vocalist, Gordon’s musical choices are “deep dives” into the Broadway archive, with favorites including “A Trip to the Library” from “She Loves Me” and “Wherever He Ain’t” from “Mack and Mabel” (don’t worry, she can also handle “Bright Star” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”)
“I’ve always been a huge fan of show tunes – the Broadway channel is the only channel I ever have on my satellite radio,” she observes. “And I’ve discovered there’s so much rich material that hasn’t been thoroughly explored, especially with people my age. I pick songs by asking – what songs do I wish I had a better recording of?” The pandemic hasn’t stopped her from reaching her growing number of fans – she did 16 shows after quarantine came last year, along with the regular appearances on Twitch. “People have said it helped them to feel a little less miserable,” she explains. “Broadway is one of the most uniquely American art forms we have, and people miss it. We can’t live on only pop music and rap.”
It’s also no surprise that one of Gordon’s passions is genealogy. Sensing that the stories and memories of her family were likely to fade as the years went by, Gordon started building her family tree when she was thirteen years old. “There aren’t a lot of 13 year olds who jumped on the internet ancestry bulletin boards and became obsessed with tracking down the generations,” she admits. At this points, she’s traced back seven generations and nearly 1200 relatives – including recently discovering that she had family who were lost in the Holocaust. “Learning about the history of my family, being forced out of places, struggling for so long, has been so eye-opening and sobering.”
Gordon also appreciates her own unique stories: like the advice she got from Florence Henderson about never eating before a singing appearance, or the whispered words of encouragement from Stefanie Powers in an early moment of stage fright, or even the school paper she wrote on Mary Tyler Moore when she was ten years old. The impact of talented women outside her family is also important to her, as she cites Pamela Adlon, Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski, and Maggie Siff as role models. “Of course, it’s easy to identify with someone like Bernadette [Peters],” says Gordon, citing another powerful chanteuse with distinctive curly red hair. “But most of my favorite role models aren’t the most famous people – they’re known for doing good work, and being excellent professionals, not celebrities. That’s what I want – to be considered a true professional, not just someone looking for more Instagram followers.”
Ultimately, Gordon is both humbled and proud of what she has inherited as her show business legacy. “Having those connections I had to that world, I am so grateful to have worked with good people who worked with good people.”