Marta Kristen and Kathy Kersh were two pretty blonde sixties starlets who had a fair amount of success during the decade. Kristen was much more well-known due to her three year stint as space castaway Judy Robinson on the hit sci-fi TV series Lost in Space and for playing a mermaid in the classic Frankie and Annette beach party film Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). Kersh was a former Miss Rheingold who racked up TV appearances on many popular shows such as My Favorite Martian; The Beverly Hillbillies; Ben Casey; The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Batman where she played the Joker’s moll Cornelia one of the series most memorable. She was a talented singer who cut a few singles and played Vegas, but she stayed in the public eye mostly due to her short highly publicized marriages to actors Vince Edwards and Burt Ward both culminating in divorce before the decade was over.
By 1973, both actresses’ careers had faulted as it did for many a sixties starlet facing down her thirtieth birthday. Fed up with auditioning and being typecast, Kersh had actually quit acting. Her last TV appearance was in a 1969 episode of Love, American Style with Van Johnson, Sue Ane Langdon, and Paul Lynde. She was enrolled in college to study business administration. Kristen was still in the game though with a guest episode on Mannix; a one-line role in The Mephisto Waltz (1971); and two low-budget movie appearances in the cult exploitation action movie Terminal Island (1973) and the barely released Once (1974).
Then along comes director Matt Cimber. The former husband of the Jayne Mansfield, he directed her last movie Single Room Furnished (1967) before she perished in a car accident. He went on to direct pseudo-sex documentaries and exploitation movies during the Seventies including He & She; The Black Six: and The Candy Tangerine Man. Cimber offered Kersh a co-starring role opposite Kristen in the infamous Gemini Affair – A Diary (1975) a romantic tale with Lesbian overtones, whose tag line proclaimed, “A different kind of love story.” Though she didn’t think the screenplay was that good and there were nude scenes, Kersh decided to accept the part. She explained in a telephone interview with me, “Since I had been so typecast and was so frustrated that I could not get better roles—not that I am the best actress in the world—I decided it would be fun to get the chance to do some real acting. I thought I could finally show everybody what I was capable of. My character cries, gets drunk, and has a few other emotional displays that I wanted to see if I could even do. As for the nude scenes, I thought, ‘I’m a big girl—I could live through it.’”
Kathy Kersh was cast in the part of the desperate, overwrought, booze-swilling uninhibited Jessica who works as a high-class hooker while Marta Kristen played Julie, fresh-faced and naïve. After only finding rejection in big bad Hollywood they turn to each other for comfort, which leads to a very brief love affair. Jessica is the flashier of the roles with over-the-top dialog and really bad Seventies fashions from Orhbachs no less. No wonder Kersh could not say no to it. The other role of Julie is written like some naïve teenager just off the bus when the character is thirtyish. By this age, she should have had more experience with career let downs and therefore the character is a bit unrealistic.
Kersh’s first challenge before she had to disrobe for the cameras was her crying scene. “I was not a crier, but Marta Kristen could turn it on and off like a faucet,” reveals Kersh. “Crying is very hard for me. When we did the scene, I pulled it out from within. I took enough acting classes to know what I had to do. It was difficult but I did it.” Seeing the scene, you would never imagine that the actress had such a hard time with it as it looks so natural.
As for filming her nude love scene with Kristen, Kathy recalls, “It was shot in the dark and was very shadowy. It wasn’t very graphic, but it was very tough for me to do it—even with only a skeleton crew present. Marta felt about the same way I did about doing it. They showed more of her than they did of me. During the shoot Marta had an affair with the cinematographer. I knew they were seeing each other. I only saw a rough cut of Gemini Affair at that time and was surprised that the light during our love scene was always on Marta keeping me in the dark—what a crummy thing to do! I couldn’t believe it!”
In the movie, New York theater actress Julie (Marta Kristen) is newly arrived in Hollywood after a producer saw her play and flies her in for a screen test. Taking him up on his offer, she makes plans to stay with childhood friend Jessica (Kersh) who she thinks is a successful model especially when she arrives at her sumptuous house in Beverly Hills. Wearing a curly wig that makes her resemble Connie Stevens in the TV-movie The Sex Symbol, Kathy Kersh as Jessica comes running out of the front door to greet her friend who she hasn’t seen in eight years. Inviting her in, Julie is awed by her house complete with pool and view where you can see the ocean in the distance. While Julie takes in the beauty, Jessica pours herself a scotch. She then confesses that the house belongs to friend away in Europe and that there is no number one man in her life only “temporary men who take care of me.” After getting over the initial shock that her friend is a call girl, Julie breaks the tension and Jessica quickly departs to meet a businessman named Lester, one of her many paramours. There is a quick cut and the next scene is a stark naked Jessica (a surprisingly busty Kersh goes full frontal) going into bed, which she is sharing with Julie. Hard to believe with a house this size that there no other bedrooms?
Turning out the lights, Jessica yells, “Oh, fuck!” She then explains to Julie that they have to get up early because the bitchy cleaning lady is coming and she “scares the hell out of me.” The next morning Julie meets scowl-faced Mrs. Wilson (Anne Seymour) and puts the old battleaxe in her place. When Jessica awakes close to noon and sees what her friend did for her, they embrace and she squeals, “Welcome to California!” The following day an insecure Julie wakes Jessica up before she leaves for her meeting with the producer. Seeing her friend needs some support, Jessica bounces out of bed completely naked once again and offers to drive her. Excited because her meeting went well, Julie cooks dinner, but Jessica departs when she forgot she had plans with a guy named Harold who likes her to talk baby-talk. When a tired Jessica returns home, she rips off her wig and plops down in a chair. Julie saved her dinner and surprises her grateful friend with it. She then goes back to doing needlepoint. When Jessica notices, she asks what is it. “Life in the jungle,” replies Julie to which the outrageous Jessica says, “I would like to make one of people fucking.”
The next morning while Julie rushes off to her screen test, Jessica remains home only to be harangued by Mrs. Wilson. She escapes the old biddy by delving into a bottle of scotch. Arriving home, Julie awakens the lush and to sober her up, pushes her into the pool. Jessica pulls her in as well and Julie shares the good news that everybody loved her test. The following morning, Julie still has not gotten word that the part is hers and Mrs. Wilson goes over the line with her insults. Julie fires her and sends the bitter old woman running for the hills to Jessica’s great joy. To celebrate, the girls ready themselves for a day at Disneyland. Jessica teases Julie about her flat chest and looking like a fourteen year old boy while Julie retorts at least she won’t be sagging in a few years. Jessica quips, “Sagging!?! Mount Rushmore will fall first!” Julie meets a guy named Hadley (Tom Pittman) there and they make a date. She finally gets laid, but then learns she did not get the part. Not to be discouraged, Jessica arranges for her to meet with an agent named Inez (Victoria Carroll). She is just as bitchy as the housekeeper with snide cracks about Jessica and tells Julie the only way she can help her if she is willing to disrobe on camera, which Julie is not. She makes a subverted pass at Julie and coos if she ever needs her advice please call.
Julie strikes out on her own and gets an offer to play a rape victim gang raped by bikers and then thrown naked through the sheriff’s window. The gals have a good laugh over it before Jessica gets dressed up like a school girl to meet that night’s client Georgie-Porgie. She returns in a good mood only to find Julie packing. With only fifty dollars left to her name and not wanting to be a charity case, Julie has decided to return to New York. Jessica tries to encourage her not to give up and to contact the producer again. Julie replies that she has called enough and the only thing left to do “is to fuck him.” When Jessica asks why she didn’t, Julie responds, “That’s your trade, not mine” and gets a slap in the face in retort. The two begin fighting and wind up in the living room hitting each other with pillows. After breaking into laughter, they apologize to each other. Drinking to nurse their bruises, a drunk Julie decides to stay awhile longer and make some money the Jessica way.
Julie “double dates” with Jessica and her client Woody who brings a friend. Julie goes through with having sex for money, but back home she weeps in bed. Saying she “feels like a piece of meat,” a naked Jessica comforts her. The women begin to caress one another leading to their infamous love scene—the film’s money shot that drove video rentals in the Eighties. There’s lots of moaning and groping and yes, Kersh is right, Kristen was better lit. Afterwards, Julie flips out (yikes, I had sex with a woman!) and goes fleeing into the night. Hopp1ing into her Mercedes, Jessica finally catches up with Julie. Sitting on a ridge, looking out on the LA basin, Julie confesses how back in high school she and this girl named Amanda (the class outsider) watched a couple having sex. Poor Marta Kristen is forced to give a blow by blow description with cheesy dialog seemingly lifted from a trashy romance novel. Finally, after an agonizing number of minutes, she gets to the point of the tale. So horny watching the couple make love, she didn’t protest when Amanda put her hand down Julie’s pants and made her climax.
Kersh then gets her big moment and tells Julie to get over it. There is nothing to be ashamed of and she needs to stop letting moralizing people in the world make her feel guilty of any type of sexual attraction. With the matter resolved, Julie decides to return to New York and has a teary farewell with Jessica.
Gemini Affair could have been exploitative but actually handles the subject matter very respectfully. Perhaps too much so since hardly anyone saw it due to distributor Moonstone Entertainment only being able to get it very limited release. The fact that the movie had a stage-bound feel with most of the action set in the house and was at times slow and plodding did not help. Despite her good turn as Jessica, this was Kathy Kersh’s swan song from show business.
The movie finally found an audience when released on VHS during the eighties as male TV fans clamored to see Judy Robinson naked. Kathy Kersh was an additional treat to their eyes.