GAIL GERBER HAS LEFT THE ‘HOOD…
and has headed home to Vancouver where it all began for her. I will miss her dearly. Gail was not just a former 60s starlet to me. We stayed in touch, became friends, then neighbors, and eventually she became part of our family in upstate Manhattan along with Ern, Teddy and Maxie. Friday nights hanging out at the bar listening to live jazz at the New Leaf Restaurant in the middle of Fort Tryon Park will not be the same without Gail. She really is into all kinds of jazz and doesn’t mind “the girl singers” once in awhile. If we had dinner with Gail and ate at a table, we would treat her to dessert, a glass or two of Lemoncello, at the bar where we would chat with David our favorite bartender or another David our favorite barfly.
Gail Gerber was born in Vancouver and left at age 15 when she became the youngest member of Les Grandes Ballets Canadiennes based in Montreal. She stayed with the troupe from 1952 to 1960 when the acting bug grabbed her. She moved first to Toronto where she honed her craft in Summer Stock and on live TV before taking on Hollywood in 1963. She quickly landed 2 Elvis Presley movies; 2 beach movies; and a teenage sci-fi flick. She also landed a beau, writer Terry Southern in 1964, whom she met on the set of The Loved One and whom she would stay with until his death 30 years later. They didn’t let a little thing like their spouses get in the way of their relationship, which was not the norm for that period of time.
Giving up her acting career in 1966, she tagged along as Terry moved from Hollywood to Malibu to New York to London to New York again and then settling in the Berkshires. After Southern passed away in 1995, Gail moved back to Vancouver briefly then moved back to the Berkshires then to New York then to Chicago then back to New York one last time.
I met Gail during her second to last stint in New York when I interviewed her for my book Drive-in Dream Girls in 2002. We met for lunch in the West Village and she was delightful and fun. When the book came out she contacted me and said I captured her real voice and she was impressed. She also said Terry would have been too and that our title was so him.
After Gail moved to Chicago, she would get in touch with me when she came to New York for short visits. We would meet for dinner or go see live music (i.e. Ilene Kristen, Delia from Ryan’s Hope, at the Triad). When Gail came back to New York the last time we became very close as I helped her write her memoir Trippin’ with Terry Southern. We spent practically every Saturday together for over one year. She was living in Upstate Manhattan and Ernie just purchased a co-op nearby due to Gail introducing us to the area. I had never been above 125th Street prior.
My favorite moments with Gail were sitting at our kitchen bar getting tipsy on wine or proseco while Ernie was cooking away with 2 or 3 burners working and the oven heating up the apartment. He and Gail would talk food and share Mark Bickman recipes. Gail and I would chat about her famous friends such as Rip Torn, Angelica Page, David Amram, Matthew Barney and trash people that did her or Terry dirt such as Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Terry’s ex-wife. After a usually splendid meal, Ern and I would walk a stumbling Gail home and make plans for the next dinner at our house or the next time to meet at the New Leaf.
People used to say that Terry Southern was the hippest guy on the planet. I can definitely say that Gail Gerber is the hippest gal I ever knew on the planet. Hell she danced with Elvis Presley; licked Beau Bridges’ face in the mud; pissed off the Beach Boys; hung out with the Rolling Stones; took an ocean cruise with Peter Sellers; sneezed cocaine all over Harry Nillson; did live theatre with Ilene Kristen; was best friends with Geraldine Page; helped Rip Torn win his lawsuit vs. Dennis Hopper; appeared in a Matthew Barney film at age 75; and grows pot in her home! Upstate Manhattan will never be the same without her and I hope she enjoys her new life in Vancouver!