Dear faithful readers — if you know us and love us at all then you know who Linda Gerard is. And you know that we love her beyond reason. And you know that she is currently facing off with the asshole named cancer — and we’re hoping everyone can chip in to help her out. Coin, vibes and kind words all matter.
Above, you’ll see Linda’s brief chat with Andrew Andrew during Desert Gold 2010 — the fifth edition is fast approaching this month. And below is part three of Linda’s interview with DJ Day — you can grab Linda’s Sissy Bingo t-shirt and her latest record, a compilation of greatest hits, Fabulous Selections, on our shop — all proceeds go to Linda’s Kick Cancer’s Ass Fund.
Next up in our interview series: Ira Glass!
Can we talk about Funny Girl?
Well what happened with Funny Girl — I was with William Morris, and the pianist for Funny Girl was a guy named Peter Daniels. Peter Daniels was my accompanist. He was also Barbra Streisand’s accompanist and Lainie Kazan’s. He worked for all three of us and when Funny Girl opened, I went to opening night with my husband at the time, and I remember nudging him and saying, “It’s going to be me up there someday.” I knew that role was written for me.
What happened subsequently is, Barbara got sick one night, and Lainie Kazan was her understudy, which meant that Lainie was in the show playing the part of Vera, but when Barbara got sick she took over the role. When she took over the role she called every publicity hound in New York City and got her name and her face everywhere in New York, and Barbara was pissed. Barbara was so upset that Lainie was fired.
Now, Peter Daniels who worked for Lainie and Barbara and me said, “Linda you’ve got to get in there and audition, because they’re going to love you. You can do the role and they will have you as standby.” The difference between a standby and an understudy is an understudy has a speaking role in the show, and goes on for the star. But a standby only goes on for the star if the star is sick.
We set up an audition and I go to the Winter Garden Theatre and I sing for Ray Stark and Julie Stein and Barbara and all these people and they loved me. They’d have me come back and then come back again. These are call-backs, and then come back and read for the role, and they had me read the railroad scene where she goes to bed with Nicky Arnstein. William Morris calls me and says, “You’ve got it, and they want you to standby and you have rehearsals starting next week,” and blah-blah-blah and I’m like, “Oh my god, this is so exciting.” They did a lot of publicity about me in my hometown, which I saved all that stuff like, “Local Girl Begins…” and that kind of stuff.
So I get to know Barbara very well. We were both in our 20s. I mean we were babies. She and I got to be friends and she knew that I was not going to be any kind of threat to her at all, because I’m this kid from Trenton, New Jersey. My background is cabaret and I’m not looking for anything. This was a really good job and I know that I’ll only go on for her if she’s sick. Everybody said, “She’ll never be sick, you’ll never go on.” I went, “Okay, that’s cool.” I was making $400 a week and in those days that was a lot of money to just sit backstage and wait for her to be sick.
Then Labor Day weekend of 1965 I get a call from Barbara. She’s going to Philadelphia to see Elliott Gould, her husband at the time who was opening a show called Drat! The Cat! So I would be going on for the matinee and the evening performance that weekend. I get a call then from the stage manager. I’ve got to come in and rehearse because you have to rehearse with the chorus, because I have a lot of lift. They lift you and I have never rehearsed any of the lifts.
I had rehearsed all the scenes with all the people but never the lifts and never the dances and never with the full orchestra, just with a pianist. So they had me come in right away. “Get in here right away.” I tried on costumes. I’d never tried on any of the costumes. I had to wear Barbara’s costumes. Luckily we were the same size. She was this big in those days, so was I. They had me come in and everybody is going, “Oh my god, Linda is going on. Oh my god, Linda is going on,” and it happened so fast that I had no time to get nervous. I only had time to call my parents and say, “Get your asses into New York because I’m going on tonight for the biggest star on Broadway.”
The first thing that happens is — we rehearsed everything, the costumes are fine, everything is fine — and Tom Stone who was the Stage Manager gets on stage and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, at this performance the role of Fanny Brice will be played by Linda Gerard.” And the entire audience goes, “Ooh!” Because they paid money to see Barbara. I do the show and it was okay. I wasn’t wonderful but I knew I was going to go on that night too. A lot of people left because they wanted their money back. They wanted to see Barbara and that was cool. I understood that and so now that the evening show comes and I go on again, this time I’m full of piss and vinegar. This time I’m ready for this audience. And I got a standing ovation at the end of the show.
In my contract, I was not allowed to alert the media that I was going on. I could not let anybody know I went on until much, much later. That was cool. Barbara took off a couple of other nights but then she left the show December 31st of ‘65. She went on to a London Company and Mimi Hines came in to the show. Now I was promised, I thought, that I would get to do the show.
You would think, right?
You would think. So Ray Star came to me and he said, “Here’s what we can do, you can stay on as standby to Mimi, or we’ll give you the National Company.” The first National Company going out on the road, which was for a year. Well, I have children.
I don’t want to leave New York. They raised my salary and I stayed on as Mimi’s standby, but she was not able to do eight shows a week. So I did all the matinees. Again, nobody knew. It wasn’t until the people got to the theatre that they knew Linda Gerard was going on for the matinee. So I did matinee Wednesday and Saturday for Mimi, but she did all the night shows.
Then I stayed with the show for another two years. By then I was making really good money and I was able to work other jobs. I left and I got offered to do a Road Company of Funny Girl. That was like six months on the road with a pretty good cast. I said, “I’ll take it.”
Loved that, then came back to New York, studied doing recordings, night clubs and the career went steady. I never became famous-famous but I worked all the time until I got bored with working all the time and said, “Now it’s time to start something else,” and that’s when I went to Massachusetts.
That’s when I fell in love with the owner a bar in Provincetown called the Pied Piper and that was my first experience becoming gay. I called everybody. One of the people I called was a dear, dear friend of mine that I’d gone to high school with. Her name is Helen. I called her up, I said, “Helen, I’m in Provincetown and you’ll never guess what,” and she said, “You’re gay.” I went, “Yeah.” She said, “Everybody knew that except you.” I said, “You’re kidding, what do you mean everybody knew that I was? I wasn’t in love with my gym teacher or anything.” She said, “No, but the way you are, you were just in that genre of gay and you didn’t even know it. You got married to Jerry Binder and you didn’t know it.” I said, “No, I never knew it.”
So you bought the bar?
I was partners with the woman that owned it and we became partners and lovers and owned that from ‘76 to ‘87 and then sold it and then bought the Rose Tattoo. I was always singing. I was always doing something that had to do with singing.
Do you have a favorite song?
I don’t have a favorite song only because there are so many beautiful songs. I love the songs from World War II because obviously I remember World War II, the old songs of the ’40s and the ’50s. ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ is a great song. There are so many.
What do you do in your downtime?
In my downtime I flip houses. I’m with my animals. The funny thing is I have great, big animals. I have big dogs. I have a Rottweiler, a Husky and Pit Bull Terrier. Obviously, I’m a little person so I can’t walk the dogs. So every day I take them for a ride. I have this big car and they get in the car and I give them rides and they think that’s better than chocolate ice cream.