By Lola Rossi-Meza
In celebration of Mr. David Lyons’ 100th year birthday, this Sunday, December 8, Lyons English Grille in association with Chi Chi Productions proudly presents Linda Gerard and Friends with Music Director David Ring in “Linda Remembers: Fanny Brice, Judy Garland and Al Jolson” with many of her favorite stories and songs from Broadway. Dinner and the Show is $44.95 with the dinner seating at 6 p.m. and show time at 7 p.m. There is limited seating for the show only for $20 with a 2 drink minimum. For reservations call (760) 327-1551.
Born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey with her brother Jeffrey, Linda Gerard was always involved in music while in the Junior Three Elementary School and later in Trenton High School. “ My Mother was very supportive of me while I was growing up,” said Gerard. “She wanted to be a performer, however, my Father forbid it.”
She started entertaining professionally in New York City in 1956 while attending Finch College. “I sang in the Village, Uptown and Downtown along with performing in many Open Mic nights and was spotted by an agent from the William Morris Agency, who insisted I sign a contract with them. So, I did and my career began.”
She worked with an accompanist named Peter Daniels, who also played for Barbara Streisand at the Bon Soir. They put together several shows and went from club to club and the following year, she was accepted in to the American Theater Wing, musical department, where she honed her skills in sight reading, conducting, musical theater, acting, dancing and performing.
“It was fabulous and soon I was performing all over the country with bands. I finally grew tired of the schlepping and told William Morris I’d prefer working in the city.” Summer stock and out of town reviews became a part of her life. She performed the leading role in South Pacific (Nellie Forebush); Oliver (Nancy); Kiss Me Kate (Bianca); Annie Get Your Gun (Annie) and many other shows.
Gerard married in 1958 and gave birth to Identical Mirror Twins on February 27, 1962. “Their names are Cindy (Cynthia) and Ginny (Regina). Mirror Twins are very rare; one is left handed, the other is right handed; it is like looking at yourself in a mirror. They still look very much alike, but I can tell them apart.”
In 1965, she was asked to audition for the standby role of Fannie Brice in Funny Girl. A standby is the person who only performs for the star and sits back stage for the entire performance. “It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea and it was obvious that Barbra Streisand would never get sick or purposefully miss a performance, however, I got the job after many callbacks and auditions and started on Labor Day Weekend that year.” She had many offers to travel, but decided to stay in the city with the New York Company, and continued to perform as Fanny Brice along with Mimi Hines, who followed Streisand.
In 1967, she traveled for 10 years as Fanny Brice and performed in Massachusetts, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas. “I was pooped and decided to take a trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, where I worked for the summer in various clubs there. I was also recording for Spiral Records, a subsidiary of Columbia Records, and did TV, radio, interviews, commercials, industrials, soap operas, off Broadway shows and modeling.”
As fate would have it, she fell in love, moved there and ended up owning 50% of a very famous club called the Pied Piper. “Ten years later, I sold my shares, moved to California and bought a club in West Hollywood called The Rose Tattoo. I envisioned it as a New York Night Club and hired the best talent I could find. I loved it and even performed there. It was very successful.”
She sold it in 1993 and moved to Palm Springs where she was offered a job as Entertainment Director at the Gene Autry Hotel followed by working for two years at Fantasy Springs Casino as the Entertainment Director and later performed in the Palm Springs Follies. She was the Restaurant Manager for the Spa Hotel for ten years followed by her current position as a Hostess at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. “When they found out about my show biz background, they took many of my old recordings, re-mastered them and produced an album which they sell on-line called ‘Fabulous Selections, Linda Gerard’ and now you can google it and see lots of articles and pictures of me.”
Every Monday, she performs “Musical Bingo” from 7 until 9 p.m. at the Ace Hotel with no musical accompaniment. From what I hear, she performs to a packed house. She has her 75th birthday coming up on Tuesday, December 24, and is winning her battle against Stage Four Lung Cancer. She recently performed as the Headliner for the Fifth Annual Loving All Animals Super Pet Adoption Fair. Peter Marin was unable to perform, and like the pro she is, at the last minute, she delighted the audience with her performance. Thank you, Linda and may God continue to bless you. See you at the show!