Gail Zappa, 70, Passes
October 13, 2015 at 2:48 PM (PT)
GAIL ZAPPA, widow of FRANK ZAPPA, executor of his estate and a fearsome advocate for artists' rights to control their work, died last WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7th at the age of 70. The cause was not announced.
ZAPPA's death at the family's LAUREL CANYON home was officially revealed by family members, who described her in a statement as "a doe-eyed, barefooted trailblazer."
"Her searing intelligence, unforgettable smile, wild thicket of hair and trailing black velvets leave a blur in her wake," the statement said.
"Let me say it in the simplest way," she told THE L.A. TIMES in 2008. "My job is to make sure that FRANK ZAPPA has the last word in terms of anybody's idea of who he is. And his actual last word is his music."
After her husband’s death from prostate cancer in 1993, GAIL ZAPPA battled tribute groups, record labels and music festivals she believed were taking illegal advantage of his music and his identity.
"I don't want anybody standing in between the audience and what Frank's intention as a composer was, and still is," she said in the 2008 interview. "What I've discovered in the process … comes down to one simple thing — because everybody wants to remake his image. And they can … well, they can all pound salt!"
Since his death, GAIL and the ZAPPA FAMILY TRUST have issued an additional 38 albums of music that had been recorded by FRANK but not previously released.
GAIL ZAPPA had her lawyers send cease-and-desist letters to groups performing her late husband's music without the trust's permission. She also took on the GERMAN festival ZAPPANALE, which she contended was using her husband's name and image without a license. A German court ruled against her.
Born in PHILADELPHIA on JANUARY 1st, 1945, ADELAIDE GAIL SLOATMAN ZAPPA spent her teenage years in LONDON. Her father, JOHN SLOATMAN, was a nuclear physicist who worked on the MANHATTAN PROJECT and went on to direct research projects for the U.S. military.
She first met her future husband when she was a 20-year-old secretary at the WHISKEY A GO GO in LOS ANGELES. Sparks failed to fly at their first meeting, which, as she recalled in 2013 to the TIMES OF LONDON, was "like a vaccination that didn't take."
Two years later, they married in what FRANK described in his autobiography as "a severely ridiculous civil ceremony" in NEW YORK. In lieu of a ring, GAIL received a ballpoint pen that ZAPPA bought from a vending machine at the marriage bureau. It said, "Congratulations from MAYOR LINDSAY."
They called their home studio the UTILITY MUFFIN RESEARCH KITTEN, where a framed quote from FRANK read: "You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want sometimes. So you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream."
The couple were outspoken in their defense of artists against censorship. When TIPPER GORE mounted a campaign for warning labels on music with sexually explicit lyrics, FRANK ZAPPA was among the big names who testified against her. GAIL and the vice president's wife later became friends, with TIPPER performing on daughter DIVA ZAPPA's 1999 album.
GAIL is survived by daughters MOON UNIT and DIVA; sons DWEEZIL and AHMET; and four grandchildren.