It all began at an Ace Hotel job fair in 2009.
“Our vice president saw Linda in line, with this fabulous glittery dress and a pair of her signature glasses,” recalled Jason Dibler, the hotel’s general manager. “He said, ‘I don’t know what she does, but we need her.’”
That’s how Linda Gerard started her rapid ascent toward becoming something of a Palm Springs icon. Sadly, the hostess of the Ace’s wildly popular Sissy Bingo Monday nights is currently in the battle of her life: Several weeks ago, Gerard was diagnosed with lung cancer. Now, her friends and fans are joining forces to put on a fundraiser at the Ace next Monday evening, March 25.
That Ace’s vice president’s instincts have paid off: It turns out that woman in line is one hell of a performer. She was Barbra Streisand’s understudy when Funny Girl was on Broadway. She became a Provincetown singing legend, and opened one of the East Coast’s biggest lesbian bars in that town in the 1970s. Later, she moved to West Hollywood and opened The Rose Tattoo cabaret club. She even made a splash on Deal or No Deal, with the briefcase-holding models wearing oversized glasses in tribute as she won some good money.
Of course, Linda made an instant splash at the Ace. Her first gig was as the hostess at the King’s Highway restaurant, and somewhere along the line, she started singing—for a diner’s birthday, perhaps. So then she became the singing hostess, which led to a bingo night in the Amigo Room bar. Of course, this was no regular bingo night; Linda often would stop calling numbers and break into song, or a story about her life, or something else entertaining.
“It got so busy, so fast, that we moved (the bingo night) to the restaurant,” Dibler said, citing social networking as being key to Linda’s rise: Someone would post a video on Facebook, for example, of Linda doing her thing, and people would decide they needed to check her out themselves.
The Ace also released a compilation album of some of Linda’s songs, Fabulous Selections, on vinyl. (You can listen to some excerpts online at the Ace website. Good stuff.)
Gerard said that on a Monday in February, Linda showed up for bingo not feeling well—she was having difficulty breathing—but she still put on a fine show. She was soon thereafter diagnosed with lung cancer.
This Monday, March 25, starting at 7 p.m., the Ace is throwing a “Linda Fabulous” party. A portion of bar proceeds and all revenues from rooms booked for that night with the code “fabulous” will be donated to Linda (plus, the resort fee will be waived, and patrons will receive a 25 percent discount). Linda will also receive the proceeds from raffle tickets, and the raffle prizes look pretty sweet, with well more than a dozen businesses—from LuLu California Bistro to Vons to the Living Desert to the Ace itself—chipping in.
The entertainment lineup is impressive as well. Performers include Lady Tigra (of L’Trimm), Sean Wheeler (of Throw Rag and a frequent collaborator with Zander Schloss), JP Houston and the Fabulous Band, DJ Day, Rachel Dean, Giselle Woo, Alf Alpha and Ace karaoke host Kiesha. Manny the Movie Guy will host.
There’s also a chance of an appearance by Linda, the OWL (Older, Wiser Lesbian) herself, depending on how she’s feeling. Here’s what she wrote in a letter to friends and fans posted on the Ace website: “Thank you so much for your love and support. I look forward to returning to the Ace very soon. I will do everything in my power to rid my body of the monsters inside me and once again join you in King’s Highway, outside on the patio, the Amigo Room or wherever you are at the Ace. I will wear my giant glasses, sing lots of songs and even play some fucking bingo Monday nights. I hope to see many of you on the 25th. And again, thank you. This will be a celebration for all of us.”
Linda Fabulous takes place at 7 p.m., Monday, March 25, at the Commune space at the Ace Hotel, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Admission is free, but donations, raffle-ticket purchases and generosity are appreciated. For more information, visit acehotel.com/fabulous.