'Sissy Bingo' Host, Funny Girl Understudy Linda Gerard Dies
Linda Gerard, the beloved host of "Sissy Bingo" at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, as well as Barbra Streisand's Broadway back-up on Funny Girl, died Friday afternoon after a battle with lung cancer.
Gerard was a fixture in Palm Springs, presiding for the last four years over "Sissy Bingo" night at the Ace, entertaining hipsters and gay retirees with her flamboyant presence and beautiful singing voice. Before moving to southern California, Gerard was a recording artist in the '50s and '60s, and appeared on- and off-Broadway. Gerard was Streisand's fill-in when the superstar portrayed Fanny Brice in Broadway's Funny Girl in the mid-'60s. She filled in for Streisand a total of 12 times, including when the headliner broke a molar.
After her time in New York, Gerard became a cabaret owner in Provincetown and bought a tattoo parlor in West Hollywood. In the documentary "Bingo Night," Gerard is one of the main subjects, and she discusses a long romantic relationship she had with a woman. Gerard was always known as open and warm, even after she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer.
"She sort of made everyone comfortable," Palm Springs publicist Reggie Cameron told the Desert Sun. "Even though she was battling cancer, she was bold and brave."
Even after her diagnosis, Gerard performed for local fundraisers that raised money for the American Cancer Society.