For Those Of You Who Might Not Know
To celebrate 20 years of bringing you Zappa and related news via my Idiot Bastard website, I aim to write an article each month that provides answers to some of those questions no one asks. Yes, I am giving you 12 FUQs (Frequently Unasked Questions) in 2020!
#5: Gail’s Family
Born in Philadelphia on January 1, 1945, Adelaide Gail
Sloatman was the daughter of a US Navy nuclear weapons researcher and grew up
Gail’s mother, Laura Nettie Sloatman (née Freitas), was born in 1921, to Arthur J. Freitas and Adelaide Freitas (born Silva).
Arthur was born on February 4, 1896, in Lihue Kauai, Hawaii.
Adelaide was born on November 25, 1898, in Kauai, Hawaii.
Laura – known as “Tutu” – had two siblings: Lillian and Sybil.
“Tutu” married John “Jack” Klein Sloatman on December 5, 1940.
John was born on March 16, 1915, in Philadelphia. He was pictured on the cover of We’re Only In It For The Money.
John and “Tutu” begat six other children: John K. Sloatman III (“Jay”/”Dunt” – half of the two-headed roadie on the cover of Over-Nite Sensation, born January 21, 1941); Sherri G. Sloatman; Joyce K. Sloatman (born April 18, 1947 – her son Jade, from her marriage to James Teta, is credited with ‘Burp Art Performances’ on the “Congress Shall Make No Law...” album; his belches could also be heard throughout the Broadway The Hard Way tour); Arthur “Midget” Sloatman (FZ’s guitar tech, born June 24, 1952); Herbert “Squidget” Sloatman (Midget’s twin); and Mariel Jennifer Betts (born February 7, 1962).
the family moved to London in 1959, Gail attended Marymount International
School, and later – with her Bardot good looks – modelled for photographers
David Bailey and Terence Donovan. She also had a brief dalliance with the Return Of The Saint actor, Ian Ogilvy
and became something of a groupie: in Pauline Butcher’s book Freak Out! My Life With Frank Zappa,
Gail is quoted as saying, “you go to
discos and before you know it, Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck is standing there.”
On her return to the US, Gail studied at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology prior to moving back to LA, where Beach Boy Brian Wilson was apparently one of her conquests. In 1966, while working at Sunset Strip’s Whisky a Go Go, she met Frank who had just released his debut album with The Mothers, Freak Out! Gail became the second Mrs Zappa the following year while heavily pregnant with their first child, Moon UnitTM. The marriage lasted until Frank’s death in 1993 and produced three more children: Dweezil (whose original birth certificate name was Ian Donald Calvin Euclid), Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen.
In 1990, Frank and Gail created the Zappa Family Trust, which later saw Gail ferociously execute her role as the guardian of her husband’s work – sending cease and desist letters to tribute bands, fan websites and anyone she felt impinged on Frank’s copyrights. She tried to sue the organisers of the Zappanale music festival in Germany, a subject I tried to quiz her on when I got the chance at Frank’s 70th birthday celebrations in London in 2010 – surrounded by regular attendees of said festival (see picture above). While she refused to discuss this with me, she publicly insisted her role was “not unlike the Los Angeles Police Department: to protect and serve” – making some fans feel like Rodney King. She went on to lose that particular case.
Shortly before he died, Frank apparently told Gail to “sell everything, get out of the music business and go get a house at the beach.” While she mostly ignored this advice, she did buy a beach house in 1997 (28980 Cliffside Drive, Malibu, CA 90265) for $2,400,000. The property was sold six years later for $5,800,050.
In July 2015, Gail handed over the daily operations of the family business to Ahmet, who was appointed co-trustee with Diva, each receiving 30 percent of the estate. After Gail’s passing, a very public family rift ensued: Dweezil believed his younger siblings were trying to control his surname and make it unfeasible for him to perform his father’s music under the name ‘Zappa Plays Zappa’, while a bitter Moon wrote, “I can’t help but wonder how on earth adopting GZ-flavoured, rock ‘n’ roll Mommie Dearest, exclusionary and nefarious secret business practices protects OUR father’s legacy or honours HIS wishes?” Hopefully Moon’s long-awaited ‘growing up Zappa’ memoir will shed some light on this.
After Gail’s passing,
her eldest brother John/Jay/Dunt threatened to sue his niece Moon, her uncle
Bob Zappa (fl. 1943-2018) “and others”,
for $20 million in damages.
John is the father of actress Lala (the Hawaiian form of Laura, born October 12, 1970), whose films include Tequila Sunrise & Watchers (both 1988), Pump Up The Volume (which also featured Ahmet, 1990) and LA Story (1991). In 1987, she appeared in the Honker Home Video Bunny, Bunny, Bunny with Moon and their friend Kyle Richards: her name was added to Cal Schenkel’s star chart on the back cover of the One Size Fits All album that same year.
Lala’s mother was Joan Lou Gatt, who appears at FZ’s feet on the cover of Roxy & Elsewhere (Frank jokingly refers to her as “Dunt’s ex-wife” on that album during Be-Bop Tango (Of The Old Jazzmen’s Church), though they did in fact separate later). Joan passed away in 1996 and received a posthumous credit in Roxy – The Movie.
In the late eighties, Lala dated actor Corey Haim (fl. 1971-2010) and from 1996 to 1998 was married to singer Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes.
2019 was something of an annus horribilis for this side of the family, as Dunt filed for divorce from his wife of thirty years, Lala was diagnosed with black mold toxicity – for which a friend started a GoFundMe campaign – and John created his own ‘Vietnam Veteran Almost Homeless’ crowdfund page.
John Sr. (Gail’s father), died in Orange County following a heart attack on September 16, 1967, aged 52.
Gail’s mother later remarried, to George Carlton Price, on November 14, 1982 in Santa Barbara. George was born on August 23, 1906, in Massachusetts. He died less than a year after marrying “Tutu” on August 4, 1983.
“Tutu” died in 2015 at age 93, a few months before her eldest daughter.
Gail passed away after a battle with lung cancer on October 7, 2015, and was buried atop Frank (“Where she’s always wanted to be,” quipped Ahmet) in an unmarked grave in Westwood Memorial Park.
© 2020 The Idiot Bastard
Photo of the Idiot Bastard with GZ at London’s Roundhouse in 2010 courtesy of Canadian John.