Gail Zappa: Simply Greedy, Or Was She Mentally Disturbed, Too? Dweezil Discusses The Medea Complex And More

Kaanii Powell Cleaver

On the June 23 edition of Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Dweezil Zappa spoke candidly about the ongoing emotional brouhaha that is the Zappa Family Trust, as well as his mother's apparent mental illness.

"You know, here's the deal. There's no reason for me to be talking about this stuff in public other than the fact that we're getting nowhere in private with lawyers."
"Dweezil Zappa is the only Zappa offspring that is the legacy of his father's music in the truest sense of the word. As a guitar virtuoso, and as somebody who has spent his life mastering and continuing to try to master and put out into the world the music of Frank Zappa -- he's the guy. He's the one with the talent and he's the one being pressed."

Ten years ago, Dweezil began performing his father's music under the band name Zappa Plays Zappa. He did so because, as he told Marc Maron, "I'm a huge fan of the music, and I wanted his music to be heard by new generations -- also the core fans that have been excited about it and supported it all these years." That was Dweezil's primary motivation for learning, rehearsing, and hiring world class musicians to perform the ofttimes complex and hard to master music of Frank Zappa.

His mother, whom he refers to as Gail, trademarked the band name. What was her motivation for doing so? According to Dweezil, Gail Zappa trademarked the name Zappa Plays Zappa "under the pretense that anyone with the last name Zappa could --if they wanted to-- go out on tour and be Zappa Plays Zappa."

"Right," Maron interjected. "As long as they paid her." "We can get to that," Dweezil replied.

How many people with the surname Zappa are competent enough musicians to provide legitimate concert performances under that moniker? If you guessed "only one," you're right. As Dweezil told Marc Maron, he is the only person in the family with the chops to pull it off.

"That aside, there was a contract that was created by my mother that required me to pay a thousand dollars a show every time I played the music of Frank Zappa and I was supposed to, at a certain point, get some of the money rebated back to me. I don't know why the contract was written that way."

Dweezil told Marc Maron that Gail also orchestrated a merchandise agreement that granted her a whopping 60 percent of all merchandise sales at Zappa Plays Zappa concerts, whether or not tee shirts and other merch bore the likeness or name of her late husband. Gail never paid Dweezil his 40 percent or any other portion of ZPZ concert merchandise money. Ever. In ten years.

Does this odd behavior indicate Gail Zappa was mentally incapacitated? When Maron flat-out asked Dweezil if he saw Gail Zappa as mentally ill, Dweezil described the following mother-son exchange.

Zappa Plays Zappa was getting ready to tour, and Dweezil told Gail that dates and details needed to be added to the Zappa dot com website. Gail ignored him for weeks. Eventually, she did answer his request for website tour updates with the following shouted non sequitur.

"I'm not just some groupie your father f*cked, you know!"

Dweezil mentioned that the word "solipsism" might well have been coined to describe Gail Zappa. He said his mother "lived in a world where everything seemed to be about her" and had no regard for the thoughts of others. According to Dweezil, Frank never answered the phone. Gail did, and she made it impossible for many friends and family members to contact Frank. In fact, Frank's brother, Bobby Zappa, visited Los Angeles with the hope of seeing Frank, as he was nearing the end of his life. Gail sent him away. Dweezil noted that he recently resumed contact with his uncle after 35 years and found his autobiography, Growing Up Zappa, to be a cathartic and enlightening read.

As if all this were not awful enough, it turns out that Gail Zappa lied to her kids when she told them their father had not left a will. "Did you get along with your mother?" asked Maron. "Ahh well, you can see it was difficult."

Comedian Marc Maron podcasts two days a week from his garage in the Los Angeles suburb of Highland Park. The podcast pioneer, who has been romantically linked with Moon Zappa, told listeners that Ahmet Zappa was invited to participate in today's podcast, but declined through his publicist. To hear the Dweezil Zappa interview its entirety, add the WTF with Marc Maron app to your device or visit WTFpod.com.

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