Widow of Reinvention

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Widow of Reinvention

For $100,000, she gave her two cents on American culture.

by Omar Beer

#20 Gail Zappa, 51, North Hollywood, Calif. Party: D. $292,650 total contributions.

View Zappa’s itemized contributions.

You’d think a dental floss tycoon would have a better chance of slurping java with the president than Frank Zappa’s widow. Yet there was Gail Zappa in August 1995, sipping with other donors from dainty china cups in the White House Map Room. The president and vice president each gripped sturdy mugs.

“I was trying to figure out how to hold the cup, not to make noise, not to break the china,” she says. She probably could have broken as many saucers as she wanted to. Five days earlier, the Democratic National Committee had recorded her $100,000 donation. She took the opportunity to push her idea for a Department of Culture to lift the American artistic sensibility, which, she said, is “slightly lower than yogurt.”

Previously, the best-known Zappa activism had been Frank’s battle with Tipper Gore over warning labels for music recordings. Whatever ill will lingered from those encounters, however, was outweighed by Gail Zappa’s antipathy for Bob Dole.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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