It was a hot spring day when I met Gertrude Rotblum, also known as Gigi, the 76-year-old Floridian who just inherited $6.2 million from her recently deceased husband Harold. I sat with Gigi in her dimly lit bedroom. She sat comfortably in a chair by her bed. I held her hand to help her stand up to greet me. She complimented my shoes, but not in a cheerful manner. I noticed she was wearing dirty, white orthopedic sneakers. I later regretted not acknowledging that they, too, were beautiful in their own way.
Being with Gigi, I felt free to talk about anything, to ask her about her troubled life, her thoughts on death, her medical history. Being with Gigi is true joy and liberation. Being with Gigi sets you at ease. The sad thing about being with Gigi is knowing that the friendship will not evolve as Gigi is 37-year-old actor David Krumholtz. It takes four-and-a-half hours for Krumholtz to transform into Gigi for his new IFC series Gigi Does It, which he created with Ricky Mabe (who plays the role of Gigi’s faithful nurse). The show follows Gigi during the aftermath of her husband’s death and her fortunate inheritance. And once Krumholtz is Gigi, he is Gigi, possessed by the spirit of this powerful elderly woman.
What follows is my conversation with dear Gigi, as well as David Krumholtz.
I’ve read that your husband recently passed away.
Yeah, may he rest in peace.
How have things been for you since his death?
I’ve been very lonely. I could use a companion. But, for now, the $6.2 million that he left me—jealous? You should be—will suffice. I feel very free for the first time in 40 years. I’m allowed to have an orgasm. I’m allowed to sow my wild oats. I can meet men and talk to them as if they were potential mates. And when I go to the bathroom, no one is on the other side of the door telling me to hurry up.
Oh wow. So in what way did you grieve before doing this? Or did you?
Oh, I grieved plenty. I’m still grieving. What are you talking about? I’m still grieving. I ate a lot of candy. Butterscotch lozenges. That got me through.
When you’re meeting men now and dating…
Do you meet people online? Or what do you do?
No, I don’t touch the Internet or the computer because that’s where all the perverts are. If you want to find a good man, you go to the local diner or you go to the pool and you sit poolside and you have your tits out, maybe one nipple showing. They think it’s an accident. You did it on purpose. At my age, you gotta do anything you can. Men at my age are all about sex. That’s all they care about. So I have to be in top physical shape and that’s basically how I’m attracting a man. If I see a man with a nice tuchas, I don’t bother with him because that means he has an ego on him. And he’s very self centered. I like a big round mess of an ass. If a man has a bad ass that means he’s lonely and he’s searching. He’s questioning his very existence. And that’s when I go in for the kill.
That’s interesting, so people who are more toned in the tush you would say spend too much time…
Yeah, they sculpt it. They sculpt it, they work on it, they do squats. If I did a squat right now, there’d be a mess. I like a man who hasn’t worked out in many, many years. That way, I don’t have to be too flexible for him. If he’s not flexible, then all I have to do is climb aboard and ride the train. You know what I’m saying?
Yeah. That’s very interesting. How old were you when you met your husband?
When I met him, I was 27 and we got married about, oh, six years later. We had a long courtship because he was a womanizer and a whoremaster, and he was always going after whores. Even when we were together.
[Laughs] I’m sorry to laugh.
It’s not funny. It wasn’t funny at the time. Looking back, I have a sense of humor about it because he got several sexual transmitted diseases as a result. Which he then passed on to me, so I’m fully diseased.
[Laughs] I’m sorry.
It’s okay. You can laugh.
I’m curious then, being that age at that time, how does it compare to now? I mean, I’m 27 now, so do you think it’s different for women at my age now then it was then?
You look about 24.
Oh, that’s lovely of you to say.
But did you feel like, at that time, there was more pressure for you to be with that person?
Well, you know, I was late to get married. All my friends got married at 19, 20. Nowadays, people get married in their 50s and they adopt children. I felt a lot of pressure to find a man. I was lonely and everything was dryer down there, so it was important to get wet and get ready. And so I did very quickly. It was a sexual blossoming, and it was very good for me. And he was very good for me. And I miss him so. With his nipples. He had three of them.
Three. Where was the third?
On top of his head.
Yeah, he was bald towards the end of his life, so when he’d put his head down, it would look like a boob. It looked like a tit.
Was it ever explained medically why he had that?
He was afraid of doctors. And they would say, “Why don’t you remove it? It’s so embarrassing in public.” But he knew that I loved it, so he kept it there. He would have removed it if I wasn’t around. But I loved it. I use to play with it. I use to tweak it. Every time I’d touch it, his eyes would shut.
It was a weird connection. Nipple-eye connection.
Who have you dated recently? What are these people you’re meeting like?
I dated a man named Melvin Schlanger. And he was cruel to me. He wasn’t very nice, but I liked him because he was large. And then I dated a small man named, God, I forget his name. His name didn’t matter. All I know is he kept asking me to give him a 73. And I wouldn’t do it.
What’s a 73?
It’s a 69 with four of my fingers in his ass.
And you wouldn’t do it.
I wouldn’t do that, no. You gotta draw the line somewhere.
And Melvin, he wasn’t very nice?
No, he was cruel. He would make fun of me and ridicule me. He would say I have bad makeup and he’d make fun of my wig.
Really? That’s very rude.
I thought so, too, because my wig looks natural. Don’t you think?
I like it. I didn’t even know it was a wig.
It looks like it comes right out of my head.
What’s your natural hair?
My natural hair color? I was born with white hair. I’m albino. But I cover it up with makeup. I’m a full albino.
Are you wearing contacts?
These are contact lenses, yeah.
It looks great.
Thank you very much.
Also, you moved to Los Angeles?
No, I live in Florida. What are you talking, Los Angeles?
Oh, we’re in Florida.
We’re in Florida. Welcome to Florida.
Where in Florida are we?
Boca Raton, the best. I’m very popular around these parts.
It’s nice around here. I had some family in Hollywood.
Yeah Hollywood, Florida. That’s alright. A lot of blacks there. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The president is black.
Yeah, he is.
But he’s also white. A lot of people forget that.
Do you feel like, since your husband has died, you’ve had time to reflect on your time left on this Earth and how you’d like to die?
Well, I don’t think I’m going to die. I know that sounds a little crazy, but I know modern technology is going to find the fountain of youth and I’m going to live for another 85 to at least 97 years. At which point I’m going to die my own way. I’m not going to die of natural causes. I’ll probably throw myself off the synagogue.
Just to go out with a bang.
Are you religious?
No. That’s why. If I was religious, I would never do that. But because I’m not, I figure, go out with a bang.
When you were growing up, was your family religious?
Well, they were religious about beating me.
Oh. I guess that’s common in the past.
They beat me unmerciful.
What age do you feel?
In my heart, I’m about 48. And in my undercarriage, I’m about 161. I’ve aged in my undercarriage, nothing I can do about it darling.
What do you do for work or what have you done for work?
I sold drugs for about 27 years. And I ended up in Narcotics Anonymous. They let me go because they didn’t catch me for 27 years. Finally, when they caught me, I was a first-time offender. I was 63. They took pity on me and put me in a rehab program because I started doing the drugs, that’s why I got caught. So I ended up in NA, where I learned a lot of life lessons. And I met a lot of young drug addicts who are no longer with us.
Wow. What drugs were you taking?
I was taking cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, uppers, downers, righters, lefters. And also I was huffing glue.
Again, that’s not funny.
I know, it’s not funny at all. I’m just happy for you. Because you’re out.
I blew all the money.
What are you taking now? What are those pills on your nightstand?
This is my liver pill and that’s my water pill so I can pee. Without that, I can’t pee.
So that’s good. I’m happy for you.
I’m regular because of those pills.
Why do you feel, in your heart and soul, that you are in your 40s?
That was a fine time in my life. I had just started dealing cocaine and I had a lot of friends who would come over and we’d have wild parties. My children, they had already gotten a little older and they were out with their friends, so they never knew. And I was free again. Plus, it was the early 1980s and that was a time of great freedom and great lack of insecurity for me. I wasn’t very insecure at that time. And I felt like I could take the world by the balls and twist the balls and twist them and twist them and watch them spin back into place. I hate to use a mixed metaphor, but there it is.
So you have quite a fondness for that period…
For balls, yeah.
It’s a good test of friendship.
With all the money you have, it’s a lot. How do you want to change your life with that money?
I have so many plans. I want to travel the world. I want to see all the great sights. I want to go back in time and save Michael Jackson from the Jews. I want to make it rain, whatever that means. I would like to meet Jeff Goldblum and have a proper night with him. I’d like to go to a sex dungeon and see if anything crazy happens to me. And I want to eat cheese at night and not have an upset stomach.
Do you think money grants you this kind of power? Because some of those things are pretty questionable.
Money makes the world go round, sweetheart, I hate to tell you. Money is the key that unlocks every hole. Even the hole in the penis, there’s a hole in the penis. Not a lot of people know about that hole or talk much about it, but there’s magic in there. And I would like to experience a bit of that magic dear.
After I met Gigi, it was such a lovely time.
Was she nice to you?
She was nice. After our interview, I saw a couple friends later and told them how I met this great woman named Gigi.
She’s a dream.
How connected do you feel to her?
I do and I don’t feel connected to her. It’s really strange. The makeup allows me to disappear, which is great. At times, I disappear into something that I don’t necessarily recognize of myself in terms of her attitude and her personality. She is more fiery than I am and that I know myself to be. It’s an amazing outlet for something I didn’t necessarily know I had inside me. At her essence, she is an amalgam of personalities that I grew up around and knew my whole life. She’s part of something that I know very well, and she’s her own beast and she is a beastly woman.
What ladies in your life inspired who Gigi is?
My grandmother was the first person to come to mind. She was this brassy bodied, tell it like it is, order people around, the boss at every restaurant that we went to, the champion of every cause-type woman who did not mince words when it came to how she felt about things. She probably should have, being that I was a child. But I learned how to be more assertive being around her. She took life by the balls. That’s how she chose to live it. She came from an era of gangsters and old-world, Depression-era, struggling-to-make-it-type moxie, so she was a huge inspiration. There’s part of it that’s my mother, as well, although it’s hard for me to admit that because no grown man wants to admit that they have any of their mother in them. My mother was also assertive and opinionated and loud. She’s a combination of those two women and other great women I’ve met in my life who are defeating the stereotype of the genteel sweet demure woman.
Gigi has had an interesting life. She was a drug addict and a drug dealer. How did you come up with this past for her?
We wanted to establish something that wasn’t necessarily the archetype of a woman’s life. She was a badass her whole live. And yet, under the guise of a very sweet old lady. At least by appearance, she’s very sweet, a bubbe. In reality, she’s gone through shit. And she’s not really afraid of anything. There’s no fear there, which is definitely more than I can say for myself.
Is it liberating being Gigi?
Yeah! There are times when I’d much rather be her, in situations where I’d much rather be her than be myself. I haven’t really let her, probably for the best, I haven’t let her seep into my own psyche. But there are moments when I wish I could slap some Gigi on somebody who’s gotten out of line and who’s put me in a precarious position. So it’s absolutely liberating. The makeup makes it difficult to enjoy 100 percent of the time because the makeup process is so intense for me. And as it would be for anyone. There are times when I dreaded getting into makeup and becoming her, but once I’m in it, once the four and a half hour process of getting into makeup is over, it’s nice to take a break from reality for a little while and be her.
And have you heard people say that it is liberating to be with Gigi?
[Laughs] Well, Ricky [Mabe], who plays Ricky on the show and created the show with me, he often says that he has two separate relationships, one with me and one with Gigi. And I think, yeah, she inspires something in people. I think she inspires a sense of throwing caution to the wind and going for it. She’s quite enlightened and I think anybody enlightened is worth spending a few minutes around. I think people enjoy that part of her, that sense of experience that she brings.
That’s amazing to have that power to tap into someone like that and become that person.
Well, thanks. I’m not sure how it’s done. Maybe you could tell me. It really is sort of an out-of-body experience. It’s true. I channel her. I feel like Gigi was meant to have her time, her voice, and I’m the vessel for that.
How is it seeing yourself as Gigi?
The very first time, it looked so much like my grandmother, who had passed too young many years before, and so the first time, it was a surprise and it was also as though I was home in that skin and I was seeing a very good old friend who I hadn’t gotten to see in a long time. So it was an emotional experience.
I asked Gigi some questions about her life, I would like to ask you the same questions, see how they compare.
Okay, go ahead.
What age do you feel?
At times, I feel 3, and at other times, I feel 123. I’m weathered. I’ve been through the storm myself, but at the same time, I try to keep the kid inside of me alive and have an innocent perspective on the world. Stay curious. How old did she say she was?
Like she was in her mid-40s, but 161 in her undercarriage.
Alright. I apologize.
Do you feel like you can and like to give advice to people?
Yeah, I’m a good friend. I try to impart whatever wisdom I have on other people. I guess I’m obnoxious that way. I tend to like the sound of my own voice. Her and I are probably very similar in that regard.
Did you grow up religious?
Not really, no. My parents were nice and observant, but they didn’t bang me over the head with it. My answers, inherently in my nature, much more boring than Gigi’s answers. I apologize for that.
In what ways do you grieve?
I eat. I eat to grieve. There’s nothing better than some fried chicken and ice cream to get over a death. I’ve dealt with the death of many family members with fried chicken. I go to this little gastropub called The Dog & Cask. They make really good fried chicken. So, often times, I’ll go crying my eyes out and leave with a big smile on my face. They probably think I’m crazy there.
Yeah, so you only go when you’re grieving.
Exactly, which is about once a week.
Do you reflect on your time left on this Earth and how you would like to die?
Oh Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. You know, I used to do a lot of that. But it was very bad for me. I can’t compartmentalize those thoughts. In other words, when I think those kinds of thoughts, they become very real to me in the moment. So I’ve tried to think less about my death. I’m not as death-obsessed as I used to be. But if I were to die, I suppose I’d like to die in some sort of assassination. Because then people would make a big deal out of it, it’d be so shocking. People who get assassinated are also worth being assassinated. If you get assassinated, it’s different than being murdered. Assassinated means you were famous and you were great and someone had to take your greatness away. And I suppose an assassination would work out nicely for me. I feel like people would be sadder about my death if I was assassinated. Whereas if I just died choking on a fried chicken bone, people would be like, “What an idiot. Why didn’t he chew slower? Why is he sticking bones in his mouth?” You asked a dark question. I have to give you a dark answer.
(Gigi Does It premieres on IFC on October 1.)