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Wonderboy: The life, loves and death of Eric Emerson

Gary Comenas (2016)

page eight

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The Emerson family reunion took place in May 2003 - near the date of Eric's death in 1975. Krysteen left on on a plane to Tennessee on May 23rd and returned to the Los Angeles area on May 27th. At one point, Eric's sister took her on a tour of the family home. The walls were covered with pictures of Eric.

Krysteen (June 5, 2003 23:20):

Things were going along just fine until... Eric's sister... started to take Monique around the house on a tour and asked me to come along. Eric's family believes in keeping lots of pictures and the walls were full of them. After about 3 rooms full of old pictures I could not go on. I had to leave. It was all affecting me so much that I had to hold back the tears and run for the door.

I got in my car and took off for anywhere but there. I stayed gone for about an hour than came back but I tried to stay away from the rooms with the most photos. It was hard because pictures line the hallways, bathroom, and every room you go into. I went outside...

When I first got there I gave [Eric's family member] a lot of pictures of Monique from all different ages so she could see how she looked. Eric's sister... took us to her house and brought out more pictures - all Eric's school almanacs, news clippings of ballet shows, high school pics and some pretty rare Andy pics. With Eric. Needless to say when she started to do this about 5 min. latter I had to split again because I could not stand it all. The memories started to come rushing in. I started to remember stuff I forgot we ever did, people we partied with all the time, spent with the Beach Boys, Frank Zappa Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, just on and on and on. Memories came flooding back in like a broken dam.

I asked her if she had found out anything else about Eric's death.

Krysteen (June 10, 2003 06:54):

OK I will try to get it straight ... here goes. After trying to dodge Elda on the second day she followed me out to the car where I went to smoke. The whole thing was getting to me and I started smoking again. When she got there I don't know what she expected of me - to just be nice and forget how awful she had been to me or what? So when she started to say something to me I stopped her and told her "You know Elda you were just awful to me and you almost killed me. How could you do that to a preg. woman?"

Well she shut up for a second and gathered her thoughts then said..."Well Holly was there and I knew that she would save you so I felt like I could do that." I looked her straight in the eye and told her you owe me an apology and she was quick to say "I am sorry, could we forget that". So I said 'You know I was only 18 yrs. old, preg. far from home, and Eric is the one who brought me to your house to stay. I did not want to stay there but he said you were his friend." So Elda starts with 'Branch [Elda's son by Eric] and Monique are bro. and sister they need each other ' - "I am really very sorry Krysteen." Than I asked, "Well than Elda what happened to Eric? I know he did not die the way they say he did."

She starts this big long story about how much Eric really loved her and Branch even though he had another girlfriend - this Barbara. It seems Jane [Forth] was preg. again but not with his kid and she left him taking Emerson with her, so Eric gets this other girlfriend he had moved in with - Barbara - and was living with her.

Now Elda said at that time her band, The Stilettos was trying to make it and Barbara was her agent or promoter something like that but all Barbara wanted to do was get Elda out of the picture, so Elda says. She said this Barbara just wanted to promote her to get rid of her but no way was she going to fall for that - she knew Eric wanted her and Branch and she says she talked Eric into making a loft in Barbara's place so Branch and her could visit Eric.

Well, supposedly when Eric mentioned this to Barbara she went wild but Barbara had lots of $ and knew she could keep Eric with lots of dope [heroin]. So when she finds out, she goes out and buys $300.00 worth of heroin and comes back and gives it to Eric. Now when this happens she [Elda] swears that she was not there but there were 8 people in the apt at the time and then Elda looks at me and says he shot himself up with all the dope and nobody else put it in him - that he injected it all by himself.

At this point I tell Elda "Bullshit. Eric never never had a death wish and he was well acquainted with how much dope he could do." I told her he would never do that because if she had done as much dope with him as I did she knew how he used to check what he did before he did the stuff always. (You got to remember that he was the one that started shooting me up with dope for the first time and one of the things he taught me right off was how to test stuff first and not to trust anyone with the bag. He was always careful.)

So Elda says, well he did it to himself. No one made him do it. Barbara just gave him enough to kill himself and that was her way of keeping Eric from seeing Branch and her. That Barbara was so jealous that she killed him rather than let him see Elda....

Do you believe that there were 8 people in the house [and] no one tried to help him? They were afraid of the police so they let him die, than took him and dumped his body by the roadside to make it look like a car accident threw him out of a car. And after, called her [Elda] and told her he had died, OD'd. So she goes to the funeral with these people.

Krysteen continued to comment on Elda's story in other emails. I asked her if Elda had mentioned the names of the other people who were in the apartment.

Krysteen June 10, 2003, 16:40)

Yes Elda told me about the other people and who they were, but I did not know any of them and so I don't remember their names but she knows every one of them. What bothered me about the story is that she did nothing about it and she even went with these people after the deed was done. She made it sound like they were the only ones that could get her into the funeral. But Eric's sister told me there were so many people that the family could not believe it.

It would have been unusual for a woman to have needed to tag along with other people in order to get into the funeral of the deceased father of her child. It's not known whether Elda was just referring to the funeral or also to the wake that Debbie Harry describes in her quote on the previous page of this article: "We didn't quite understand what had happened, but we went to a party/wake held for him and saw a lot of people from the earlier glitter days."

Krysteen confirmed in several emails that Eric had overdosed: "Yes again Eric was OD'd and dumped on the side of the road there were 8 people in the house at the time and no one would help him. Barbara did it, Elda says, to keep Eric from seeing Elda and Branch but... I don't know if I believe Elda... " (Email June 10, 2003 06:03)

Krysteen appeared to believe that Eric had overdosed but didn't know if she believed Elda in regard to other aspects of the story. As already noted, she thought it strange that Elda had to go to the funeral with other people in order to get in. Krys appeared to think that Elda's view of things might have been clouded by what she referred to as Elda's "fatal attraction" to Eric.

Krysteen (June 10, 2003 03:20):

... I see she [Elda] has to this day an unhealthy obsession with this man [Eric]. She has a fatal attraction kind of liking for him and I do think in the end it was this that got him killed. She could never never never leave well enough alone. She could not see him with anyone, not just me. It is really scary talking to her because she lives in her own head about him. Some of the shit she was telling me was so bizarre that I know only a person who is obsessed could talk like that... Elda told me she had been living with Eric's ghost for 20 years.

In 2007 I tracked down Elda. At that time she was the "Senior Loan Specialist" for a residential home corporation.

Elda Gentile (January 24, 2007 23:48):

I am the mother of Eric Emerson’s son Branch Emerson. My name is Elda Gentile aka Elda Stiletto for the original punk band The Stilettos which launched Debbie Harry’s career. I have written a book about the entire inside truth of my life with Eric - a love affair that spanned from 1968 through 1975...
P.S. Branch has 2 beautiful grandchildren.  There are also 2 daughters that we found, Erica and Monique who are Branch’s stepsisters.

I asked her if she knew Krysteen and she wrote "I saw Krysteen for the first time since 1968 about 3 years ago at Grandma Emerson's. Monique had never met Branch or the family before so we had a big Emerson gathering for a couple of days down in Tennessee. I haven't heard from her since but I think Branch and Monique are in touch." (Email 25 Jan 25, 2007 15:42)

She told me about Eric and herself. Unlike what Krys said - that Eric was just using her for a place to stay and for money - Elda claimed that she "was Eric's love through all the other women. We both lived with other people at different times but never ended our relationship. Unfortunately, I couldn't stop the down spiral I saw him spinning into with the funds Barbara Winter provided. I was devastated by his death, and still have no closure about what really happened to him that night." (Email February 5, 2007 18:39)

According to Elda, Barbara did not get her money from managing bands but from her divorce settlement with Edgar Winter: "Barbara obtained moneys [sic] from her divorce and not from managing - she never managed my band but was very interested in trying to get me a record deal so I would take off and leave her with Eric and my son. There was no way I would have ever left my son to live with her." (Email 14 April 2008 18:30)

Her comments to Krysteen do not agree with her comment about not knowing "what really happened to him that night." She had told Krysteen that Barbara was behind his overdose. In a quote by Elda that appears on the Wikipedia page for Eric Emerson, she says the following:

Elda Gentile:

Although there will never be closure about Eric's death When Barbara Winter's contacted me and tried to tell me Eric was hit on his bike I went to Independence Plaza where Eric was staying with her and verified with the door man of the building that he indeed died of an overdose. That evening Barbara, Ronnie Cutrone and Jane came to my apartment not knowing what I knew and upon questioning them I was told there were 8 people hanging out at the apartment when Eric died. I still wonder how the bicycle story came about and live with this tragedy every day.

But how would a door man know that Eric had overdosed? Did he see them carrying Eric's body out of the building? She says that Ronnie Cutrone and Jane told her there were 8 people in the apartment when Eric died. But how did they know that? Who told them? Were they there? Like Eric, Ronnie Cutrone was also a heroin user. He went into rehab. in 1980. (MT374)

What happened at Barbara's apartment the day that Eric died will probably never be known - assuming that it was Barbara's apartment and not Lou Reed's. And assuming it was an overdose, as claimed by Elda. If it was true that there were eight people in the room when Eric overdosed, some of them are probably still alive and still living with the memory of what happened that day.

Krysteen was in L.A. when Eric died. She received the news of his death by telephone:

Krysteen (August 12, 2002 19:58):

I was living in L.A. when Eric died. But the odd thing was the day he died I woke up from a sound sleep and he was standing next to my bed asking me for help. I talked to him and told him I could not help. I was too far away. Then the phone rings the next day and I am told he died.

A photo of Eric Emerson from his High School Annual. The inscription at the top reads: "Hope you make it to the top and all your dreams come true, Love Mom"


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