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April 17, 1983
Felix Pappalardi returned to his fashionable apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side after a Saturday night out. He would not live to see another sunrise. Sometime in the wee morning hours of Sunday April 17; 1983, he was shot once in the neck with a .38 caliber derringer. He died on his bedroom floor without ever receiving medical attention. Gail Collins, who was his musical collaborator, designer of the Mountain artwork used on all of their albums and stage outfits...and to whom Felix was married...was the person who fired that fatal shot.
Pappalardi was well established in the Rock community. He was a founding member and bassist of the rock group Mountain and was an acclaimed record producer, most notably for the supergroup Cream. But Gail Collins, perhaps ironically, possessed enormous artistic talent as well, having co-written many songs with Felix (primarily as a lyricist) for Mountain. She also is credited as a co-witer for Cream's Strange Brew. Even though she received little acclaim for her contributions, there is no evidence to suggest that professional jealousy provoked the shooting.
There was, however, strong evidence to suggest that jealousy of another kind may have led to the shooting: Felix Pappalardi's relationship with another woman.
Valerie Merians, 27, blonde, attractive and an aspiring singer, is purported to have been the girlfriend of Felix Pappalardi. She described her approximately 10 month relationship with Felix to investigators as serious, stating that they had even "discussed marriage". She seemed to back up much of her claim by producing gifts given to her by Felix expressing his love and affection for her.
Gail Collins notified police of the shooting at approximately 6 a.m. on the morning of April 17, allegedly after calling her attorney. In all the confusion she apparently forgot to call for emergency medical help for her dying husband, as he reportedly was not examined until after the police arrived. She was immediately taken into custody and arraigned the next day on charges of second-degree murder.
Gail Collins remained jailed from the time of her arrest to the end of the trial. Initially she was held without bail, but her bond was lowered to $100,000 dollars, which she was never able to post. Her defense, on it's face, seemed a bit odd: That Felix Pappalardi was shot accidentally as he was instructing her on how to use the firearm.
It was apparently not as odd as it seemed, because on the evening of Wednesday September 22; 1983, a jury of six men and six women acquitted Gail Collins of second-degree murder, convicting her instead of the much lesser crime of criminally negligent homicide, which carried a maximum sentence of four years. And the maximum is exactly what she got from an angry Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James Leff. Apparently displeased with the verdict, Leff ignored pleas of leniency from Gail Collins' attorneys, stating "all the clemency and all the leniency was given to her by the jury".
A more detailed account of the events described above can be found in the "Articles" section of this website.
What became of Gail Collins is a mystery. She is rumored to have quietly moved to California and Louisiana, among other places. More recently there have been stories that she has passed away. The simple fact is that no one...even those in the Mountain inner circle...knows for sure. And anyone who does know is certainly not talking. But the Webmasters of this site are not interested in espousing rumors, nor do we have any desire to disturb whatever peace, assuming she is alive and has found it, that Gail Collins enjoys. The jury has spoken. The conclusion one comes to, upon examining Gail Collins and her story, is that the Mountain that we all love simply would not have been the same without her artistic talents.
This is a sad story about a true rock legend who was taken from the world far too soon. One can't help but wonder what Felix Pappalardi, possessing the talents that he did , might have accomplished. Maybe we would be listening to the brilliant new band whose CD Felix produced. Maybe we would be making plans to see him with Leslie and Corky as they rolled into town on their summer tour. But even though that will never happen, we should all find solace in the idea that surely Felix would take pleasure in knowing that his work has stood the test of time.
Maybe he already does.
For more information on Felix Pappalardi and Gail Collins, see the Articles section of this site.
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