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"Two gerbils in a pet shop are talking and one says to the other: 'If Richard Gere comes in tell him you're a hamster.'"
That's a hacky old joke, but behind every joke lies a kernel of truth, right? RIGHT? Richard Gere is many things: An actor, a Buddhist, an officer, a gentleman and drinking buddies with the Dalai Lama. We left off 'extreme bestiality sexual deviant' because we're still not sure where we stand on this whole "gerbilling" thing, so we dug deep (really deep) to find out just how far this thing goes.
Yes, it's another chapter of Hollywood Myths. We exposed the naked truth about Jamie Lee Curtis, and now it's time to poke and prod the man of "Pretty Woman."
So your basic retelling of the legend states that in the early '90s — when the actor was having boffo success with "Pretty Woman" while scoring around the clock with Cindy Crawford — Richard Gere was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Hospital in California for an emergency "gerbilectomy." Apparently doctors spent frantic hours removing a foreign object from the actor's rectum, which turned out to be a gerbil inserted with erotic intent. We're using the word 'intent' here; the poor animal was said to be placed inside a condom, inserted via a cardboard tube, then in its death spasms provides the recipient with jolts of prostate tickling.
According to Snopes, this ball of wax got rolling when an anonymous practical jokester faxed a phony press release throughout the Hollywood community from The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, admonishing the "Days of Heaven" star that he'd have hell to pay for "abusing" said gerbil. Who had the time, resources or vindictiveness to send such a thing?
No one knows for sure, but Gere apparently has his suspicions: Sylvester Stallone. Yep, supposedly Sly had Gere fired from one of their earliest pictures, the greaser comedy "The Lords of Flatbush" (1974), after the two of them didn't exactly get along like a house on fire. "Richard was given his walking papers and to this day seriously dislikes me," Stallone admitted to Aint It Cool. "He even thinks I’m the individual responsible for the gerbil rumor. Not true … but that’s the rumor."
Evidence For It
We're not gonna lie: We checked Al Capone's vault and found no hard evidence or photos related to the Gere-Gerbil affair. Apparently the anally-inclined pet does have his own MySpace page, in case you needed further proof of how old this rumor is. There's also the amazing "South Park" episode where the gerbil Lemmiwinks takes a magical journey through Mr. Slave's rectum. Cartoons are evidence, right?
Evidence Against It
Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand claimed in his book "Encyclopedia of Urban Legends" that the tall tale has its antecedents in a similar one about a Colo-Rectal Mouse dating back to 1984.
Gossip columnist Mike Walker of The National Enquirer did months of investigating the subject to no avail. "I've never worked harder on a story in my life," Walker told the Palm Beach Post in 1995. "I'm convinced that it's nothing more than an urban legend." There you go, even a crusty tabloid guy says it's too far-felched … er, fetched.
The Peanut Gallery
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"Are you guys saying you never heard the rumor? The story was Richard Gere did the gay guy fad of sticking a live gerbil up his ass. Supposedly it's erotic cause the thing wiggles around. I live in SF and heard that somebody knew a nurse at the hospital who actually was there when they had to remove the gerbil. Don't know if it was really true or not." – Palermo, Gossip Rocks forum
"Being a gay man or Richard Gere in America means always having to reassure people that you don't have a gerbil in your ass — at dinner parties, during family reunions, at funerals, on CNN, at passport control, wherever! For while gay men and, I assume, Richard Gere don't put gerbils in their asses, not a day goes by that someone — usually a straight 13-year-old boy — doesn't try to shove one in, figuratively speaking." — Dan Savage, The Coast Halifax
"Mythbusters tested this one recently by inserting gerbils inside a pig's intestine. Result: plausible!" — Lyle "World Champion Costco Sampler", Yelp
What Richard's Said
"I stopped reading the press a long time ago," Gere explained to Metro. "Lots of crazy things came up about me at first, especially from the tabloids. There is an infamous 'Gere stuck a hamster up his bum' urban myth. I expect that sort of thing but when reputable magazines started making up stories claiming I was in a country I had never been to with someone I didn't even know, I just decided not to pay attention to any of it. It's a waste of energy."
Seems this urban legend will go the way of the "Rod Stewart had his stomach pumped" anecdote in terms of validity. Too bad, because the story would make a far more entertaining movie than Gere's "Arbitrage" or "Nights in Rodanthe" combined. Can we please get Lars Von Trier on this, stat?