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Jerome Zerbe
(July 24, 1904 - August 19, 1988) USA

Jerome Zerbe

Photographer

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Jerome Zerbe was born in Euclid, Ohio. His father, Jerome B. Zerbe, was the president of a coal company and a prominent citizen in nearby Cleveland, where the family later resided. Young Jerry Zerbe was driven to public school in the family limousine, which got him beaten up by bullies. He managed to survive well enough to be sent East, to the prestigious Salisbury School in Salisbury, Connecticut. It was there that he took an interest in art, drawing, and photography.

Jerry graduated from Yale in 1928, where he was an editor of the campus humor magazine. While an undergrad, Jerry had a knack for getting around the Prohibition laws, and was known as the guy who knew where the booze and parties were. This paid off, and he became a supreme social networker. He gained important social prominence in New Haven, which would serve him well in New York City, Paris, and London.

After graduation he went out to Hollywood to try his hand at drawing portraits of the famous residents. He was befriended by a young Gary Cooper, which led to Zerbe's quickly becoming friends with Hedda Hopper, Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Randolph Scott, Marion Davies, and Paulette Goddard. It did not take long for Jerry to put down his paintbrush and pick up a camera. He photographed numerous stars in Hollywood's Golden Age and some of the hopefuls, before they became known, posed for him wearing few if any clothes.

During the Depression, Jerry landed his first major job, as art director of Parade , which was headquartered in his hometown, Cleveland. He persuaded the wealthy local residents that it would help them to be photographed at their parties, which was simply not done at the time. He convinced them that it would assist the charity balls and fundraisers the leading society matrons were hosting. This paid off. He shot hundreds of debutantes, brides, newlyweds, and formal dinners in North America and Europe. Jerry was shocked that at the height of the Depression, unemployed readers craved looking at photos of high-society types dressed in evening clothes and drinking champagne.

Jerome ZerbeWhen Jerry arrived in New York, he was in the right place at the right time. Prohibition had just ended, and nightlife was booming. The city had seven daily newspapers and three press associations. They all needed society photographs. Jerry got himself hired by the Rainbow Room - on the 65th Floor of 30 Rockefeller Center - to set up fashionable dinner parties and photograph the guests.

In the 1930s, Zerbe was the partner and lover of the society columnist and writer Lucius Beebe. Beebe made so many flattering references to Zerbe in his newspaper column, This New York , that rival columnist Walter Winchell suggested that Jerome Zerbe should change the name to "Jerome Never Looked Lovelier."

World War II prompted Jerry to enlist in the Navy. He was able to bring his camera, became the official photographer for Admiral Nimitz, and found a way to travel with the stars who flew overseas to entertain the troops.

After the war, Jerry took up photographing café society with gusto. He was a charming man who was able to rub shoulders with dukes, duchesses, visiting dignitaries, as well as John Hay Whitney, Cornelius Vanderbilt IV, and scores of others. He traveled to France to photograph estates and country homes - and the residents as well.

In the 1940s, Jerry worked for the Hearst newspaper chain, and wrote a Sunday column for the Sunday Mirror for more than 10 years. From 1949 to 1974, he was the society editor for Town & Country . He traveled around the globe photographing big celebrity events.

Jerry died at his Sutton Place apartment in Manhattan. He was 85. The Zerbe photographic archive was purchased by Frederick R. Koch, eldest son of industrialist Fred C. Koch, and gifted in 2013 to the Beinecke Rare Book Library.

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Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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