Senior in Action – Gina Zollman

Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.

Re: photo taken in front of the waterfall:

The waterfall picture was taken at Mendenhall Lake in Alaska when we took our boat up


Senior in Action – Gina Zollman

by Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen

In 1955, Gina Zollman was born at Harriman Jones Clinic in Long Beach. Delivered by Dr. Doch, this was her first dramatic role, as she was a blue baby who required immediate treatment for low oxygen in the blood.  Decades later, Gina met the nurse who assisted at her birth while performing stand-up comedy at Leisure World in Seal Beach.  “The nurse still remembered my mom,” said Gina.

Gina’s parents met during World War II.  He was a Captain in the Marine Corps and she was a Navy nurse.  Gina’s dad was the youngest of 11 children and the only one who went to college.  Gina shared, “My three brothers and I grew up in Orange County.  We were shocked when Dad died at age 76 of congestive heart failure.  Mom lived to age 98 and kept her brain active until the end despite losing some of her vision and hearing.  I hope my genetics include my mother’s sharp mind and longevity.”

Gina started singing at six years of age, and sang in choirs from 4th grade through college and beyond.  She graduated from UC San Diego, Revelle College with a BA in Linguistics and minor in Music. After college, Ms. Zollman trained in Wall Street’s financial district, then moved to the west coast where she worked as a Stock Broker in San Diego before taking on Vice President and Chief Operating Officer duties at the family business Flame Gard. She is proud that the Teflon coated filters sold by her father, which revolutionized the fast-food industry by protecting employees and customers from grease fryer fires, much too prevalent prior to the invention, manufacture and distribution of the improved filters.  However, two years of that unglamorous job was enough.

Gina Zollman: “My Dad said, ‘What do you want to do?  I’ll help you.’ As his only daughter, we had a special bond. ‘Dad, I want to be a singer.  You know I’ve written songs all my life.’ Dad sang in a Glee Club, and performed with Dennis Day, so he understood my passion for music.  I didn’t start auditions until age 31.  My singing career has featured many live cabarets.  There are people who record, and people who only do live shows.  The difference between recording and live is like eating from a fast-food drive-through versus dining at a 5-star restaurant.  In the live setting, there is so much energy.  It is a special moment in time when you can riff off the other musicians.  When I decided to record my debut CD, titled GINA ZOLLMAN: Anywhere With You, I used my performance experience in the recording studio.  Isolated in a sound booth without an audience, I imagined myself on stage to recreate the energy of a live show. Music is a process, and performance is just the tip of the iceberg, with sound, lighting, and directing being crucial pieces.” 

Ms. Zollman continued to refine her artistry; she studied vocal technique with Broadway stars Marilyn Child and Udana Power, as well as Seth Riggs, studied acting at The Actor’s Center, and was coached in comedy techniques by Sandy Holt. She performed cabaret shows throughout the Southland at the Ford Theatre, the Smothers Theater in Pepperdine, the Jazz Bakery, The Improv, The Magic Castle, and more.  She created funny characters to make people laugh, for example, calling herself The PMS Poster Woman.  Gina says, “Live performances get my creative juices flowing.”

At age 50, Gina faced a diagnosis of colon cancer – not a laughing matter.  What followed was chemotherapy five days a week – a debilitating process, followed by stem cell therapy.  Now 16 years cancer free, Gina promotes screening for early diagnosis, and prevention by eating a healthy diet.  Food has not always been Gina’s friend.  She struggled with an eating disorder and was a ten-year member of Overeaters Anonymous.  She found success with NOOM psychology to keep the weight off.

Gina Zollman: “I ask myself, ‘Does this fuel me?’ I underwent gastric bypass surgery when my hip and knee problems became too painful. Now I listen to my body, eat small meals, and always eat or drink something before rehearsals to supercharge my energy. My boyfriend Steve Werner makes my life easier.  He cooks with minimal oils and no sugar, makes his own sourdough bread, pico de gallo, refried beans – so delicious.  I have a COOKBOOK in the works.  It includes comfort foods like beef stew, and chocolate chip cookies. These tasty dishes will blow your friends away, and everyone will be asking for the recipes.”

To learn more about the multi-faceted singer/songwriter Gina Zollman, please visit  Following her March 22 show at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood, her performance of songs on the debut CD, GINA ZOLLMAN: Anywhere With You will be posted on YouTube and the CD is available for sale on Zollman’s website above. Songs include perennial favorites such as “Someone to Watch Over Me”, “My Romance,” “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” and 9 other classics for lovers of the American Songbook.


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