Story by Chris Gill l Photography by Danny Clinch
For more than four decades, actor Richard Gere has been quietly accumulating a collection of desirably rare guitars. This fall, he’ll auction off more than 100 of them for the greater good of building hospitals, clinics, and schools in the Himalayas.
The public and press have viewed Richard Gere’s life under a microscope ever since the actor had his first major starring role, in Days of Heaven, Terrence Malick’s landmark 1978 film. He earned sex-symbol status from leading roles in films like American Gigolo, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Breathless,and his real-life marriages to a supermodel (Cindy Crawford) and a Bond girl (Carey Lowell). But a contrary image emerged in the Eighties as Gere came to prominence as a humanitarian and devout Buddhist. Unintentionally, he has consistently fascinated Hollywood observers, who follow the off-screen pursuits of actors as much as they analyze their onscreen personas.
But because Gere tends to avoid the spotlight when he’s not standing in front of the camera, he’s managed to enjoy a level of privacy and maintain some mystery. Since the mid Eighties he’s maintained residence in the green rolling hills and densely wooded environs of the northwestern area of New York’s Westchester County, about an hour’s drive outside the heart of Manhattan and a world away from Hollywood. Occasionally he pops up at the nearby Bedford Post Inn, a former 18th-century house and barn that Gere and his wife, Lowell, renovated in 2009 and transformed into a world-class boutique hotel, restaurant, and yoga loft. At the inn he sometimes plays the low-key role of hotel manager, quietly encouraging the staff to make sure that customers are comfortable and content.
Relaxing on the inn’s patio while tucking into a plate of vegetarian eggs Benedict, his dog Billy playfully rolling at his feet, Gere is unusually enthusiastic, forthcoming, and passionate when discussing an aspect of his private life that he’s rarely mentioned before: his extensive guitar collection. While Gere’s musical background is no mystery—he played trumpet in The Cotton Club and sang and danced onscreen in Chicago—only a handful of vintage dealers and collectors have known about his intense fascination with guitars. Gere hesitates to call himself a collector, but the guitars that he has acquired over the past 25 years are quite impressive, including several landmark historical firsts and iconic instruments directly associated with influential artists.
“I never set out to be a collector,” Gere admits. “Whenever I was in a new town shooting a film, it was always fun for me to find the local guitar shops. I enjoyed being surrounded by guys who don’t give a shit about anything but music and guitars. There’s a generosity of spirit amongst guitarists. Almost every city I’ve ever been in has at least one shop that sells old guitars and has a guy who works there who loves them and has the right vibe. You can just sit there for hours and play with no hurry.
“Whenever I was in one of those shops I would always find that one guitar that just talked to me,” he continues. “I would spend a bit of time with it and maybe come back to the store two or three times before I bought it. It’s like falling in love. You’ve got to bond with it and hear what it’s saying to you. Each guitar makes you play differently. It’s like touching a woman. How does she like it?” He laughs. “I’d always manage to find something that I liked, and the next thing I knew, I had over a hundred guitars.”
To read the rest of this story, pick up the September/October issue of Guitar Aficionado.
Stay tuned to GuitarAficionado.com for exclusive photos and video content of the guitars in Gere's collection.