Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cabaret Girls of Yore

Leave it to the all-knowing Junk Thief to fill me in on two fascinating cabaret girls of yore whom I will read more about when I am not just procrastinating from editing and have some "real" free time to spare (will this day ever come?).

Alice Prin, AKA Kiki, was called the Queen of Montparnasse and said famously, "all I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red [wine]; and I will always find somebody to offer me that."

A Parisian dancer, singer, music hall queen, she embodied the spirit of the French music halls and even owned her own cabaret at one point, Chez Kiki. Man Ray was her partner throughout the 20s and she was his muse.

Kiki was an accomplished painter as well and at 14 years old was already modeling nude for scraps of bread. She represents the forever lost bohemian spirit of Montparnasse which pre-dated WWII.

Anita Berber was also made infamous by a work of art, a painting by Otto Dix entitled, "Portrait of a Dancer, Anita Berber." She was a German cabaret dancer, prostitute and writer during the Weimer period that SpielPalast also inhabits.

Anita was said to have been a sex slave to a woman and her teenage daughter (!?) and entranced audiences with her androgynous, erotic dancing. She died of tuberculosis at 29 and had healthy cocaine and booze habits to boot. The photos of her are stunning and a wee bit scary.

Both women left their own marks in books and paintings - but it is the images of them by men that we recognize. Somehow it makes me glad that as a poor cabaret girl, I can still afford my own recording devices to immortalize the show in my own way. Granted, it is not a photo by Man Ray or a painting by Otto Dix - but I made it. So there.


Q_Monroe said...

have i lost you to the cabaret forever?

Junk Thief said...

Oh, Eva, you give me far more credit than I deserve about my knowledge of the 1920s. Remember, I was but a wee thing back then still in short pants, but I did hang out with Lotte Lenya a lot.

If you want the true source on all things Weimar, I suggest checking out Mel Gordon, a UCB professor who wrote "Voluptuous Panic" about Weimar Berlin as well as a bio of Miz Berber. Yep, she's a bit scary but intriguing.

There is also a great CBC documentary called "Sin Cities" about 1920s-30s Berlin, Paris and Shanghai. Gordon is the main talking head in the Berlin chapter. Who'd guess the Canadians knew so much about decadence and depravity.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

ooh, I am gonna go get that book, thanks! Maybe I will look up Mel when back West in 2 weeks!

You are such a good art resource Mr Thief!

Sigh, as much as I love the cabaret, I know these lovely ladies of yore had it hard...at least I get dental appointments and regular meals! not as romantic but nice all the same...

Salty Miss Jill said...

What I want to know is...when are you and Junk Thief going to meld your collective brilliance and creativity to take over the world? Or at least write a book? ;)
LOVE you and your work!

digibudi said...

I love Otto Dix! Especially that painting, the first time I saw it was when I studied Architecture in Ghent, many years ago.. I still have the exciting feeling when I look at that painting.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

yes yes YES! world take over! I am in, Junk Thief? Digibudi? Salty Jill! Dead cabaret girls?!??! otto Dix?!?!? man Ray!??!?!