Sunday, June 10, 2018

Born Today In1899, German Dancer, Actress, Anita Berber

Anita Berber was born today, June 10, in 1899. She was a German dancer, actress, and writer who was the subject of a famous Otto Dix painting. Before Janis Joplin or Amy Winehouse, she invented living a hardcore life. Berber had a major influence on Weimar Berlin, where she pushed limits and surpassed them.

By the age of 16, she had moved to Berlin from Dresden and made her debut as a cabaret dancer. By 1918 she was working in film, and she began dancing nude in 1919. Scandalously androgynous, she quickly made a name for herself. She wore heavy dancer's make-up, which on the black-and-white photos and films of the time came across as jet black lipstick painted across the heart-shaped part of her skinny lips, and charcoaled eyes.

Berber's hair was fashionably cut into a short bob and was frequently bright red, as in 1925 when the German painter Otto Dix painted a portrait of her, titled "The Dancer Anita Berber."

Berber's dances – which had names such as "Cocaine" and "Morphium" – broke boundaries with their androgyny and total nudity, but it was her public appearances that really challenged social taboos. Berber's overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public gossip. In addition to her addiction to cocaine, opium and morphine, one of Berber's favourites forms of inebriation was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl. This would be stirred with a white rose, the petals of which she would then eat.

In 1919, Berber entered into a marriage of convenience with a man with the surname Nathusius. She later left him in order to pursue a relationship with a woman named Susi Wanowski, and became part of the Berlin lesbian scene.

Berber's second marriage, in 1922, was to Sebastian Droste. This lasted until 1923. In 1925, she married a gay American dancer named Henri Châtin Hofmann.

Aside from her addiction to narcotic drugs, Berner was also an alcoholic. In 1928, at the age of 29, she suddenly gave up alcohol completely, but died later the same year. According to Mel Gordon, in The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin's Priestess of Debauchery, she had been diagnosed with severe tuberculosis while performing abroad. After collapsing in Damascus, she returned to Germany and died in a Kreuzberg hospital on November 10, 1928, although rumour had it that she died surrounded by empty morphine syringes. Berber was buried in a pauper's grave in St. Thomas Cemetery in Neukölln.

Read more about her here

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