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Posts tagged: Weimar era

"Ich hab’ dich lieb, braune Madonna"

Marek Weber and his orchestra, singer: Leo Monosson

Marlene Dietrich and Margo Lion, “Wenn die Beste Freundin” from Es Liegt in der Luft (cabaret revue, 1928; this recording was probably made later).

'The title song of It’s in the Air proclaimed: “there’s something objective in the air, there’s something prickly in the air”. The song’s catchword derived from the current wave of Neue Sachlichkeit, the “New Objectivity” or “New Matter-of-Factness” in the arts that had replaced the Expressionism and the utopianism of the early Weimar years. The revue maintained that this “objectivity” had invaded all attitudes and relations. No longer was there room for tradition, nostalgia, or old-fashioned sentiments, as individuals reassessed their personal needs and inclinations.

'That attitude was expressed in a duet sung by Margo Lion and Marlene Dietrich, in her first major stage role. Entitled “When My Best Girl Friend” (Wenn die beste freundin), it ostensibly described two women on a shopping expedition. It made clear, however, that they were dissatisfied with their husbands and had a very intimate relationship with each other. The song became an unofficial anthem for German lesbians in the late twenties.'

Peter Jelavich, Berlin Cabaret

Occupying an entire city block, Haus Vaterland radiated modernism. Like a still from Metropolis, the domed roof of Vaterland was crowned with a Futuristic ring of neon bands. Inside, its five floors were twelve restaurant-“environments” and a separate variety house. The Vaterland issued its own magazine, The Berolina, and could accommodate 6,000 patrons at any given hour.
The twelve dining areas were devoted to international and provincial cultures— mostly fabricated— and appropriate culinary spreads. One could select from Turkish, Bavarian, Spanish, Viennese, Baden, Rheinish, Japanese, North German, Italian, Hungarian, Prussian, or American cuisines. And the amusements were site-specific too. The glittering motto of the Vaterland illuminated the Potsdamer Platz entrance, “Every Nation Under One Roof!”
The theatricalization in Haus Vaterland was extreme. For instance, in the Rhineland Wine Terrace, an artificial river flowed at the edge of a 70-foot panorama of the Rheinish countryside and a castle ruins. Stationed inside the mock fortification stood a student a cappella group, the “Cologne Boys.” For 55 minutes of each hour, the Terrace was bathed in sweet synthetic sunshine; suddenly, on the hour, the music stopped and “the Storm on the Rhine,” a five-minute environmental “event,” started up. First, an ominous cloud-cover darkened the entire room— so dark that partygoers couldn’t even locate the sauerkraut on their plates. Charges of simulated lightning and a huge clap of thunder resounded. Then a mechanically operated rain shower swept across the entire vine-garlanded enclosure. The “Storm” concluded with a blinding sunburst from a battery of electric apparatuses and a cheery rainbow. These five minutes were said to be the best theatre in Berlin.

Mel Gordon, Voluptuous Panic

Occupying an entire city block, Haus Vaterland radiated modernism. Like a still from Metropolis, the domed roof of Vaterland was crowned with a Futuristic ring of neon bands. Inside, its five floors were twelve restaurant-“environments” and a separate variety house. The Vaterland issued its own magazine, The Berolina, and could accommodate 6,000 patrons at any given hour.

The twelve dining areas were devoted to international and provincial cultures— mostly fabricated— and appropriate culinary spreads. One could select from Turkish, Bavarian, Spanish, Viennese, Baden, Rheinish, Japanese, North German, Italian, Hungarian, Prussian, or American cuisines. And the amusements were site-specific too. The glittering motto of the Vaterland illuminated the Potsdamer Platz entrance, “Every Nation Under One Roof!”

The theatricalization in Haus Vaterland was extreme. For instance, in the Rhineland Wine Terrace, an artificial river flowed at the edge of a 70-foot panorama of the Rheinish countryside and a castle ruins. Stationed inside the mock fortification stood a student a cappella group, the “Cologne Boys.” For 55 minutes of each hour, the Terrace was bathed in sweet synthetic sunshine; suddenly, on the hour, the music stopped and “the Storm on the Rhine,” a five-minute environmental “event,” started up. First, an ominous cloud-cover darkened the entire room— so dark that partygoers couldn’t even locate the sauerkraut on their plates. Charges of simulated lightning and a huge clap of thunder resounded. Then a mechanically operated rain shower swept across the entire vine-garlanded enclosure. The “Storm” concluded with a blinding sunburst from a battery of electric apparatuses and a cheery rainbow. These five minutes were said to be the best theatre in Berlin.

Mel Gordon, Voluptuous Panic

German radios, late Weimar era. Possibly using vacuum tubes.

Gloria Lumpophon, 1930; rare Telefunken catshead model, 1931/2

Muguette, female impersonator from the Eldorado, 1931.

Muguette, female impersonator from the Eldorado, 1931.

Alexanderplatz, aerial view, 1924.

Alexanderplatz, aerial view, 1924.

Evolution of Leica cameras. Interchangeable lenses were introduced in 1930.

Top row: Ur-Leica, 1914; Leica I, introduced at the Leipzig spring fair in 1925

Middle: Leica Luxur (late 1920s?); Leica Compur, produced 1926-29

Bottom: Leica I, 1926; Leica II, introduced 1932, the first Leica model with a rangefinder.

Wertheim department store on Leipziger Straße: on the day the Reichstag opened, 1930, when many shop windows were smashed; and sometime in the 1920s.

From Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic
Note: ‘transvestite’ is the author’s term, not mine. I am tagging this post that way because it makes most sense to me— he’s not necessarily discussing trans* people but those who dress in clothes typical of the opposite of their birth sex.

Despite Hirschfeld’s scientific announcements, male and female transvestites were universally seen as a colorful subset of queer Berlin. […] The normal life of queer male transvestites, the obvious drag queens and divas, who frequently lived as couples, was further complicated by Paragraph 168, a Prussian statute that forbade the appearance of cross-dressers on Berlin’s thoroughfares.
This gave rise to private transvestite Dielen and bars, where patrons entered as dowdy men and women and then re-emerged from the bustling restrooms as splendid specimens of the opposite sex. On occasion— and as a favor to crime reporters, usually their drinking buddies— Berlin vice commissioners staged phony raids on these establishments, maliciously forcing the transvestites out into the street, where they were subject to instant arrest and a battery of tabloid paparazzi.

From Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic

Note: ‘transvestite’ is the author’s term, not mine. I am tagging this post that way because it makes most sense to me— he’s not necessarily discussing trans* people but those who dress in clothes typical of the opposite of their birth sex.

Despite Hirschfeld’s scientific announcements, male and female transvestites were universally seen as a colorful subset of queer Berlin. […] The normal life of queer male transvestites, the obvious drag queens and divas, who frequently lived as couples, was further complicated by Paragraph 168, a Prussian statute that forbade the appearance of cross-dressers on Berlin’s thoroughfares.

This gave rise to private transvestite Dielen and bars, where patrons entered as dowdy men and women and then re-emerged from the bustling restrooms as splendid specimens of the opposite sex. On occasion— and as a favor to crime reporters, usually their drinking buddies— Berlin vice commissioners staged phony raids on these establishments, maliciously forcing the transvestites out into the street, where they were subject to instant arrest and a battery of tabloid paparazzi.

Radio at the time— like the cinematograph in its early stage— seemed as yet not much more than a new toy for technically minded high-school juniors of every age to play around with. For a really mature and cultivated person it seemed a preposterous idea that, instead of reading a good book, hearing a concert, or enjoying a good conversation, he should put on a pair of cumbersome earphones and bother witha primitive and uncertain machinery— only in order to hear finally, after many vain attempts, some more or less articulate noises; sometimes a kind of music, another time a human voice sounding as if it came from the bottom of a rusty watering pot and talking, if undrstood at all, about chicken farming or similar important problems.

Franz Schoenberner, Confessions of a European Intellectual

He wasn’t listening to the radio adaptation of Berlin Alexanderplatz, then…