Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Anita Berber

On June 10, 1899 a girl named Anita Berber was born in Dresden. Both her parents were musicians, and Anita was raised mostly by her grandmother. In 1915 she started taking acting classes and was spotted by the Avant-garde choreographer Rita Sacchetto, and joined her dance-troupe. In the years that followed Anita became more and more popular. She got to dance solo, and was even featured twice on the cover of glossy women's magazine Die Dame. With her scandalously androgynous appearance and heavy makeup she made a name for herself. By 1918 she was becoming a sought-after model, was touring her own solo-programme, and had made her first of nine silent films.

At a drunken party at a hotel in Vienna she danced naked in public for the first time, and then things started to spiral out of control. At the same time she married a wealthy young screen writer named Eberhard von Nathusius, and her film career was blooming, rumors of lesbian affairs and S&M sex reached the daily newspapers in Berlin.

In the winter of 1919 she occupied a suite at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin. The nights she spent at different hotels and elegant restaurants, where she would walk around wearing nothing but a sable coat, her pet monkey around her neck, and an antique brooch filled with cocaine. Except for her addiction to cocaine, opium and morphine, one of her favorites was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl. She also spent her money wildly on shoes, furs and jewelry.

Photo by Madame D'Ora, 1922.

In 1921 Anita and her husband got divorced, and she started dating a row of beautiful women. The young Marlene Dietrich was rumored to be one of them. A year later though, Anita met dancer and poet Sebastian Droste during a wild night at a casino in Berlin.

The two of them were immediately drawn to each other, and started making plans to create something new and chocking together. This resulted in a production called The Dances Of Depravity, Horror and Ecstasy, which they toured Europe with. In 1923 they got married. But about nine months later - after falling into huge depts, being expelled from Vienna, Anita being arrested for assault and theft, and both of them being heavily dependent on cocaine - Sebastian stole Anita's furs and jewelry, sold them, and fled to New York.

Anita and Sebastian Droste 1922. Photo by by Atelier Elberth.

Anita then moved back to live with her mother at Zähringer Strasse, where she rested long enough to be able to get back to work. Then she met American dancer Henri Chatin-Hoffman. They fell in love and got married two weeks later. In April 1925 they premiered their first production together - Shipwrecked. A year later they started touring with their second collaboration - Dances of Sex and Ecstasy. When they came to Zagreb Anita was imprisoned for six weeks for publicly insulting the King of Yugoslavia.

After this incident they continued touring Europe and the Middle East. While performing at a nightclub in Beirut, on July 13, 1938, Anita collapsed, and was diagnosed with an advanced stage of pulmonary tuberculosis. Then she wanted to go home to Berlin. Because of the state she was in, that journey took four whole months. On November 10, 1928, she died, aged 29, and was buried in a paupers grave at St. Thomas Friedhof in Neuköln.

I saw a picture of Anita Berber a while ago, and I fell so in love with it I just felt I had to do a photo shoot inspired by it! That's why I read up on her history - which resulted in this blog post - too. I like to know the story about someone, or something, that inspires me. The picture I saw is the one below...

...Ant the result from the photo shoot comes here!

The picture was taken with an analog camera by the eminent photographer Michael Vincent McCarthy Kellerman!


  1. I love the last photo Miss Meadows, you look absolutely amazing ;) Interesting story too, this chick sounds like a lot of fun, even I find the chloroform taking one step too far into the extreme haha.

  2. Wow! Amazing story and you recreated the picture so well!


  3. her & her story is definitely an interesting one to share!! Your recreation (although I've already seen it, but never mind seeing it again ;) is stunning. Both of you are gorgeous!! A pleasure reading this, I enjoyed it so!! I hope you are having a delightful week my flower <3


Hyper Smash