Anita Berber  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Unheimliche Geschichten, Mel Gordon, Weimar culture, Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, Different from the Others

Anita Berber (June 10, 1899November 10, 1928) was a German dancer, actress, writer, and prostitute who was the subject of an Otto Dix painting. She lived during the Weimar period.

Born to divorced bohemian parents (a cabarét artist and a violinist), she was raised mainly by her grandmother in Dresden. By the time she was 16, she had moved to Berlin and made her debut as a cabaret dancer. By 1918 she was working in film, and she began dancing nude in 1919. She was scandalous, androgynous and infamous, quickly making a name for herself on the Berlin scene. 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.

Her hair was cut fashionably 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". Her dancer friend and sometime lover Sebastian Droste, who performed in the film Algol (1920), was skinny and had black hair with gelled up curls much like sideburns. Neither of them wore much more than lowslung loincloths and Anita occasionally a corsage worn well below her small breasts.

Berber's cocaine addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. She was allegedly the sexual slave of a woman and the woman's 15-year-old daughter. She could often be seen in Berlin's hotel lobbies, nightclubs and casinos, naked apart from an elegant sable wrap, with a pet monkey and a silver brooch packed with cocaine. Besides being a cocaine addict, she was an alcoholic, but at the age of 29, gave up both suddenly and completely. According to Mel Gordon in The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber, she was diagnosed with galloping tuberculosis while performing abroad. She died on November 10, 1928 in a Kreuzberg hospital and was buried at St. Thomas cemetery in Neukölln.

A 1987 film by Rosa von Praunheim titled Anita - Tänze des Lasters centres around the life of Anita Berber.

The band Death in Vegas named a song after her, and is on the album Satan's Circus.


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  • Funkenstein, Susan Laikin. "Anita Berber: Imaging a Weimar Performance Artist." Woman's Art Journal 26.1 (Spring/Summer 2005): 26-31.
  • Gill, Anton. A Dance between the Flames: Berlin between the Wars. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1993.
  • "Legendary Sin Cities [series]--Berlin: Metropolis of Vice." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
  • Richie, Alexandra. Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1998.
  • Toepfer, Karl Eric. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Anita Berber" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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