Lotti Mame

Lotti Huber photographed by Ursula Kelm

In writing about Weimar-era dancer and actress Anita Berber recently I mentioned Lotti Huber. In Rosa von Praunheim’s 1987 film Anita: Tänze des Lasters Huber plays a deranged woman who ends up in an institution after claiming to be the long-dead dancer.

By that time the 75-year-old Huber was herself an institution, at least in the underground sense, her work with radical gay filmmaker Praunheim making her a cult figure in Berlin.

Huber was born as Charlotte Goldmann to a bourgeois Jewish family in Kiel in 1912, and settling on dance early on, she met and fell in love with Hillert Lueken, the son of Kiel’s mayor. However when the two were spotted together in Berlin in 1937, Lueken was arrested and later executed for “race defilement”, while Huber herself was sent to a concentration camp.

Huber’s family bought her freedom and she was able to emigrate to Palestine the following year. After a stint in Cairo, where she once danced for King Farouk, she ended up managing a bar in Cyprus. In 1965 Huber returned to West Germany with her second husband, a British army officer.

After he died in 1971 a devastated Huber made her way any way she could: writing romance novels, opening a school of deportment, spruiking liquor. Eventually she returned to performing, starting work as an extra in 1979, with her first film boasting Marlene Dietrich among its cast list. Which should have been a good thing, except the film in question was Just a Gigolo, a hilariously misjudged mess starring David Bowie and also featuring Kim Novak.

Marvel at this scene between Bowie and Dietrich which was filmed in two different cities and spliced together, with a glimpse of Huber mugging gamely:

Two years after that inauspicious start, Huber made the first of five low-budget films she would make with Praunheim, including Anita and the 1990 film Affengeil which told her life story in semi-documentary style.

So close was their association that a well-meaning friend warned her that the director would squeeze her dry and then discard her. Huber’s pithy riposte, “Diese Zitrone hat noch viel Saft!” (“There’s still a lot of juice left in this lemon!”), provided the title of her inspiring, entertaining 1993 autobiography. There’s not a trace of bitterness in her zesty prose; with more to bemoan than most she remains consistently upbeat and concludes, like Auntie Mame, that one must “live – live – live!”. Life gave her lemons and Lotti made a towering lemon meringue pie with extra cream, brought flaming to the table.

The book was a surprise hit but the short, spherical Huber (The New Yorker described her as having “the figure of a dumpling and the mien of a priestess”) kept performing and teaching dance, and was a regular TV guest.

After sharing her philosophy in two further books, Lotti Huber died in 1998.

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9 comments

  1. John Hastings

    James,
    Delicious post. Of course the first question that emerged after reading only a sentence or two was–why would Frau Lotti return to deutschland uber alles (sorry my pet, no umlauts today) and the toten-tanze a la made of post war Germany. Clever lad that you are, You answered my question forthwith. The film clip is quelle superbe.

    • Well being a nobody at least she had a better reception than Dietrich on her return. After Marlene had fought the good fight and almost single handedly proven to the world that not all Germans were Nazis, she was booed everywhere she went in Germany after the war. Despicable…no wonder she never left Paris towards the end.

  2. Hi there, I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned it before, but I absolutely adore your blog! So much so, that it’s a featured link at chateauthombeau.blogspot.com. Just thought I’d let you know!

    Incidentally, I actually did see Just a Gigolo when it was first (and, mercifully, briefly) released in the theaters. Aside from being amazed by it’s awfulness, I was highly amused by the director’s efforts to make it appear that Miss Dietrich was walking when she was obviously being pushed in a chair.

    • Thanks, and thank you for the link. I have an A4 pad next to me covered in tasks and one of them is “blogroll” (just above “backup PC”) so I hope to be a properly functioning good blogging citizen soon and able to return links. And backed up.

      It really is a godawful movie isn’t it? I’m fairly certain that Marlene was already dead and that her part was played by a penny arcade fortune telling automaton in drag. “You dance quite well. You will go on a long sea voyage!” Poor thing to have ended her career on such a dud. And Kim Novak! It was a long, long way from Vertigo.

      • You are too funny! And speaking of Miss Novak, have you ever seen The Legend of Lylah Clare? It is well worth seeking out, if only for the extreme camp value. Seriously!

        (Hopefully the link will send a few brave or curious souls your way. Every little bit helps, right?)

        Cheers!

  3. Pingback: The lemon returns « Strange Flowers

  4. Pingback: Pearls: Lotti Huber | Strange Flowers

  5. Reblogged this on Cassandralanger's Blog and commented:
    Fantastic, James I adore this.

  6. Denise Smith

    This was soul touching to read, loved it.

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