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.
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.