Two books, one a new release, focus on the wild nightlife and sexual underground of Berlin and Paris in the 1920s and 1930s. I have both books, as well as a couple of others by the author, Mel Gordon. (Especially fascinating is his The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber.) Each are recommended for those interested.
Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin, by Mel Gordon
This sourcebook of hundreds of rare visual delights from the pre-Nazi, Cabaret-period “Babylon on the Spree” has the distinction of being praised both by scholars and avatars of contemporary culture, inspiring performers, filmmakers, historians straight and gay, designers, and musicians like the Dresden Dolls and Marilyn Manson.
Voluptuous Panic’s expanded edition includes the new illustrated chapter “Sex Magic and the Occult,” documenting German pagan cults and their bizarre erotic rituals, including instructions for entering into the “Sexual Fourth Dimension.” The deluxe hardcover edition also includes sensational accounts of hypno-erotic cabaret acts, Berlin fetish prostitution (“The Boot Girl Visit”), gay life (“A Wild-Boy Initiation!”), descriptions and illustrations of Aleister Crowley’s Berlin OTO secret society, and sex crime (“The Curious Career and Untimely Death of Fritz Ulbrich”).
Horizontal Collaboration: The Erotic World of Paris, 1920-1946, by Mel Gordon
The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin's Priestess of Depravity, by Mel Gordon
In an era where everything was permitted, Anita Berber’s celebrations of “Depravity, Horror and Ecstasy” were condemned and censored. She often haunted Weimar Berlin’s hotel lobbies, nightclubs, and casinos, radiantly naked except for an elegant sable wrap, a pet monkey hanging from her neck, and a silver brooch packed with cocaine.
Multi-talented Anita saw no boundaries between her personal life and her taboo-shattering performances. As such, she was Europe’s first postmodern woman. After sated Berliners finally tired of Anita Berber’s libidinous antics, she became a “carrion soul that even the hyenas ignored,” dying in 1928 at the age of twenty-nine.
• Includes nearly two hundred photographs and illustrations, including some that recreate Berber’s salacious and enduring “Repertoire of the Damned.”
• Berber was a lover of Marlene Dietrich and influenced and associated with Leni Riefenstahl, Lawrence Durrell, Klaus Mann, and the founder of modern sexology, Magnus Hirschfeld.
• An early movie star, Berber acted in Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler and the silent epic Lucifer. [ Berber also starred in Dida Ibsens Geschichte, the 1918 sequel to the the originial filmed adaption of Diary of a Lost Girl. ]
Mel Gordon is Professor of Theater Arts at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of twelve books, including The Grand Guignol, Dada Performance, The Stanislavsky Technique, and the Feral House title Erik Jan Hanussen: Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant.