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Anita Berber – Priestess of Depravity

“Her face was a somber and vicious mask. It seemed obvious that the strongly curved mouth was not her own but was a bloodred concoction out of a little pot of rouge. The chalky cheeks had a violet shimmer. The eyes required at least an hour of w

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ork every day—she talked incessantly and lied terribly.”


A rare photo of Berber at her most beautiful.


“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 performances broke boundaries with their androgyny and total nudity, but it was her public appearances that really challenged taboos. Berber’s overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. She could often be seen in Berlin’s hotel lobbies, nightclubs and casinos; she would walk around naked except for a sable fur, carrying a pet monkey and a silver brooch full of cocaine, while flaunting her lesbian lovers—removing the barrier between performance and normal life. In addition to her addiction to cocaine, opium and morphine, one of Berber’s favourites was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl. This would be stirred with a white rose, the petals of which she would then eat.”


One dances hunger and hysteria, fear and greed, panic and horror…Anita Berber—her face frozen into a garish mask under the frightening locks of the scarlet coiffure—dances the coitus.

— Klaus Mann


Anarchists of Style: Anita Berber, Part 2


Sebastian Droste (occasional husband and dance partner of Anita Berber), in 1923.

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.

anita berber gal

Anita Berber

“By 1928, at age 29, diagnosed with tuberculosis and her body shot by years of drug use, her last days were spent in the hospital. “She had the mask of a mad old hag” recalled friend Leo Lania. She died on November 10, 1928 and was buried in a pauper’s grave.”


Berlin – Metropolis of Vice


Illamasqua Theatre of the Nameless inspired make-up


Directed by: Annie Sperling – Created & Written by: Michelle Carr

Want to know more about the life of Anita Berber? Read Mel Gordon’s book – The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Debauchery

Goddess of the night – a fantastic article on Berber from Strange Flowers

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One Response to Anita Berber – Priestess of Depravity

  1. Jill says:

    Wow, what a read her diary must be :) . Quite a life!

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