From the wild cabaret scene of Berlin in 1932 (via Cornwall), Cabaret Berlin have been entertaining audiences across the south-west since 2011. With their unique mix of beautiful music, comedy and political numbers from the period, plus amazing costumes and lively performance. Enter the world which inspired the movie “Cabaret”, the mix of sex, comedy and politics which makes the inter-war period in Berlin a “forbidden fruit” to so many. The songs performed by Marlene Dietrich, the music of Mischa Spoliansky, the comedy of the Comedian Harmonists.
Since the start, Titi von Tranz has provided the main singing and speaking voice of Cabaret Berlin.With Herr Doktor Otto Stoffenberger giving redoubtable support on piano, accordion, backing vocals, kazoo and duck caller! In recent months a new member (Lotta von Beaverhausen) has joined to add her sultry dance routines, and in the process we discovered that the act now has an extra vocalist. With beautiful songs (some by Herr Doktor himself), many reworked into English by Titi and now with added dance interpretation by Lotta, the act has grown again of late.
So what about our performers? Born in Saxony in 1889, Titi turned up for military service in 1909 and served for almost a month in the Saxon Hussars before being dishonourably discharged for “non-soldierly conduct” (or “failure to fellate an officer”). After a spell in military prison, where she organised concert parties, Titi left for civilian life vowing never to wear male clothing again!
She volunteered for service in the Prussian Women's Auxiliary Balloon Corps in 1914. Rumoured to be the mistress of Colonel Fritz von Essen-Essen during her concert party tour of 1916 (they were a couple when the great “Knockwurst Scandal” of May 1918 broke out). The Colonel was arrested and shot while Titi deserted and went into hiding in Vienna until the end of the war.
The birth of Otto Stoffenberger was at some undefined date in a flat (Ab) at number 8, The Getreidegasse, in Salzburg, Austria. With this apartment situated right next door to the birthplace of another musical phenomenon, Wolfgang, Amadeus Mozart; Otto’s musicality gained notice at an early age. Descendants of families who had lived in the Getreidegasse around 1756, Mozart’s birthday, recalled hearing of the time when the young Mozart was heard crying out in pain, during a severe attack of colic. This, they remarked, sounded uncannily like Otto’s first attempts to sing.
Otto’s ability to yodel in perfect pitch showed that he might transpire to a career in the arts. As he got older, he played on the linoleum until the age of ten, when he abandoned this study in favour of the piano.
In 1914, the reluctant conscript Otto joined the German army, to serve in World War One. After only one week of active service, he was court-martialled for writing lewd, tawdry and unpatriotic songs, to help keep up the morale of his fellow trenchees. He escaped execution by firing squad as the army were saving their ammunition for the forthcoming campaign. Instead he met a worse fate when the court martial sentenced him to exile in Britain. He claims to have worked for the British government, but no details of this have so far arisen.
By late 1918 there was the Armistice and Germany had signed everything over to the allies. Seeing a gap in the entertainment market, which was now under the auspices of the Weimar Republic, Otto tried to return to Germany. After several unsuccessful attempts at repatriation, Otto persuaded his friends in the Royal Air Force to parachute him back into the Fatherland. Once there, he freelanced around the cabaret clubs of Berlin as a pianist, composer, arranger and musical director. He would have also worked in television, had it been invented. It was during this time he bumped into Titi von Tranz and the rest is history.
After the Armistice, Titi returned to the cabaret scene of Weimar Berlin. The sleazy “Tinteltangel” (backstreet cabaret) circuit was her life, with such non-memorable accompanists as “Boozy Bertolt and His Musical Beer Bottle” and “Hairy Hans and His Hypnotic Harmonica”. With a career appearing to be in terminal decline, and the gin bottle figuring more and more, it was fortuitous when she ran into Herr Doktor at the “Comfy Corner Club” soon after his return. After apologising and offering to pay the cleaning bill for his trousers, Titi teamed up with Herr Doktor in an armwrestling competition with a pair of burly sailors. A cabaret legend formed amidst the cigarette smoke and sweat. Arm-wrestling was not for them, they set out to work on a professional cabaret act.
Lotta von Beaverhausen makes many outlandish claims for the place and class of her birth, but most think she hails from the Wild West (i.e. Hamburg). She worked in a few cabarets and revues with Titi before the Great War, but then they lost contact. Lotta remains tight-lipped about what she did during those terrible years, but when they encountered each other post-war, it surprised Titi that Lotta had learnt to speak fluent English. Herr Doktor also remarks that she seemed familiar to him, and he spent the war hiding in London...
Whatever the truth, Lotta has added exotic glamour to the act, and a little balance. Herr Doktor and Titi always squabbled over who got to sit in the only chair found in their “dressing room” (a broom cupboard or similar). Now it is easier as Lotta always gets the seat.