26 January 2016

Joe Carstairs' Private Marlene Dietrich Photos Up For Grabs

Marlene Dietrich on Joe Carstairs' yacht: Dietrich's home movies of this day can be seen in the documentary, Her Own Song.

DOYLE NEW YORK is selling some souvenirs of those golden summers Marlene Dietrich spent on the Riviera in the late 1930s. These are from the collection of Joe Carstairs, the heiress and adventuress known as the "The Queen of  Big Whale Cay" (after her island in the Bahamas, where she had hoped to install Dietrich , whom she pursued during this time, in its "Doll House"). 

01 December 2015

Marlene Dietrich, American Friend of the Hebrew University

Israel Demchick, Marlene Dietrich, Joshua Ellis, Selma Ellis. At American Friends of Hebrew University event, Philadelphia, October 2, 1971
L-R Israel Demchick, Marlene Dietrich, Joshua Ellis, Selma Ellis.
The partially obstructed banner behind them reads in full: "American Friends of the Hebrew University," the organization that sponsored the event. Philadelphia hotel.
October 2, 1971

During one of my regular Google searches, I stumbled upon a photograph of Marlene Dietrich that led me to the site bio of Joshua Ellis, who has had an illustrious career as a theatre press agent. Curious, I contacted Ellis to learn more about this photograph, and he surprised me with his kind and informative responses. Not only did he provide me with a fuller image, which you can see above, he also recalled the evening when he met Dietrich, which had nothing to do with the theatre at all. Everything italicized in this post comes directly from Ellis, including this anecdote of his enviable encounter:
I was a big fan of Marlene Dietrich and adored her one-woman show on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in 1967.  I was 18 at the time. 
In 1971 or 1972, Miss Dietrich was given an award by Israel's Hebrew University for her fund-raising efforts on their behalf.  The award was given at a Philadelphia hotel, but I do not remember which one. I was there that night because my grandfather, a Philadelphia-based architect named Israel Demchick, was also being honored for his fund-raising efforts on behalf of the university.
I think many in the audience were intimidated by Marlene Dietrich and she was very much alone during the early meet-and-greet part of the evening.  I decided to go over to her and introduce myself.
First, I explained to her my connection to her fellow award recipient.  It was just the two of them being honored.

Miss Dietrich:  "You are very young.  Are you in school?"
Me:  "Yes, Miss Dietrich."
MD:  "What are you studying?"
Me:  "I'm getting my masters degree in theatre."
MD:  "The theatre?  That's ridiculous!  You should be studying something practical like chemistry or physics.  It's a good thing I'm not your grandmother!"
Could she be any more Dietrich?

Thanks to Ellis, I became aware of the event that had honored her and Ellis' notable grandfather, Israel Demchick. On the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings site, I learned that Demchick had been named Man of the Year in 1971 for endowing a chair in Architecture to the Hebrew University, and I surmised that this must have been the year in which Dietrich was honored as well, perhaps as Woman of the Year?

Ironically, the most information I discovered came not from a Pennsylvania institution but, rather, the Hoosier State Chronicles, an online archive of--you guessed it--Indiana periodicals, which included a run of The Indiana Jewish Post and Opinion. If you have an problems with accessing its site, you should also try the Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis digital collection, which appears to mirror the online holdings of this run.

In the October 15, 1971 issue of The Indiana Jewish Post and Opinion, a blurb snarkily entitled "Older Than The University" noted that the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Friends of the Hebrew University had "honored the ageless German actress of the captivating legs with the Distinguished Service Award on Oct. 2." This blurb also mentioned Dietrich having been recognized in Philadelphia 11 years earlier for something else related to Israel, but the text has been smudged. It appears to say something about Israel Bonds, no? I failed to find any articles or memories that specifically mentioned Dietrich's involvement with Israel Bonds in Philadelphia around 1960, even though other sources have tied her to such endeavors in other cities (New York City, Toronto, possibly also Toronto). Even in 1965, Dietrich received the Medallion of Valor of the State of Israel at a dinner in behalf of the Los Angeles-based Jewish Club of 1933's Israel Bonds committee.

As if the previous week's coverage wasn't colorful enough, the October 22, 1971 issue of The Indiana Jewish Post and Opinion published another piece called "The Guest of Honor Is Late," which would have us believe that Dietrich endured an odyssey that took her from Paris to New York City, then Hazlet, New Jersey, and accidentally the outskirts of Atlantic City before she finally arrived at her Philadelphia destination at 11:30 p.m. For the record, Ellis doesn't recall Dietrich arriving late at all!

If any of you have any photos or stories of Marlene's work with Jewish organizations, or anything to add about this 1971 occasion, please don't hesitate to share. Your stories and photos bring life to the newspaper articles and blurbs that many of us might otherwise overlook, and you also raise doubts about whether events truly transpired as they were published. 

Also, I have a few questions that some of you may be able to answer. 1) Where is Marlene's plaque from this event? 2) Who is she wearing? 3) At what hotel did this dinner take place?

12 August 2015

Online Palimpsests: Cached Sites About Marlene Dietrich

Blank and altered spaces have replaced many of my favorite Web sites and pages about Marlene Dietrich. It's as if the woman in the opening of The Blue Angel came by with her water bucket and rag to wash and scrub away their text, images, and even HTML. Nevertheless, online archives such as Wayback Machine have captured iterations of these information-rich resources as I remember them.
  • The great Werner Sudendorf's now-defunct Sounds Like Marlene humbly declared itself an "unspectacular but useful site," but I find its content as striking as it was practical. The site boasted many lists that I still consult, which cover Dietrich's songs, musical releases, radio performances, and TV performances. Furthermore, the site contained lyrics of many Marlene songs.
  • Then, there is the recently deceased, the site of Marlene Dietrich Collection Berlin (MDCB). This site included many of the past newsletters (also all available at the "office" Marlene web site), bibliographies of some of the most useful print resources by or about Dietrich, including those produced by or with the support of MDCB. Additionally, it listed exhibitions about Marlene, provided production information about her films (production dates as well), and even included photos and biographical information. The only downside is that the videos once available on this site have not been archived.
  • is another site with cached pages I consult, especially when I'm seeking past news related to Miss Dietrich. Over the years, this site has been extensively cached, but you will have the most luck browsing through the cached versions made from the tail-end of 1998 through the present. Thanks to this site, I learned that there was once a Marlene Dietrich fan club!
  • I know next to nothing about The Last Goddess blog's visitors, but I do know that many of you stumble upon us because you are seeking the "last" photo of Marlene Dietrich. Well, Find A Death once posted one of these "last" photos, and although you can no longer find this photo on the site's current Dietrich page, the cached versions include it.
Are there other informative cached sites related to Marlene Dietrich? Other resourceful Marlene sites that you'd like to see archived? Other archives that cache content missing from Wayback Machine, such as, say, videos? Please let us know in the comments section!