Dead Ladies Show #32: Romy Schneider, Emmy Noether & Valerie Gell

After our summer break, it’s high time we returned to the ACUD stage! So please join our guest presenters, writer and translator KAREN MARGOLIS and musician BERNADETTE LA HENGST, along with your beloved co-host FLORIAN DUIJSENS, to learn about three ladies who made great strides for womankind. All held together by your other beloved co-host KATY DERBYSHIRE. Join us in the ACUD Studio as the night sets in, celebrating women who lived as best they could in difficult circumstances.

As always, presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €7 or €4 reduced entry. Generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 7.30 pm – come on time to get a good seat!

We have limited space, so please book in advance via Eventbrite.

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ROMY SCHNEIDER made her film debut as a child – perhaps not surprisingly, both her parents and her grandmother were actors. She soon had a flourishing career, acting her way into millions of hearts as a saccharine embodiment of Austria’s Empress Sissi. As she got older, Romy gradually liberated herself from her audience’s expectations, partly by moving from Germany to France. Paris Match magazine compared her to Garbo, Dietrich, and Monroe for sheer star power, but the press came to plague her private life. She died far too young, adored by moviegoers across Europe. Sadly, the Austrian train dubbed after her was renamed “Familyland Austria” in 2002. That’s what happens when you vote right-wing populists into government.

EMMY NOETHER has been called (by male mathematicians) “the most important woman in the history of mathematics”. She developed key theorems in theoretical physics and made important contributions to abstract algebra. Excluded from academic positions in Germany as a woman, she worked unpaid and under other lecturers’ names. Once she was finally allowed to teach in 1919, she had only 14 years until the Nazis banned her as a Jew. In American exile, she taught at the women’s college Bryn Mawr and occasionally at Princeton, though she felt she was not welcome at “the men’s university, where nothing female is admitted”. She died at 53 after surgery. There is a Wikipedia page of things named after her, from theorems to moon craters and fellowships. She loved to dance.

VALERIE GELL was working in a Liverpool department store and teaching herself guitar and drums when she read about an all-girl beat group in the local paper. When it turned out they couldn’t play, Valerie went ahead and taught them how. After supporting bands like the Rolling Stones and the Kinks at home, the Liverbirds were offered a residency at Hamburg’s Star Club in 1964, and really came into their own. The band began to hit the singles charts, Val singing the more raucous R&B-numbers and playing rhythm guitar. She left the Liverbirds to care for her boyfriend after a car crash and ended up not playing for 26 years. She returned to the stage in Hamburg in her fifties, found love with her wife Susann, and died at the age of 71.


Podcast 56: Mae West

Courtesy of our pals at DLS NYC, we meet the first meta sex symbol: Mae West. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Mae was brazen, buxom, bawdy, sensational, and sexy. She was known for her husky voice, risqué performances, and double entendres that slipped past the film censors. With over 70 years in show business on both stage and screen, she scandalized the world of entertainment in a time when women were expected to sit on the sidelines. But, as Mae West would tell you, “goodness had nothing to do with it.”

DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens joins producer Susan Stone to introduce our featured Dead Lady.

Artist, lecturer, researcher, and self-described ‘professional eccentric’ JR Pepper tells Mae’s story; you can find out more about JR here.

DLS NYC is curated and hosted by Molly O’Laughlin Kemper, and was recorded by Jennifer Nulsen, all under the auspices of the KGB Bar’s Lori Schwarz.

If you’re in the NY area, why not sign up for their newsletter so you can find out when the next show will be? Find it here.

You can download the transcript, created by Annie Musgrove, here.

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast 56: Mae West”

Podcast 55: Virginia Andrews

This episode was recorded at the second-ever PodFest Berlin, a local two-day event full of workshops, networking, free ice cream, and live tapings from podcasts in various languages, including one from us. 

Dead Ladies Show co-founder Katy Derbyshire and podcast producer/host Susan Stone were there for a mini DLS, and took turns hosting and presenting bilingually in German and English in front of a small but perfectly formed audience. 

In this episode, we hear Susan tell the story of Virginia Andrews. Better known as V.C. Andrews, this blockbusting American author probably launched the sexual curiosities of generations of teens and pre-teens — for better or worse. Her psychological horror/romance books, starting with 1979’s bestselling Flowers in the Attic, were banned in school districts and libraries, but earned millions internationally. The tale of children held captive by an evil grandmother was sadly somewhat mirrored in Virginia’s own reclusive, highly controlled life. 

Though she was disabled by a medical condition from her teen years on, Virginia supported her family through her artwork and writing. After her death, a prolific ghostwriter was appointed to continue books under her name, but her legacy really endures on the strength of her original seven bestsellers, which merged classic fairy tale themes with contemporary issues of trauma and abuse.  

Also available on Spotify, Apple PodcastsRadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Acast.

You can download the transcript, created by Susan Stone, here.

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast 55: Virginia Andrews”

Dead Ladies NYC #19

It was wonderful seeing so many of you last month at DLS NYC #18! We are very pleased to announce that we’ll be back in the Red Room on September 7, 2022 for our nineteenth NYC show. (Can you believe it??)

At this, our nineteenth show, be regaled with the tales of an imperious librarian who fended off literary predators to protect the people’s access to great work; a Black lesbian playwright who made history on Broadway and off; and a justice perhaps best described as simply…notorious. Presented by three live ladies who have each graced the DLS stage before, now back and better than ever!

SHEILA ENRIGHT is a human woman who lives in New York. She can usually be found sitting or standing when not lying down. 

MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN KEMPER is a writer living in New York. Her work has appeared most recently in MUTHA Magazine. She also just so happens to be the host of the DEAD LADIES SHOW NYC.

EMILY KNAPP lives and works in New York. She is also the founding partner of LTDEDTN (@__ltdedtn__), a gallery that showcases emerging artists, one artwork at a time.

Join us, Wednesday, September 7, 7–9pm at the Red Room at KGB Bar! (85 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003, Third Floor.)

NB: Due to an increased bar minimum at our beautiful space, we will now be charging a $10 cover. Get your tickets here!

*** If this charge poses financial difficulties for you, please email me and we can absolutely work something out! ***

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LOLA SZLADITS (1923–1990) was a librarian and curator of the Berg Collection of English and American Literature at the New York Public Library. During her 20 year tenure, she built up the Berg into one of the world’s great collections of English and American literary manuscripts and rare books. A “dragon guarding the treasure horde,” Lola was renowned for her sardonic sense of humor, and feared for her caustic wit. With an unparalleled foresight for authors who would become giants in the canon of English Literature, she wrangled with “hard hitting literary widows” and held off well-heeled collectors to ensure that the public had access to the manuscripts and papers of such greats as Virginia Woolf, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, and Samuel Beckett.

When her play A Raisin in the Sun opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959, LORRAINE HANSBERRY (1930–1965) became the first Black woman to have a play performed on Broadway. At only 29 years old, she became the youngest American playwright to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, and she was nominated for a Tony to boot. Her writing ranged from the intimately personal (e.g. her experience as a closeted lesbian married to a white Jewish man) to the global and political (Black liberation worldwide), and everything in-between.

Justice RUTH BADER GINSBURG (1933–2020) was the second woman and first Jewish woman confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. Guided by her Jewish identity and upbringing, Justice Ginsburg spent her entire career using her expert knowledge of the law to advance the lives of those not fully protected by our Constitution—especially women. After spending 27 years on the court, Justice Ginsburg succumbed to complications from cancer on September 18, 2020 on Rosh Hashanah; those who pass on this auspicious day are considered a Tzedek/ket or a righteous person.

Dead Ladies Show @ PodFest Berlin

Even though it’s summer, we’re still getting busy. While Florian travels (and teaches), Katy and Susan will be presenting a mini-Dead Ladies Show at PodFest Berlin on Saturday, July 16th from 7-8pm (doors open 6:15pm) at Noisy Rooms, Revaler Str. 99, 10245 Berlin (inside House of Music).

See below for more information on the two ladies in question, who will, as always, be presented in a messy mixture of English and German.

Tickets are €10, and include the Dead Ladies Show, plus a day pass to all festival events on Saturday including workshops and panels, seminars, and other events, as well as free coffee and a gift bag! Please book in advance for this event here.

You can also purchase a 2-Day pass, which will include our event on Saturday and everything else on offer!

DLS fans can enter this code for 20% off all PodFest Berlin tickets: COMMUNITY-DEAL-22

We also have one 2-Day All-Access pass to PodFest Berlin to give away for free — contact us if you’re interested!

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IRMGARD KEUN: As an ingenue, German writer Irmgard Keun’s writing debut was much more consequent than her acting debut, and she garnered praise and a film adaptation. Her books explored women’s lives in Weimar-era Berlin with a humor all her own, which of course meant the Nazis banned them. There’s dark wit, wild parties in the face of danger, and fabulous costume changes — oh, and an unreliable narrator.

V.C. ANDREWS: Known as Virginia to friends and family, and considered notorious by readers, this blockbusting American author probably launched the sexual curiosities of generations of teens and pre-teens — for better or worse. Her psychological horror/romance books, starting with 1979’s bestselling Flowers in the Attic, were banned in school districts and libraries across most of the US, spawning both copycats and protests. The tale of children held captive by an evil grandmother was sadly mirrored in Virginia’s own reclusive, highly controlled life.

Podcast 54: Memphis Minnie

In this Episode, we drop in on our New York-based sister spinoff show, DLS NYC, which returned to the KGB Bar’s Red Room after a long hiatus. DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens happened to be visiting from Berlin, and took to the stage to introduce the fabulous Memphis Minnie. 

Tobacco-chewing blues singer MEMPHIS MINNIE (1897–1973) ran away from home at the age of 13 and made a living off music from then on, from street performances supplemented by prostitution to hundreds of now classic recordings. It was said she never put her guitar down until she could no longer hold it in her hands, and she was known to use it as a weapon when required. Her songs were about the joys and hardships of everyday black life; according to the poet Langston Hughes, she played “music with so much in it folks remember, that sometimes it makes them holler out loud.” Largely forgotten for many years while white men covered her songs, she is now celebrated for her huge contribution to blues music and what came after. 

Embed from Getty Images

Also available on Spotify, Apple PodcastsRadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Acast.

You can download the transcript, created by Annie Musgrove, here.

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast 54: Memphis Minnie”

Dead Ladies Show #31: Angela Carter, Ruth Asawa, and Margaret & Frances Macdonald!

It’s almost time for our next show, and the last before our summer break! Next Thursday, 9 June, join our guest presenters, writer LEON CRAIG and drag artiste AUDREY NALINE, along with our beloved podcast presenter SUSAN STONE, to learn about four women who created things of beauty. All held together by your favourite co-hosts, FLORIAN DUIJSENS and KATY DERBYSHIRE. Join us outside in the ACUD yard as the night sets in, celebrating lives dedicated to the arts.

As always, presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €7 or €4 reduced entry. We have limited space, so please book in advance via Eventbrite. 2G entry only – geimpft or genesen.

Generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 7.30 pm, so come on time to get a good seat in the courtyard!

Angela Carter From the Fay Godwin Archive at the British Library

ANGELA CARTER went from journalism for the Croydon Advertiser to award-winning feminist fiction and groundbreaking essays. In her 51 years she wrote nine novels, five short story collections, several children’s books and countless essays and articles. She spent two years living in Japan and translated two books of fairy stories, but arguably her greatest contribution to British literature was the dark 1979 collection that turned folk and fairy tales a scarlet shade of gothic: The Bloody Chamber.

MARGARET & FRANCES MACDONALD were sisters who studied at the Glasgow School of Art in the early 1890s, becoming two of the most influential figures in the conception of Art Nouveau. They co-signed much of their early work, sometimes forgetting which of them had done what. Their art spanned from nude paintings to metalwork to furniture design, all of it for sale rather than a mere hobby. Sadly, they have been largely overlooked, but there’s no time like the present to rediscover them.

RUTH ASAWA was born to Japanese parents in California, and interned as a teenager during WWII. Prevented from becoming a teacher by anti-Japanese prejudice and laws, she studied art and became a sculptor, often weaving cheap found material and wire. From the 1960s she was commissioned to make public art and became known as the “fountain lady” in San Francisco, where she lived. She was a passionate and successful advocate for arts education and had six children. “Sculpture is like farming,” she said. “If you just keep at it, you can get quite a lot done.”

Podcast #53: Eva Crane

In this buzz-worthy episode, DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire (and translator) brings us the story of leading bee scientist Eva Crane. Born to humble beginnings, Eva obtained a PhD in nuclear physics but quickly shifted her attention from atoms to apiculture. She travelled the world to document all things bees, and was particularly interested in the relationship between bees and humans, including the long history of human honey cultivation.

Amateur bee enthusiast (and producer/host) Susan Stone is joined by other DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens for the introducing honors.

Also available on Spotify, Apple PodcastsRadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Acast.

You can download the transcript, created by Annie Musgrove, here.

Show notes:

Read more
The Crane family vehicle, with Eva chilling in the back
Eva smiling mischievously at the front right
A shiny Morris 8
Apicultural delights from the 1940s (for Susan and all other bee enthusiasts)
Eva’s HQ in Hull, note the blue plaque!
Bee World! Find more on this publication’s history at IBRA’s website
Eva in a special Georgian beekeeping hat! Check out many more pictures of here travels at the Eva Crane Trust.
The Crane sisters (in the middle) dressed to the nines
Eva, aged 74, casually abseiling for science

Katy recommends these two books if you want to learn more about Eva Crane: Eva Crane: Bee Scientist, edited by her colleagues, Penelope Walker and Richard Jones, and of course, Crane’s own Making a Bee-line. The Eva Crane Trust’s site is also indispensable for information about Crane and bees.

As promised, here’s one of Susan’s videos of some Bee-rliner bees.

Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode next month.

Dead Ladies NYC #18

The moment you’ve been waiting for since July of 2020 has arrived! The Dead Ladies Show NYC is BACK, BABY!

Deets: Wednesday, June 1, 7–9pm at the Red Room at KGB Bar! (85 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003, Third Floor.)

Join your host MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN KEMPER as we learn about a Chinese pirate queen, a scandalous siren of the silver screen, and the author of the first lesbian novel with a happy ending. Presented, respectively, by a standup comedian, a “professional eccentric,” and a writer who haunts ghost towns in her spare time.

But THAT’S NOT ALL!

We also have a *** VERY SPECIAL GUEST *** (wee-oo wee-oo)!

For the first time in NYC, we will be joined by one of the two illustrious co-hosts who created the Dead Ladies Show in Berlin, the one and only FLORIAN DUIJSENS! Florian will tell us all about a Black blues singer whose legacy has been recently reclaimed.

In lieu of admission, please plan to buy a drink or two (maybe even a thank-you drink for Florian??) and tip the staff generously! We love them!

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CHING I SAO (1775–1844) was a 19th-century sex worker in China who eventually married a pirate. When he died, she took over and was one of the most successful pirates of her time. (To add to her badassery, after her husband died she married her adopted stepson!) The British tried to get rid of her but she proved elusive and ended up living a very long and prosperous life.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, MAE WEST (1893–1980) was brazen, buxom, bawdy, sensational and sexy. West was known for her husky voice, risque performances, and double entendres that slipped past the film censors. With over 70 years in show business on both the stage and screen, she scandalized the world of entertainment in a time when women were expected to sit on the sidelines. But, as Mae West would tell you, “goodness had nothing to do with it.”

PATRICIA HIGHSMITH (1921–1995) was an American novelist and short-story writer known for her psychological thrillers. She wrote morally complicated characters who “longed to escape the drudgery of selfhood and convention.” Highsmith married a man but attempted to seduce women at her therapy group for married women who are latent homosexuals. After a chance encounter with a woman at a toy store, Highsmith anonymously published The Price of Salt, which was later adapted for the 2015 film, Carol. The book is the first lesbian novel with a happy ending. Throughout her lifetime, Highsmith collected snails, pursued unavailable women, and left behind over 8,000 pages of diary entries.

Tobacco-chewing blues singer MEMPHIS MINNIE (1897–1973) ran away from home at the age of 13 and made a living off music from then on, from street performances supplemented by prostitution to hundreds of now classic recordings. It was said she never put her guitar down until she could no longer hold it in her hands, and she was known to use it as a weapon when required. Her songs were about the joys and hardships of everyday black life; according to the poet Langston Hughes, she played “music with so much in it folks remember, that sometimes it makes them holler out loud.” Largely forgotten for many years while white men covered her songs, she is now celebrated for her huge contribution to blues music and what came after.

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About your presenters:
NATALIE KIM is a standup comedian who lives in New York City. She can be seen in clubs around town & occasionally screaming on network television (The Blacklist, Law & Order and Madam Secretary).

JR PEPPER is a New York native and self described ‘professional eccentric.” She is a photographer, performer, artist, imaging specialist and cemetery tour guide with an extensive bizarre resume that includes the Odd Salon, The Burns Archive, Morbid Anatomy Library, Brooklyn Brainery, and Green-Wood Cemetery.

HANNAH MEYER is a writer and educator based in New York City. In her spare time, she enjoys running, exploring ghost towns, and listening to Patti Smith.  

Dead Ladies Show #30

After a long hibernation, we are slowly coming out of our shells again, thrilled to announce that we’ll be returning to our beloved ACUD for a live show on Monday, May 2!

Join our guest presenters, writer STEFANIE DE VELASCO and translator LAURA RADOSH, along with your beloved co-host KATY DERBYSHIRE, to learn about three women who did big things in their lifetimes. All held together by your other beloved co-host, FLORIAN DUIJSENS.

All three of the ladies presented were writers in their own ways: a Black science-fiction originator, an influential modernist who created a classic of lesbian fiction, and an actor and singer who put her own version of her life into bestselling books. We’ll be rocking the ACUD Studio as the night sets in, celebrating lives lived to great effect.

Presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €7 or €4 reduced entry. Generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 7.30 pm – come on time to get a good seat!

We have limited space, so please book in advance via Eventbrite. 2G entry only – geimpft or genesen. Please bring a mask to use when you’re not at your seat.

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OCTAVIA E. BUTLER grew up in a racially integrated community, surrounded by segregation in 1940s and 50s America. She begged for her first typewriter at ten, and never looked back, submitting stories to science fiction magazines and eventually becoming a beloved creator of multiple fictional worlds. She was proud to have three loyal audiences: Black readers, science-fiction fans, and feminists.

DJUNA BARNES had an unconventional childhood in New York before becoming a journalist. She is best known for her time in 1920s Paris, where she chronicled lesbian life. Friends with all the cool modernist writers, she eventually managed to publish her influential avant-garde novel Nightwood in 1936. She also gave us poems, stage plays, other novels, and her Book of Repulsive Women.

HILDEGARD KNEF was a postwar German actress who learned all the wrong things from Marlene Dietrich. She acted in over 50 films and had a leading role on Broadway. After her screen and stage career stalled in the 1960s, she started writing songs and became a hugely popular entertainer. Her next move was into books, chronicling her life as she wanted people to see it rather than accurately.