The first project of our historical society Lastoria was a book about the worldfamous varieté theatre Astoria in Bremen, a place, so many people remembered with a smile. It was founded in 1908 and closed in 1968. Many big names were connected to it. And very many life stories in front and behind the scenes. And from people in the audience. There was a documentary movie, but no book about it. The 100-years-anniversary ahead, it was a now-or-never-thing. Twenty writers and photographers and two professional layouters joined in. We had only about four months till the book release show in the Bürgerhaus Weserterrassen, Bremen. So I wrote some of the chapters, did the editing and organized what was needed. We made the book and had two gala shows in one day in 2008. Without a budget. That’s what I love about Bremen. If you convince people to support an idea, they just do it. Thanks to Stephan Pleyn and his team, we had a stage in the communal house at the river with all of the technique we needed, and thanks to Werner Landwehr, we had a exhibition. We had old and young professional artists supporting us, jazz musicians and others, people of three generations. In the audience there was the princess of Prussia and Bürgerschaftspräsident Christian Weber, on stage a jazz trumpet player, Eckfrid von Knobelsdorff. He became our friend, as well as his wife, the painter Traudl von Knobelsdorff, nee Holzer of Lindau, as well as the former director of the varieté, Wolfgang Fritz, age 75, and a Charlie Chaplin double on a monocycle, age 82! Simon Steinbach had been worldfamous in the 50ies, the “Three Steenbacks” were playing in the London Palladium on Queen Elizabeth’s coronation day. He is a wonderful person. And he was the only one we paid. We donated the money we made, and to be able to do that, we founded the society and named it Lastoria. Like L’Astoria (French version). Or la storia, a story in Italian.
We have given money to an inclusive institution in Bremen, the Blaumeier Atelier, where handicaped, patients of psychiatry and what they call themself “just normal grazy people” (everybody) can be part of. They have a choir that fills halls, a theatre group that has a real big fan community, painters, mask theatre groups and photographers. People smile when talking about them.
After the first book, three gala shows and two films made about the shows by professionals who knew they would not make profit by that, an exhibition starting in the state archive (with a show, of course), a lot of speeches, a quiz show, a website and further researches. Visiting them in Basel, I persuaded Anne Frank’s cousin Buddy Elias and his wife Gerti, actors that had been at the Theatre Bremen decades before, to come and present the book about the letters of family Frank from Frankfurt. There were about 130 people in the audience and a video documentation was made. After that we published a second book, “Künstlerleben in Hamburg und Bremen” (the life of artists in Hamburg and Bremen), this time with me as the only author. Four photo albums of the jewish singer Olga Irén Fröhlich that someone had taken out of a public paper container had started a long research work, and when the book was published, we gave the albums to the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Olga Irén had been singing in the Astoria, as well. She was from Hamburg and left Germany because of Hitler. After the NS-time, she came back to Germany and chose to stay in Bremen. Together with her partner, she lived in a house that had become a bed and breakfast for artists from all over the world. Learn more about it on www.lastoria-bremen.de. The Astoria. We still get requests from people remembering that wonderful place.