Today is the birthday of Anita Berber (1899-1928), the epitome of decadent Berlin cabaret during the Weimar years. Berger began dancing in cabarets in 1916, and appearing in films two years later. She scandalized the public by dancing and modelling nude, being openly bi-sexual (one of her lovers was alleged to have been Marlene Deitrich), engaging in S & M, and imbibing cocaine, opium, morphine, heroin and her own personal cocktail of cholorform, ether and flower petals mixed in a bowl and inhaled. (Oh, yes, and lots and lots of alcohol, of course).
She was famous for prowling the nightclubs dressed only in a sable coat (nothing underneath), a pet monkey in tow, and wearing a brooch she kept filled with cocaine, so her stash was never very far. Her lifestyle finally caught up with her in 1928, when she collapsed onstage while performing in Beiruit (which was then a very different sort of city than it is today).
See some clips of her in this documentary segment here:
To find out about the history of variety entertainment, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc