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Marlene and the Third Sex: Homage on Marlene Dietrich’s 100th Birthday

5. December 2001 – 15. April 2002

On the 100th birthday of Marlene Dietrich on december 27th, 2001, the Schwule Museum presents in a new exhibition Germany’s only international star is the icon of the gay and lesbian community. In surveys asking gays and lesbians about their favorite movie star, Marlene Dietrich stands unequivocally at the top of the list of the beautiful and famous.

Our exhibition sheds light on a variety of relationships: Between the Hollywood diva and her fans; between Marlene and her gay friends, colleagues, and admirers from all branches of the culture industry like the actor Clifton Webb and the artist Jean Cocteau; and between Marlene and her lesbian friends like the chanteuse Claire Waldoff or the dramatist Mercedes de Acosta.

Glamorous like no other, Marlene Dietrich found a place in the hearts of drag queens and female impersonators. Her elegance and notoriety were a motivation and a never-ending source of inspiration. Two short appearances in drag – unforgettable, how she kissed a female audience member in Morocco in 1930; or how she came down a staircase in 1932 in Blonde Venus, this time in a white tuxedo, singing, smoking, and fondling revue girls – made her the idol of lesbians.

Marlene Dietrich, the happy bisexual, vacillated between genders. Her androgynous aura enchanted both men and women, the exhibition pursues this enchantment and makes it visible. Celebrities tell what they loved about Dietrich, everyday gay men gush and dykes tip their imaginary top hats as Marlene once did, and not only lesbian beauties share Marlene’s preference for men’s clothes.

Dietrich’s 100th birthday on december 27th, 2001, is an occasion, a responsibility, a welcome opportunity for Gays and Lesbians to celebrate “their Marlene”, to praise her to the skies, and to take a look with melancholy mockery at the star cult of the movies, the dream factory of Hollywood.

There will be photographs, among others by Cecil Beaton, letters, costumes, stage props and other belongings from Marlene Dietrich’s estate, many of them are presented for the first time to the public, showing Marlene’s world and surroundings in a new and different light.

Curator: Wolfgang Theis