Stephan Wuthe is a born and bred Berliner: DJ, author, Swing expert and dancer.
I met Stephan earlier this year at a gig we were both doing in a museum, for La Nuit Boheme. I remember having a jolly breakfast with the show crew and Stephan telling great stories about Berlin, music and dancing. So naturally, when I started planning my home visits for the Vintage Berlin Guide, he was one of the first people who came to mind, as I was sure he would have an interesting home and some good stories. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed!
Stephan lives with his partner in a classic Berlin Altbau in Schöneberg: the perfect setting for his huge shellac record collection and beautiful vintage furniture.
As I enter the flat I am immediately transported into another era, faraway from the Kreuzberg crime scene that awaited me in the morning as I exited my front door – but that’s another story!
I am greeted by Stephan, always the dapper gentleman, and have a little tour of the apartment through the salon (complete with breakfast corner overlooking the cobbled street) and am shown to the music room, DJ Wuthe’s kingdom.
I am overwhelmed by all the beautiful objects and pictures around me, and the biggest record collection I have ever seen!
I ask Stephan if he knows how many records he owns but he never counted them. One of his friends tried counting them once, and she made it to about 8000.
The special thing is that they are all original shellac records, also known as 78’s. They are organised by record label, in alphabetical order. And Stephan seems to know exactly where each tune is and the history of it!
In fact he is the author of the book ‘Swingtime in Deutschland’, a cultural history of Swing in Germany from 1925 to today. The book is the first on my reading list for when I’ll be able to enjoy reading a book in German.
As we sit down for coffee he starts telling me about his childhood, how he used to play with toy cars with a relative of his aunt Brigitte (Matschinsky-Denninghoff, a well known sculptor), and how he once hit his aunt’s aunt head pretty badly during a game (by accident of course). As he moved to Paris aged 19, Tante Brigitte suggested he contact her great aunt as she would be happy to see him. Stephan couldn’t remember her name, to which Brigitte said, ‘Of course you know her name, it’s Marlene Dietrich!’ That’s how he arranged to have hot chocolate at the famous Cafe’ Angelina in Paris with Marlene in 1985. Dietrich didn’t want to talk about herself, but Stephan insisted he had to ask her just one question. ‘How come you met me in public’ he said, ‘when everywhere, you read that you live in your Champs Elysees apartment with the curtains drawn?’ To which Marlene replied: ‘Why dear, I am not Greta Garbo! People think I am a recluse, so no one bothers me in the street as they think This can’t be her’.
What a revelation! Stephan is a very good storyteller and I am on the edge of my vintage seat as he tells me this incredible story.
We then move back to the salon, where Stephan shows me his collection of vintage theatre, variety and revue programs, dating from the 1920s onwards, some extremely rare. Like for example, a program of the show ‘Von Mund zu Mund’ with a picture of Marlene Dietrich, who was the understudy of the main star.
Or an extensive collection of Wintergarten Variete‘s programs from before the war. So many beautiful pictures, programs, graphics, colours, this is what heaven looks like to me!
After looking at some more old pictures, it’s time for me to go. I ask Stephan if he is working on a particular project at the moment, and he tells me he’s putting all his energy into a new regular swing event, Lottas Flying Ballroom. We wish him every success!
Well it has been a memorable home visit at Stephan Wuthe’s, I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!!
For more info on Stephan please check www.swingtime.de
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