The Jockey Bar

The Jockey Bar opened in 1929 in what was then Lutherstraße 2, in the Charlottenburg district of the city. It is now Keithstraße 17 and tucked into the northern-most corner of Schöneberg, at the junction with Kurfürstenstraße.

 

(image : Edition Gauglitz)

From 1925 to 1929, the premises had been a German/Russian restaurant called Yar, but was taken over by Otto Schulze and relaunched with a full Entertainments Licence as the Jockey Bar. It was an immediate hit with the ‘A-List’ set it had been aimed at and regularly saw a stellar guest-list comprising the likes of Erich Kästner, Klaus and Erika Mann, Alfred Kerr, Gustaf Gründgens, Jean Cocteau, Andre Gide, Ernest Hemingway and, most famously, Marlene Dietrich. It is also entirely probable that Christopher Isherwood and W.H Auden were also amongst its’ patrons given their presence in the city at the time and close association with some of the names listed above.

The pianist was Ernst Engel, a popular performer with the Berliner Rundfunk and also a regular contributor to the film production company Ufa. At the Jockey-Bar, he delighted his audiences by combining his repertoire of jazz and popular classics with pieces by Bach and Mozart. He later went on to be a founding member of the hugely successful Comedian Harmonists.

A regular performer was a black dancer, very much in the style of Josephine Baker and

“a little blond sailor girl dancing on the grand piano and belting out

chansons and songs in a thin voice with bold gestures”

Führer durch das lasterhafte Berlin – Curt Moreck (1931)

(image : Edition Gauglitz)

Even after formally leaving Berlin in 1930, Marlene Dietrich was still a regular visitor during her frequent visits to Berlin, bringing a many a celebrity in her entourage.

After the opening night of Friedrich Holländer’s Tingel Tangel cabaret in January 1931, the crowd wound their way to the Jockey Bar, where the partying went on into the early hours of the morning.

Marlene Dietrich and Friedrich Holländer, 1930

(image : Edition Gauglitz)

The unique atmosphere of the bar caused it to be referrred to in several post-war novels:  ’Das kunstseidene Mädchen’ by Irmgard Keuns, ‘Mitteilungen an den Adel’ by Elisabeth Plessens, and ’Am grünen Strand der Spree’ by Hans Shoke – which was made into a 6-part TV drama in 1960.  It was also mentioned in the memoirs of the prolific German writer and journalist, Oda Schaefer.

 

The venue remained open throughout the war, with the owners seemingly having very good connections to ensure a plentiful supply of food and drink.

After the war, the Jockey Bar moved to nearby Fassanenstraße but failed to replicate its’ previous success. The premises at Keithstraße became ‘Keith-Klause’ and later, in 1967, ‘Dicken Heinrich’- a famous supplier of quality ‘Kurfürstendamm’  sausages. The titular ‘Fat Henry’ died on the premises from heart failure brought on by obesity.  Today it is home to the ‘PodoPraxis’.

 

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5 Responses to The Jockey Bar

  1. Hi, Brendan, as far as I remember from the first half of the 60th, der Dicke Heinrich” and his friend were at Wilmersdorfer Strasse near today’s Adenauer Platz, coming from Ku-Damm on the left side. The whole area was in rubbles, his stall, his Würstchenbude was on rubbles too. There you got the best sausages ever, nothing to do with the awful Currywurst.

  2. Hels says:

    The first photo of the Jockey Club looks, from the outside, as if they were trying to be a bit discreet. The glass was not open, not inviting passers by to come in and join the fun. Since you suggest that everyone famous and talented was indeed there, advertising must have been word of mouth.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank you very, very much for all these highly interesting and bittersweet stories.

  4. Rosa says:

    What a Golden Age those days seem compared to the mundane present. From the Jockey Club to PodoPraxis! How sad! Maybe 80 years from now this will seem like a Golden Age too, but I doubt it. Do we have any great actresses, writers, satirists, dancers these days?

  5. Brendan, I will be at “Frau Behrens” or “Tante Behrens”, Wilmersdorfer Strasse, Thursday, 10 a.m., meeting with Born & Bred Berlin (see my blog, please)

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