Famous Duesseldorfers include Kraftwerk, Heinrich Heine, and Josef Beuys (sort of). Plus, never forget that Robert Schumann went insane in this city! Unfortunately, few of these names rings a bell outside of Germany (although they should, they should!). Therefore, I’ve been on the lookout for other famous Duesseldorfers.
And I found one. The one, the only, the inimitable Brother Theodore:
Brother Theodore (11 November 1906 – 5 April 2001) was a German monologuist and comedian known for rambling, stream of consciousness dialogues [sic] which he called "stand up tragedy." He was born Theodore Gottlieb into a wealthy family in Düsseldorf, Germany, where his father was a magazine publisher. Theodore attended the University of Cologne. Under Nazi rule, he was imprisoned at the Dachau concentration camp until he signed over his family’s fortune for one Reichsmark. After being deported for chess hustling from Switzerland he went to Austria where Albert Einstein, a family friend, helped him escape to the United States. He worked as a janitor at Stanford University, a dockworker in San Francisco and played a bit part in Orson Welles‘ The Stranger before moving to New York City.
His ‘act’, if you can call it that, explored what would happen if you re-animated Schopenhauer, glued mutilated chunks of a silver wig on him, stuck a gun in his back, and ordered him to ‘be entertaining.’ Here is BT from one of his sixteen legendary appearances on the David Letterman show.
Now, I’ll admit, a little of Brother Theodore goes a long way. In fact, 2 minutes or so is enough to last most people their entire lives. But I couldn’t get enough of the man. As I watched the flickering, glowing television screen in my suburban home, I thought to myself: "One day, I must go to live in the city that brought forth this diseased man-child!"
Some of Brother Theodore’s other aphorisms:
"The best thing is not to be born. But who is as lucky as that? To whom does it happen? Not to one among millions and millions of people."
"All the great spiritual leaders are dead …. Moses is dead …. Muhammed is dead …. Buddha is dead …. and I’m not feeling so hot myself!"
"Her hair was of a dank yellow, and fell over her temples like sauerkraut, her face was sweaty like a chunk of rancid pork…"
"What this country needs, and I’m not joking, is a dictator. I feel the time is right, and the place congenial, and I am ready. I will be strict but just. Heads will roll, and corpses will swing from every lamppost."