Singing and dancing with the ‘enemy’

The recently referred-to theme of the showbiz lives of the GOTGE in Western Europe brings to mind a video I first encountered some time back which, in terms of historical background, is nothing short of staggering.

In 1979, the Czechoslovak trio of Hana Zagorová, Helena Vondráčková and Jiří Korn appeared on the West German TV show, ‘Gute Laune mit Musik’, which is an incredible enough appearance in the then-enemy camp in itself. However, it gets even more so when one considers the artist with whom they performed a song and dance act on that show. The artist in question was Marika Rökk – an artist with a very interesting past in the context of relations between the nations of Central Europe over this past century or so….

…which I say because Marika Rökk was, for a start, Hungarian by birth – a nation that, for the best part of its partnership with Austria in the time of the Habsburg Empire, ruthlessly imposed its language on the future nation of Slovakia that was a part of its part of the Empire (more on the Hungarian language later). Furthermore, four decades previous to her West German TV appearance with that Czechoslovak trio, (therefore, at the time when the Third Reich had just rolled into and rolled over Czechoslovakia), Marika was performing that same number for the entertainment of Nazi-era Germany – a number which demonstrates that the Nazis weren’t averse to using ‘degenerate’ Swing Music for the purposes of entertainment.

Marika, indeed, had been so implicated in being part of the propaganda machine keeping up the morale of the fighting forces of the Reich that, apparently, she had to serve a ‘Berufsverbot’ (stopping her working in showbiz) as part of the De-Nazification process, for some years after the cessation of hostilities.

Taking all this into account that 1979 TV performance is quite a remarkable example of singing and dancing with the ‘enemy’ on all sorts of levels.

I said ‘more on the Hungarian language later’.

Some three years after 1979, we see, on the Czechoslovak TV variety show, ‘Možná přide i kouzelník’ (‘Perhaps a bow and a magician’) (the first episode thereof) Jiří and Helena re-united, together with Jiří’s co-host Oldřich Kaiser plus a whole host of other entertainers of the era, including another notable GOTGE, Jitka Zelenková and no less than Bezinky. However, in the context of the aforementioned, what captures the whole show is the merciless skit on the Hungarian language, by the singer, Karel Černoch and the comedian, Jiří Wimmer, that, even with my sketchy knowledge of Czech, is side-achingly funny. There’s no sticking together like comradely fellow Eastern Bloc nations going on here. It really goes for the jugular!

Here is the outline order of play of some of the highlights of the show.

Jitka showing off her comic talents by dancing as a comical policeman…and….dare I say…her very toned and tanned body at the end of the act when she removes her ‘disguise’ (PHEW!)

A skit on fire limbo dancing with Josef Dvořák, to the accompaniment of ‘The Czech Goombay Dance Band’.

Jitka going serious this time.

Karel and Jiří (Wimmer’s) Hungarian send-up.

A solo from Karel.

Helena demonstrating her own talents for comic performance with a couple of members of the audience.

Helena backed by Bezinky.

Jiří (Korn) showing off his tap-dancing talents with Eva Asterová.

The whole cast getting together at the end for a performance of a version of ‘The Age Of Aquarius’.

The Master of Ceremonies (seated amongst the audience) is Jiří Lábus.

All in all ‘Možná přide i kouzelník’ seems like it was quite an entertaining and varied show and would have stood up alongside anything that might have been on Western European or North American TV at the time.

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