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Viennese Cabaret Star Memoirs


Life as the daughter of a cabaret artiste in Vienna between the wars

Rosl - Cabaret and Childhood in 1920s Vienna
Rosl - Cabaret and Childhood in 1920s Vienna

This is the true story of a lyrically happy childhood spent in Europe between the wars. But it is much more than that. Rosl Berndt, the author’s mother, was a distinguished and famous cabaret artiste, who started her career as child star Die Kleine Rosl and returned to the stage after marrying a Hungarian impresario and having a daughter, Liesl. While her mother is away on tour, Liesl is brought up by her adored grandmother, Bronya, who provides her with a secure, regulated and loving home life.Rosl’s Daughter
Childhood and Cabaret in 1920s Vienna
Liesl Müller-Johnson

28th April 2011

However, when Liesl is six years old, Bronya dies in a tragic accident and she is immediately catapulted into her mother’s Bohemian world. First, there is an avant-garde boarding school in Germany, then a rather exclusive one in Vienna and, later, more studies in Bucharest. During the holidays her time is divided between the close-knit community of Vienna’s Weintraubengasse and visits to her mother at her new home in Amsterdam or in expensive, glamorous hotels frequented by famous actors, singers, musicians, composers and writers of the day.

Though largely protected from the harsher realities of the Second World War, the fact that she is half-Jewish is a constant source of unease for Liesl. As she matures and falls in love, first with a dashing Rumanian cadet officer, then a charismatic English war hero, Liesl continues to find that life as Rosl’s daughter is sometimes difficult, but never dull.

Liesl Müller-Johson is the daughter of a Viennese cabaret artiste and an impresario. She spent most of her childhood in Vienna and Bucharest. In 1946 she met the man who was to become her husband, British RAF officer, Tom Johnson, and they married in 1947.The early 1950s were spent in London, where she met Peter Ustinov, Tony Hancock, John Osborne and other celebrities of the period – and made her professional stage début in pantomime at Leeds. When she and her husband moved to a substantial country house in Hampshire, she launched the highly successful Elizabeth Johnson Organisation, which places foreign students with English families and arranges English tuition. Now widowed, Liesl has emulated her talented mother in performing the songs of the ‘golden era’ of Mittel-Europa cabaret. She has appeared in theatres in Rome and Vienna as well as in England and produced several CDs. She currently lives in Headley, Hants.

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