In 1975 Dagmar Koller, the most photographed woman in Austria, appeared on stage together with Zarah Leander in “Das Lächeln einer Sommernacht“ (The smile of a summer’s night). The world premiere of the musical, which was originally a movie with Ingrid Bergman in 1955, marked the end of Zarah Leander’s career, while Dagmar Koller’s career was just beginning to take off. 
In Dagmar Koller’s illustrated book “Goldene Zeiten“ (Golden times) (Dagmar Koller/Micheal Balgavy), published in 2018, Zarah Leander is seen in several photos. Leander is said to have advised Koller to drink vodka when nervous – considering Koller’s successful career, which is documented in the illustrated book, one can guess that this was some good advice. 

“Like a factory”

Five years before she appeared with Zarah Leander in “Das Lächeln einer Sommernacht“, Dagmar Koller met her future husband Helmut Zilk, who was Mayor of Vienna from 1984 to 1994. During this time Dagmar Koller was, parallel to her career in show business, First Lady of Vienna. 
“Zilk and me – we were like a factory,“ says Dagmar Koller about her marriage to Helmut Zilk. Her husband’s political career smoothly merged with Koller’s show business career. 
In 1993, however, things changed for the couple: Helmut Zilk became the victim of a letter bomb attack that year and was therefore unable to use his left hand for the rest of his life. Thus Dagmar Koller saw it as her task to lead her husband back to life after this decisive event. 

Photos instead of words

It is impressive that key events such as the letter bombing are illustrated and thus told at the same time in the photo book: Representing the assassination attempt is a double-page photo of the destroyed salon of the Vienna apartment where the bomb had gone off. 
Instead of putting Helmut Zilk’s death in 2008 in words, the illustrated book contains a completely black-colored double page with the date of her husband’s death. 
If words were used instead of photos, the viewer would probably think less about the event in question. 

Koller: Robbed of all her furs

Nevertheless, the illustrated book is adorned with several texts that provide a brief introduction to the work at hand and accompany the reader while looking at it. 
The newspaper clippings, where Dagmar Koller lets journalists tell the story of stations in her life, are both informative and entertaining: At one point, an article in the “Bild am Sonntag“ informs the reader about how Dagmar Koller prepared herself for her role as a prostitute in the musical “Irma La Douce“; another newspaper report tells how Koller was robbed of all her furs in 1977. 

In her illustrated book, the former First Lady of Vienna documents not only the stages of her career, but also her cars, the bond with her mother, royal and non-royal encounters and much more. All of this adds up to a piece of Austrian contemporary history that can be recommended to anyone who enjoys show business, contemporary history and photography.

Simon von Ludwig 

Cover picture: Dagmar Koller together with tenor Max Lichtegg on TV in 1970, by courtesy of Alfred Fassbind.

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