My mother being an actress herself had many tales about famous actresses of her day. One of her favourites was about Zozo Dalmas, a great beauty of the early past of last century. Zozo was – according to some – born in 1905 in Constantinople, Turkey as Zoe Stavridou, according to other in 1911 in Salonika. My mother said Constantinople so I take her word for it as mother was born in 1921 in Constantinople so grew up at much the same time. I suspect that Zozo moved, as did my mother, to Salonika later in life. (Although Mustafa Kemal, the founder of the modern Turkish nation, brought about a forced excahnge of population with the Greeks, the Greeks of Constantinople were allowed to remain. Until the Cyprus debacle anyway.)
It seems that it was in Salonika that Zozo began to achieve fame in light operetta. According to my mother her voice was a fine soprano and she was also an oriental dancer…did this mean she did belly dancing? I rather doubt it but perhaps she did this in a private way.
Her blonde beauty and clear white skin was renowned all over the Middle East at the time but the Germans and Austrians also loved her fair looks. When she appeared one night at the Pera Palas theatre in Constantinople, Mustafa Kemal happened to be there. He fell madly in love with her and courted her. They had to keep their affair a secret due to the political problems at that time between Greece and Turkey. Despite his showering Zozo with jewellery, money and other delights, she remained in love with him and not his power and wealth. According to one story, she cut his picture from the banknotes he gave her saying that was what she valued most. Nice.
According to my mother, Zozo was said to make love to Kemal’s officers while he liked to watch. On stage she appeared in elaborate Ziegfield type costumes but off stage she loved to dress up as a man in trousers and Kemal gave her a stick with a gold top in which was a huge ruby. She appeared in a German play as a tart seducing a man…(my mother’s words.) Apparently Zozo liked to have handsome young man as her dresser. Her dresser remained loyal to her till the end of her life.
Her fame was at it’s height in the 1930’s, her favourite saying ‘take it or leave it or hang it on the Bosphorus’. Interesting use of words.
My mother said that she became an arrogant woman later in life and bought her many lovers either a Bugati or an Alfa Romeo, always in white – but it seems these toy boys used up all her money over time and she ended up in a hovel in Athens, forgotten, poor with only a pension from the Actor’s Equity.
Is this gossip true? No idea. Great story though. 🙂