Obituary: Ingrid Steeger – the nation's sad joke

She made millions of people laugh in the 70s - but her own life was full of drama and sadness: Ingrid Steeger, who died at the age of 76, became an icon of slapstick with "Klimbim".

Obituary: Ingrid Steeger – the nation's sad joke

She made millions of people laugh in the 70s - but her own life was full of drama and sadness: Ingrid Steeger, who died at the age of 76, became an icon of slapstick with "Klimbim". Whoever said Ulknudel meant Ingrid Steeger. But actually she was a pretty sad joker.

Health problems and financial hardships have shaped Steeger's life in recent years. Most recently she lived in a nursing home in Bad Hersfeld, and now she died in a hospital in the Hessian city. Over the past few years, there have been a lot of different acquaintances around her. She left Munich impoverished; Steeger had no longer had any contact with show business for a long time.

Steeger was born Ingrid Anita Stengert in Berlin on April 1, 1947. Berlin was bombed at the time and her family was poor. “Five of us lived in a room and had little to eat,” she recalled to “Die Zeit” a few years ago.

But the poverty was only one thing - the coldness in the family was another: "I was treated badly and beaten, experienced sexual violence at an early age, I certainly wasn't loved, my parents didn't care what I thought or felt." She was only able to speak freely when she was well into adulthood because she grew up so intimidated.

That doesn't fit at all with the cheerful image that the Germans had of Steeger for many years. Everything seemed easy in her life since the blonde secretary with the voluptuous breasts was discovered by a photographer in the 1960s. From 1970 onwards she became a regular actress in the cinemas as the shooting star of the soft sex films of those years. Whether in “The love-struck Baronesses” or in “Schoolgirl Report” – Steeger often pulled the trigger and thus gained notoriety.

She later said she was no longer committed to the films. She told “Emma” in 1992 that she had only taken part for money and that she now felt disgust. "I find it disgusting that someone is touching my breasts and that I did it for money - I was selling myself back then."

But despite the shallow sex films, Steeger surprisingly managed to become a cult figure. Director Michael Pfleghar turned Steeger into an fictional character that Germany had never seen before.

Steeger made his breakthrough in 1973 in the series “Klimbim,” which became a legend thanks to its anarchic humor. Back then, millions tuned in when the “Klimbim” family set off silly fireworks. Sometimes as a brat, sometimes sexy, Steeger played the "Klimbim" daughter Gabi and sang at the end: "Then I'll put a slit in my dress and think it's wonderful."

As free from all conventions as Steeger played in "Klimbim", that's how she lived. In 1973 she married the cameraman Lothar Elias Stickelbruck. Just a year later, director Pfleghar became her secret partner before she disappeared to Kenya with a big game hunter in 1977. Many other relationships followed. A second marriage to Tom LaBlanc from the USA failed.

She was the director Dieter Wedel's lover for several years. For Steeger, this was a turning point. Wedel, who was confronted with allegations of abuse in the last years of his life and died before the investigation was completed, gave her a lot of self-confidence, she said. He cast his lover in the successful production “The Great Bellheim”. The series remained Steeger's biggest television success in the serious genre.

The affair with Wedel ended unhappy, like so many of her relationships and friendships. But despite all these private sadnesses, for many Germans Steeger will forever be remembered as a joke.

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