Poet in Motion
jolanda egger -- actress, model, even poet -- leads a bicontinental life
Fall in Chicago: Jolanda Egger, Swiss-born model, aspiring actress and erstwhile lover and manager of Christian Anders (the German equivalent of Andy Gibb), stands at the corner of Fullerton Avenue and Clark Street. The wind whips her rainbow-striped taffeta skirt. She's here as a potential Playmate, test shooting all day and spending the evenings looking for a dance hall. Disco is not dead in Europe, apparently. Informed that it has expired, unlamented, in America, she shrugs and says she'll settle for a quiet dinner. She sets off past drugstores and headshops, peering through windows at the gray, pale Chicagoans. As she passes, a few of them come out into the street. They lean against storefronts and watch until she disappears into a restaurant with a framed wine list by the door. Inside, against a backdrop of mahogany and brass, she stands out like a brightly lit pinwheel in a boardroom. "Working with Playboy has been the turning point of my life," she says over a glass of wine. She made her first Playboy appearance in our German edition, then graced this April's Ladies of Spain pictorial. Jolanda does get around -- she has lived in Switzerland, Germany and Spain. Now she's in line for a gatefold, and that has brought her first extended stay in America. "Before," she continues, "I never considered living in the United States. But the longer I'm here, the longer I'd like to stay."
As a stewardess, a model and an occasional film actress, she developed a high profile in many parts of Europe. She has long been linked romantically to Anders, a blond pop singer who acts in kung-fu movies when he's not cutting records (he's also sort of the German equivalent of Chuck Norris). She managed him, lived with him for a while and the two were featured in half of Europe's picture magazines. They've separated and gotten together again a number of times. Now she welcomes the opportunities another country presents. The daughter of a Swiss film maker working in Los Angeles, she hopes eventually to make her mark on the other side of the camera.
"I'll probably be going back to Munich, to the acting school there, before very long, but I do hope I get a chance to meet the right people in L.A. on this trip." (She pronounces it "Ellay" -- even faster than the people who live there.) "I still have in mind that I want to act, and the opportunities for that are in L.A. Also, the whole thing with Christian is a reason to stay here for a while. We're still friends, but I don't particularly want to hear his music again and again on the radio. It's on all the time over there."
She stares into her glass for a moment, then smiles. "I will tell you one bad thing about America, as much as I like it, if you want to hear." Her English is slightly inflected; it's one of five languages she speaks. She sounds like the sweet German governesses you used to find in British movies. "I would like to stay in the U.S., but I don't accept the American mentality completely -- especially the behavior of some of the men."
Oh-oh. Here comes the bad news.
"In comparison with European men, I find Americans less charming. Less well mannered. They could be more gentlemanly to their women. I think they should work on that."
There you have it, gentlemen. If you're ever on your way to an evening out with a beautiful young European woman, stop at the florist's first.
Jolanda grew up in Switzerland. She has spent most of her adult life in Munich and Berlin, where tension between East and West is more a way of life than of politics. She thinks it's refreshing that most Americans seem unconcerned with international policies. Still, she thinks we could be more aware of what goes on in modern western Europe, rather than think only of swastikas and blitzkriegs.
"I live in Germany, so I'll speak about Germany. Switzerland is something else altogether," she says. "The Germans still have a bad reputation that goes back through two World Wars. They try very hard to make up for that. They really cannot be so proud of Germany as you can be of America. There is always tension between the East and the West, and the people are very aware of that. I have written some poems about it. Maybe I'll give you one of them sometime."
After dinner, she smiles at everyone in or around the restaurant and heads back for more test shooting. Only one in 1000 prospective Playmates ever gets to take on the name of the month, but in this case, the test seems like a formality.
Spring in Berlin: Bopping all over the world's last fortress city, Jolanda delightedly shows off one of her home towns. She leans back, tight T-shirted, for a shot of the East-controlled Brandenburg Gate in the Berlin Wall, one of the city's most imposing monuments. She flashes her equestrian skills on a jumping course outside the city (only a mile from hostile territory), then leads her horse to water in the Havel River. She checks out Checkpoint Charlie, pointing a threatening finger at the soldiers who man the other side of the iron curtain.
Through ten days of shooting, she's consistently effervescent, plainly proud of the city and clearly happy that the tests are over and the real thing has begun.
"All of my work with your magazine has been worth it," she says. "I met some beautiful people -- Melinda Mays, Miss February 1983, is one of my favorites -- and I'm sure when I go back to America, it will all be very helpful. I wanted to live in L.A. before I met Playboy, and I think this may be what makes it possible. I will be pleased when the magazine comes out with my gatefold, but for me, that's really second salt -- it's not the most important thing. The people are what count the most. Still, I am proud to be in the centerfold. Who can do that? Not every girl."
Being back near the U.S.S.R. must call up all those tensions that come from living in a city between two worlds. She doesn't talk much about that, but before long, we have the promised poem in hand. She says she calls it Eternity of Love and seems just a touch embarrassed by its romanticism.
The day the doom will catch us all,
I want to spend the end with you.
Fame, money, power, the walls of majesty will fall,
But we are equal creatures, through and through.
Brotherhood among the nations will come too late,
But for us two, love withholds the terror of destruction.
Hand in hand, possessing each the other's soul,
We'll overcome the fate.
A last beat of life; the world will stop production;
But we will have proved, in this moment of eternity,
What life was meant for.
Through passion and through pain, we both discovered an identity.
We are still together, though the world exists no more.
Photography by Pompeo Posar