She was the first spokeswoman for the “Tagesschau” and is one of Germany’s most famous TV faces. On her 80th birthday, Dagmar Berghoff from Hamburg talks about the hurdles on her way.
Dagmar Berghoff wrote television history. On June 16, 1976, she was the first woman to read the news of the ARD “Tagesschau”. For 23 years she remained a popular and valued speaker of the most-watched show on German television until she left on New Year’s Eve 1999.
For decades, the confident blonde from Hamburg could also be seen elsewhere on TV. For example, from 1982 to 1984 she was the host of the “NDR Talk Show” or from 1984 to 1992 she led with Max Schautzer through the “request concert” of the ARD. A public “Golden Camera” and two “Bambis” honor their work. On January 25th she celebrates her 80th birthday.
A difficult childhood
The life of Berghoff, who grew up in Ahrensburg near Hamburg, was very rocky at the beginning. She recently told some painful stories in her book “Guten Abend, meine Damen und Herren” (Hoffmann and Campe Verlag), published with Constantin Schreiber. The parents, who had lost their position and property during the war, thought their fat baby, who was born with a slight deformity in one hand, had been swapped – and often behaved unlovingly. When the depressed mother took her own life, Dagmar Berghoff was seven. The child, who lives in a shanty town, also had to cope with health boots, thick braces and severe hair loss.
“I think over time my powers of resistance have grown in me,” says Berghoff in an interview with the German Press Agency in her apartment on a canal in the Hanseatic city, which is stylishly furnished with classic art and antiques. The media lady with the erotic, smoky voice, who serves coffee and biscuits, answers factually and professionally – and at the same time seems sincere and human. Berghoff says she matured in particular because of her father’s resistance, who saw her as a future chief secretary. Because her career aspiration was to be an actress, ever since she had performed plays she had written herself at the age of nine for a fee of ten pfennigs. At the age of 15, she wrote secretly to the star actor Joseph Offenbach (1904-1971, “The Incorrigibles”) – and spoke to him.
She wanted to go to the theatre
Offenbach found her talented. So after graduating from high school in 1962, Berghoff went to London and Paris as an au pair to learn languages. And then to attend the state drama school in Hamburg with the goal of a stage career. She earned her living by cleaning and delivering mail, washing dishes at night in the train station, in a cheese factory and behind the counter of a bar. But after her exam, many things turned out differently than planned. Despite an offer to the theater in Münster, Berghoff initially made a career as a speaker at the then Südwestfunk (SWF) in Baden-Baden – and went back to Hamburg in 1975 because of love. There soon came a call from Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) – the rest is television history.
She was cast by the then chief spokesman Karl-Heinz Köpcke (1922-1991). He was also right next to her when she first appeared in the 8 p.m. edition. “I thought they always do it that way. But he probably meant that as a woman I might lose my nerve and break down,” Berghoff recalls with a smile. As a quota woman, she never felt that the word had not yet existed. “I was taken a little as a pioneer by feminists. But that was never my intention. I was only offered a great job – and I did it.” Nevertheless, the woman, who married the doctor Peter Matthaes at the age of 47, sees herself on the side of the women’s rights activists – but rather relaxed.
First a slip of the tongue, then a fit of laughter
A slip of the tongue by Berghoff became legendary in 1988: the alleged “WC” tennis championship in Dallas, which Boris Becker won – instead of WTC. Whereupon the speaker got a fit of laughter. Berghoff, who had been promoted to chief spokeswoman, ended her work at the “Tagesschau” at her own request at the end of the millennium. “I was considering the 1999 New Year’s Eve issue for this,” she tells dpa. She wanted to have more time for her husband, who had retired. Unfortunately, Matthaes died just a year later.
Berghoff lives in the here and now. She enjoys cultivating the beautiful side of life with friends: going out to eat, visiting art museums, traveling – like to France. Unfortunately, nothing more can come of the plan to set up a shared flat for the elderly, since many of her friends died young. She dedicates herself to the media on a daily basis – but selectively so as not to be exposed to today’s barrage of information. Work is still part of her life. She has just completed readings and other appointments with her current book. There is also an appearance on the MDR talk show “Riverboat” on February 5th.
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