Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Monika Dannemann: Figure Skating's Connection To Jimi Hendrix


Daily Mail photo
In 1965, Jimi Hendrix entered a New York City recording studio and recorded "The Ballad Of Jimi", ominously predicting a singer named Jimi would be dead in five years: "Many things he would try, For he knew soon he'd die. Now Jimi's gone, he's not alone. His memory still lives on. Five years, this he said. He's not gone, he's just dead." As close to five years as it gets from the time this song was written, Jimi Hendrix was no longer 'part of this world' and it was his connection with figure skater/skating coach Monika Dannemann that remains one of the most controversial parts of the story of his death to this very day. 

Born in June 1945, Monika Dannemann was a 
German figure skater and painter. One source stated she was reportedly a student of Olympic Gold Medallist Sjoukje Dijkstra but I'm dubious of this as Sjoukje was still obviously competing at this time. At any rate in 1965, Monika participated in the German Figure Skating Championships representing the club Düsseldorfer EG. She finished 16th but won several medals and trophies at other competitions leading up to this national appearance. Following the end of her skating career, she turned to coaching.

After being invited to a January 1969 Jimi Hendrix concert in Düsseldorf, she reportedly met and spent the night and part of the next day with Hendrix and accompanied him to his next concert in Cologne. Jimi spent the final night of his German tour with model Uschi Obermaier - they were filmed going at it outside of the Kempinski Hotel the following morning. Three months later and skating coach Monika Dannemann was hooked, travelling to London, England on April in the hopes of bumping into him again. You read that right. She did end up spending one night with Jimi out of her 9 day visit after 'bumping into him' at the Speakeasy Club. A year later after his relationship with Danish model Kirsten Nefer ended, Jimi and Monika reconnected and spent the next four nights together at her flat in the Samarkand Hotel in Notting Hill Gate, where he died. During this four day visit, Dannemann claimed Hendrix proposed to her. On the evening of September 17, Hendrix took nine of Dannemann's Vesparax sleeping tablets to help with sleep problems - the recommended dose being 1/2 to 1 tablet. The following morning, Dannemann claimed she found Hendrix in a coma at her basement flat and called for an ambulance. Hendrix was officially declared to have died at St. Mary Abott's Hospital just over an hour after that ambulance had arrived, the cause of death being asphyxiation through aspiration of vomit due to a barbiturate overdose. Reports certainly cast suspicion on Dannemann - there was a scarf wrapped tightly around Hendrix's neck, he'd been dead for hours when they arrived and she wasn't at the flat when the ambulance arrived. Her stories about the events surrounding Hendrix's death were inconsistent with those of hospital and ambulance workers as well as the autopsy performed on him.

Life after Hendrix's death wasn't rosy. Dannemann was lambasted by Hendrix's fans as "the skater from hell". Her house was described as an eerie shrine to the singer, filled with paintings she'd painted of him. She married German guitarist Uli Jon Roth of The Scorpions and wrote a book called "The Inner World Of Jimi Hendrix" about her experience "living and working with Hendrix"... interesting as they'd probably spent less than a couple weeks in total together over the two years they were acquainted. It was never published due to slanderous comments included about Hendrix's former girlfriend Kathy Etchingham. Dannemann kept Hendrix's famous black Stratocaster (nicknamed Black Beauty by Hendrix). It was last seen at a guitar event in 1995 in London. Dannemann was found guilty of contempt of court for breaching a British High Court Order against her not to repeat false allegations against Kathy Etchingham. Two days later, Dannemann was found dead in fume-filled Mercedes Benz near her cottage in Seaford, East Sussex at the age of her 50, her death ruled a suicide. Her funeral was attended by less than 100 people, mostly Jimi Hendrix fans.

Long before the "whack heard around the world" and Tonya Harding, Monika Dannemann really appears to be the original skating "bad girl". Was she engaged to Hendrix or did something just not add up here? Sadly, we will never know the whole story.

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