An December 3, 1976, Else Dietl-Greiner died of a heart attack in her apartment without any warning signs or illness being seen beforehand. She was 57 years old, and this death tore her son out of a life that looked happy from the outside and which he probably also felt to be reasonably successful himself. Patrick Süskind reports that he screamed on the phone, loud and desperate, as if someone was being stabbed. Dietl writes in his notes that he did not understand. And that nothing was the same after that.
Which is probably more than a phrase and anything but an exaggeration. His mother had never been his legal guardian, the supervisor, the authority from which he would eventually have had to make himself independent. Rather, she was his best friend, his confidant, the one person he could always count on under any circumstances. The fact that the mother came into the apartment to iron was certainly not because her son could not afford a maid. Rather, the mere presence of this woman reminded the aspiring young man of his own moral standards. Without this presence, as he describes it himself, he was lost.
It was the actress Barbara Valentin, to whom he was married at the time, and the Fassbinder people who brought Helmut Dietl and cocaine together, says Dietl’s producer Jürgen Dohme. It was the death of his mother that weakened his powers of resistance, Helmut Dietl said even then. Patrick Süskind remembers that he numbed himself with work, alcohol, drugs and erotic adventures. He was risking his freedom, his health, maybe even his life, and Dohme can remember that Dietl would sometimes draw a line in the car in the middle of traffic in broad daylight, not caring if others were watching him .
Poison and Antidote
In the late 1970s in Munich, cocaine was sort of the antidote to potted hippies and the ideal drug for anyone who wanted to work hard and party hard and found that there was simply no time to sleep in. It was also expensive, making the drug the exclusive treat of those who could afford it. The fact that cocaine, if you snort a lot of it for a long time, shatters your nerves and promotes a tendency to paranoia and also puts a layer of ice over your feelings: Unfortunately, you usually only notice this when you have become very accustomed to coke.
Helmut Dietl worked a lot. When nothing else was in order, he directed commercials. Together with Süskind, he finished the Schubert film. He began developing a new television series, Normal Madness.