Manuela Horn is tall.
She’s 6-foot-2. Add the 5-inch platform shoes she’s fond of, and it’s easy to see why she’s nicknamed the Austrian Amazon.
The actress and cabaret performer, who hosted her own children’s TV show in Austria before she relocated to Seattle to work with Teatro Zinzanni, is bringing authentic Germanic flair to Spokane’s newest Oktoberfest this weekend.
The event is not just about the beer, although German beers from Paulander USA will be flowing from the taps. There’s German food prepared by Das Stein Haus, wiener dog races (3 p.m. Sunday), games, polkas, a root bier garden and ice cream area, oom-pah music from Kurt Walter’s AlpenBand and the Oom Pa’s and Ma’s. As tradition dictates, Spokane Mayor David Condon and Spokesman-Review publisher Stacey Cowles will help tap the firkin – a small beer cask – at 5:10 p.m. today.
And yes, there will be yodeling.
Horn learned to yodel when she was 12. Her family was Austrian, but her father owned a company in Frankfurt, Germany, where they lived. When they drove home for holidays, the trip would take 14 hours; there were no tunnels, she said, so it was a lot of driving up and down mountains. Once, during the height of boredom, her dad offered to teach her to yodel.
“And thanks, Mom, for letting me do so because you don’t want to listen to someone learn to yodel,” she said. “It’s horrible.”
Now she loves it. “I don’t think you can be grumpy if someone yodels around you,” she said.
She’s found a niche, too, specializing in yodeling renditions of pop and rock songs. Really – performers such as Lady Gaga, AC/DC, ABBA, KISS.
“What I love to do is take different music genres and pluck the yodel in to just show that you can yodel to anything and everything,” she said.
(She gives us a sample, yodeling a version of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Listen to it right here).
In addition to her Oktoberfest persona, she also has a character called the Yodeling Dominatrix. Fans of “America’s Got Talent” might remember her 2009 performance as the dominatrix.
“I made David Hasselhoff drool with the dominatrix outfit,” she said, laughing. “It’s one of those moments in life when you’re, ‘I did it.’ ”
She’s leaving the dominatrix at home for this visit to the East Side, promising a traditional and family-friendly, dirndl-wearing Oktoberfest host. It’s an act she’s honed for five years headlining Puyallup’s Oktoberfest.
“During the day, it’s more family friendly, then at night we’ll be in more party mode,” she said. “I’m going to host, and I’m going to introduce, and there will be games.”
While she never has performed at the world famous Oktoberfest in Munich – they invited her this year, but she’s coming to Spokane instead, she said – she loves the celebration. And not just because it’s a tradition she’s familiar with.
“Oktoberfest is a time where you pack your family and you go to a venue where you have good food, great beer, music to dance, games to play. It’s a day of enjoying friends and family,” Horn said. “People come with a laughing heart. They want to have a good time and laugh and do the Chicken Dance and be silly and do the Conga Line. And let loose for a day or two.”
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