Who Was the Real Sally Bowles?

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Sally Bowles is almost impossible not to like. Her carefree spirit and irresistible charm is especially enhanced by the performance of Liza Minnelli, who makes the Cabaret star fun and fascinating. The character was also based on a real woman…

Cabaret was inspired by Christopher Isherwood’s short story, “Sally Bowles.” Similar to Michael York, Isherwood traveled to Berlin just before the 1930s where he roomed with a Cabaret singer, Jean Ross.

“I met a few people who knew her,” Liza Minnelli said in 1972 in an interview with Dick Cavett.

Minnelli tried to find the real Bowles by putting advertisements in newspapers in West Berlin and London – two cities where she was allegedly supposed to be located in. Unfortunately, she never answered.

“I guess she’s done it all and she just wants to sit back and watch everybody else figure out who she is,” Liza said.

However, Ross’ daughter, Sarah Caudwell, sheds light on why she actually avoided the Cabaret spotlight.

Caudwell said, “Journalists always wanted to talk about sex, and my mother always wanted to talk about politics.”

Apparently, Ross disliked the Bowles character as the hedonistic caricature undermined her work and writings to further the Communist Party.

While she may not have like the story, critics did, and the role was a breakthrough performance for Minnelli.