Inspiring Women – Alexandra Kauka

by Elliot Derhay

With a lifelong affinity for the arts and a career in modeling and publishing, ALEXANDRA KAUKA always finds herself creating. She uses her art to heal, to inspire.

Alexandra honed her business acumen over the years, first with two antique stores and subsequently as president of her late second husband’s publishing empire—finding true love not once, but three times along the way. Her natural beauty and gentle spirit permeated the art gallery as she settled into an interview with ELYSIAN.

We are seated in the EVEY Fine Art Gallery in front of something spectacular. What are we looking at?

It is my art, which I like . . . if I would not have created it, I would buy it.

When I walked into the gallery your painting was the first thing that I was drawn to. It is lovely, stunning. A lot of your art is created “in hiding.”

I think the world environment asks for hiding.

What happened to our world?

I don’t know. I read one of the questions you pose to your interviewees, “If you would meet God, what would you ask him?” I find this to be a very smart and courageous question. First I would thank him, for having me play a part in this divine comedy and ask him if he might consider some corrections.

What would you suggest those changes or corrections be?

It would revolve around mankind. We must be gentler to our earth. Maybe God should give us more understanding for one another.

Two very different things; nature and peace. Let’s talk about nature first. You and your husband Rolf Kauka purchased a magnificent piece of property in Georgia. What year was that?

This was 1980 and it was a plantation of 7,000 acres.

You later granted well over two thousand acres to the state of Georgia?

Yes. When we parted with our plantation, I kept a portion of about 2000 acres. I could not bear the thought of an elegant golf course on my beautiful land, with its exquisite flora, fauna, the little river, and majestic trees. I decided the land should be protected forever. The state of Georgia was very helpful as was Governor Sonny Perdue.

He was a great outdoorsman as are you. What is your hunting preference?

Yes, the governor was my hunting buddy. In Georgia, you can hunt turkey, quail, and ducks. The governor shot his first turkey at my place.

Did he call it? Or did someone else?

No, he had to call it.

He did. Was it a box, friction or mouth call?

You know about calls? It was a box call. Yes. It was very funny. We knew he would get a turkey. He had a fantastic blind and everything was just right. He was sitting and began calling the turkey. Suddenly, Sonny shot straight up. He was sitting on top of a mound of fire ants, and they were everywhere on him. When they take over, you don’t feel them or see them . . . until they bite all at once. It was serious enough for him to go to the hospital. The next day he went back and shot his first turkey.

I am curious about your amazing life and this idea of peace . . . Where were you born?

I was born in Carinthia, Austria.

You were born during an era that was not peaceful, amidst the horrors of the second world war.

It was not peaceful, and my childhood remains hard for me even to talk about. Those times after the war were difficult for everyone, back then. It sounds so unreal to talk about it in the present time. We were hungry, of course, and we learned to live with nature back then. My school had about 150 children in one class . . . with one teacher who had only one leg. My God, it was such a very different time.

When did you know that you would leave your country of origin?

My mother was Austrian, and my father was German. We moved from Austria to Germany where I received my education. I grew up with four mothers: two sisters of my mother, two sisters of my father, all unmarried and all in need of love . . . Because of the war, there were no men.

They had a need for love and because of the war there were no men?

Yes. They had no husbands, no children, and no family of their own. I was very aware of the fact, that I had to fill a space. From those times, I learned very early how to respond to the needs of others. Individually, they needed to be approached in different ways. Some just wanted to be touched and be embraced, and others were more challenging, constantly questioning my love for them. I grew up learning how to handle complicated people.

Your father was required, as were all the men, to join the military.

Because of the times in war, my father had to choose a practical profession as a doctor. My father really wanted to be a conductor as he was very musical and played a few instruments. He was a very artistic human being. With the war, and the times after the war, of course, it was not the right moment.

Does your artistic ability come from your father?

Yes, I do think so.

They were very different times indeed. And yet despite your hardships, God graced you with three gifts involving beauty, and three great loves.

Let’s begin with beauty; you are known for your depth and compassion, a beauty from inside (your brain and soul), you are a world-acclaimed model with beauty on the outside (you are lean and tall, with magnificently striking features) and you developed an aesthetic uniquely yours, an ability to create beauty with your art.

In 1975 you met your second husband in Munich. What were you doing there?

I owned two antique stores.

It has been written that from an early age, you were dealing in art.

Yes. As a child, I sold my art by drawing angels. I told people I saw them.

Did you see them?

I think I did.

I think you did too. There really is something about you that is very spiritual. When you walked in, there was a light behind you, and I felt there was a certain aura.

Maybe you are spiritual, that’s why you saw it.

Let’s begin with your external beauty. When did you begin your modeling career, and how did that come about?

It is a boring story. I was seen on the street by a female agent who asked if I would ever like to model. I responded yes, if it involves traveling. When she said there would be traveling, I told my parents. I was 17 years old, and they categorically said, no. I told the agent my parents would not allow me to model and she asked if she could speak with them. She was very convincing and explained that she would be with me in all the first shoots. When they agreed, my career took off. It was unbelievable. My father was considered very well off, but I earned in one day what he would earn in a month.

You were on the cover of every class A magazine in the world . . . and a household name in Europe. What was your favorite cover?

My favorite cover was not a grand magazine. It was a magazine in Hungary.

That time was during the cold war so wasn’t Hungary still in the Iron Curtain? How did you manage that as a model?

It was very interesting. A Hungarian photographer saw me in Austria. He connected with me and asked to have a photo session, which I granted. He was from Hungary, poor and in need. I did it for free. He captured the most fantastic cover I ever had. I wore a red chiffon turban blowing in the wind and I was looking at his camera, questioning, not smiling, not aggressive. It is a fantastic cover and he received recognition and a price for it.

Why do you think the camera loves you? What is it?

I do not think the camera loves me. However, I will play with the camera like I play with life. So, I think it’s the other way around. The camera does not love me . . . I simply learned to manipulate it.

You also play with life. 17 years old, newly discovered as a model . . . a mercuric career dealing in antiquities . . . and then you meet your first husband. What was that like?

I was in New York where I had a screen test with Paramount. I was going out with Charles Bluhdorn. Paramount wanted me at the time, but I was in love with a gentleman back home, and I wanted to marry him. I had to make a difficult decision; stay in New York with an acting career at Paramount or return to my love back home. I decided to go home and get married.

I am curious about your life . . . your perspective now and what you have concluded with reflection. Was your decision wise?

I think it was the right decision because I was never really interested in the movie world. Later I had the chance with Carlo Ponti who wanted to work with me very much. I had a second opportunity to be in the movies, and I responded the same way, “Thank you but no.”

I liked the idea of being married to my first husband. He was 20 years older than I was. At that age, I was still, in a charming way, innocent and untouched from life. He had an exciting life behind him and wanted to have a family and lead a more serious existence. That was where we clashed.

You had one child together, your only child. Where is your son today?

He is a patent attorney in Florida. I have two grandchildren who are lovely.

The marriage lasted a very short time and then you went back to work?

Yes, I went back to work and opened two antique stores. One was a very chic antique store in Munich named Gallery Antique. The other one was very chic as well, but we sold only reproductions. I grew up during that time and evolved into a businesswoman.

Photograph courtesy of Alexandra Kauka

You were in your late twenties, had a child, and owned two businesses (antiquity dealer and reproduction establishments) . . . how did you manage all that?

It was hard work, but it was what I wanted to do. My son fit seamlessly into my life. He told me when he was very small, “Mommy, you never will have a problem with me.” He was very sweet, very honest, and yes, true to his word.

Then you meet your second love, “the Walt Disney of Europe” Rolf Kauka. How did that occur?

I was asked to join a dinner party hosted by one of my clients. I didn’t want to go because the client was a bit too interested in me personally, while I saw him only as a customer. I thought I had to go though, because he had recently purchased a huge home and I wanted to fill his rooms with works from my galleries. That day, I did not even go home to get dressed or change from my daily work clothes. I went straight from work to the dinner party.

Was everyone else in cocktail attire?

Yes, and it was a very chic and elaborate dinner party. I was standing on my client’s roof terrace, looking down, and a guest arrived in a car. He looked up and waved to me. After a while, a voice behind me says, “Well, ma’am, from behind you look as tempting as from down there.” And that was how I met Rolf Kauka.

When did you know you would marry?

When I heard his enchanting voice. I learned later that none of the guests were married. The dinner party host asked each of us what kind of partner would convince us to get married? I knew why he was asking that question, which was directed right to me. So I conjured up a picture that was somewhere between Che Guevarra and Jesus. Everybody was breathless and Kauka said into that quiet moment. “Oh, that describes me.” I thought he was charming.

I was horrified, but the next day I received a letter from him asking me to go out with him and have dinner. We went out and talked so much we had no time to order our dinner. After a while, Rolf Kauka said, “I asked you to marry me after two hours and you haven’t replied.” I said, “Yes, you don’t have a response because I don’t have an answer.”

It was Wednesday when we had dinner. I asked him to give me time until the weekend. The next day, I drove to my parents, and I said something unbelievable had happened. I met a gentleman and I am considering marrying him. My father asked, “Can he support you?” I said, “I’m not sure, but I think so.” My father then asked, “Can he play the piano?” “Yes, I think he plays the piano,” I said. “I don’t know this gentleman, but I am very drawn to him.” My mother said, “You have seen him twice, you say, and he asked you to marry him . . . and you are even considering the proposal?” “Yes”, I said, “I am considering it.” And then my mother said something I will never forget: “I would marry him right away. You, who never wanted to marry again, who cannot make up your mind at all with men, are considering his proposal. He must be outstanding. Go and marry him.” And that is what I did.

Photograph courtesy of Alexandra Kauka

What a beautiful story. Did you love his heart or his mind?

I was drawn to his mind and his personality. I fell in love and for 25 years it was total love.

Did you think that type of love existed?


Do you think that God blessed you in one moment?

I think he blessed me, and my husband as well.

Did he love you equally?


You were a complete partnership?

We were.

After the person you love goes . . . how do you get through it?

It was very, very difficult.

Can you explain how you carried on . . . persevered?

I wanted to keep his legacy alive. I did not go out. My friends tried to get me out of this…but the pain would not leave me.


Yes. I just couldn’t push it away, not for two years. I led a very lonely life.

What pulled you out of that loneliness?

Those days were filled with only me. Not with entertainment, not with friends, not with travel, none of that. I had to create my own focus which became my painting. I was married to such a grand artist who employed so many cartoonists and painters, I didn’t want to go to my atelier when he went to his ateliers, you know?

You told me it was difficult to part with your paintings. Is that because art helped you to mend and heal?

Yes. It must have been healing. And I think it still is. When you see my paintings, you will understand. I want to be recognized through my art. I am drawn to do what I do. I don’t want to have to produce at all so I only paint if I really feel like it.

In your Spirit you are a creative?

I am a very creative person. I really can’t help it. If I make something as simple as a sandwich, it is unique. Sometimes, I laugh at myself because I don’t do things like other people. Whatever I do, I am creating.

Do you push yourself or does it just come?

No. I absolutely don’t push myself.

Do you think that you are divinely touched?

Yes. I think so.

What a responsibility?

What a responsibility. I do not know where it will lead, you know? I really don’t know what it is for. It just happens.

It is faith, right? You just must accept it and know that it is taking you beyond.

Yes. I believe in this idea of “beyond” very much.

Rolf was a genius?

He was a great friend. He was highly intelligent and a good human being. He had a divine sense of humor, mostly about himself.


Absolutely. He was one of the greatest human beings I ever met.

Photograph courtesy of Alexandra Kauka

Fix and Foxi, how did that come about?

People think he woke up one morning and eureka. But no, it was a play with words and with those cartoon characters. He loved the old German children’s tales. There was a fox, and he played with those ideas, they all had messages, which was his great forte.

Where are Fix and Foxi today?

I sold the copyrights to Stephan Piech, of the Porsche/Piech family. His family entertainment company is so successful. He was able to give Fix and Foxi a platform, because they own TV channels all over the world. It is now seen worldwide: from Arab nations to Thailand to Norway . . . Rolf’s legacy was preserved by partnering with the right man. And that makes me happy.

What piece of advice can you give me, as a publisher?

You don’t need advice, because I saw your magazine. You captured a need, the intersection between the aesthetic and womanhood . . . creating and women. I am deeply impressed, and I truly hope you will go on producing this fantastic magazine though the title I find a bit strange.

The Elysian Field is where the hero goes to rest and brings his legacy. ELYSIAN’s origin is Greek, and it means divinely inspired, beautiful, and peaceful. ELYSIAN will tell your story and it will inspire others, which is our ethos.

Interesting that you explain it like that. For me, this interview was not an easy decision because it meant I had to “open up.”

I do not know if you understand. You are a woman of such substance with little written about your lifetime achievements. What a tragedy for your son and your grandchildren, to be unaware of the extent of your gifts; three beauties (inner, outer, and creative). Not to mention . . . the beautiful story of 25 years with Rolf Kauka. You are very fortunate; many women have not found love even once . . .

But Karen, I found it three times. And I never thought I would. I was not looking, and not interested at all after Rolf.

I met my present husband, Sterling Morton Hamill, in an elevator . . . and in the elevator, you cannot escape. We both were in New York City to have a look at an apartment for purchase. I saw him and he saw me, and that was it. Half a year later, I gave a dinner party. One of my guests, a girlfriend, had run into Sterling on the street. She said, “Come, go with me tonight to a dinner party. Alexandra will be happy to have you and it will be fun.” My girlfriend brought him to my apartment.

Did he know who you were when he came to the house?

He had no idea. I had no idea. He sent me a flower the next day and called me on the phone to thank me. We had a nice conversation.

You have been married for 12 years and still use the last name Kauka?

Yes. Because I am used to it in the European business world.

What does your husband do?

He is retired now but used to built boats and ships. He is from a leading family from Chicago. His grandfather founded Morton Salt and he ran the family business.

What were the similarities between your three loves?

I would say their exquisite intellect.

What piece of advice would you give to a young woman, in this very complicated world? Perhaps a thought for your granddaughter. What would you tell her?

I know exactly what I would say to all of them. Be unique and be who you truly are. Do not copy an actress in a television series, be who you authentically are. Our youth look alike, and they all act alike. How sad. They forget that they are unique themselves . . . and worse, they are afraid to be unique. Maybe they feel more safe following others and maybe our youth feels that by copying someone else they can avoid being hurt?

Wisdom. Alexandra, there is no one more unique than you. Thank you for this privilege.

Thank you very much for listening. I hope I could convey something that might inspire someone.

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