We asked Lasse's close co-worker for more than 20 years, Gustaf Erling, to give his picture of his boss.
The man, the myth, the corduroy blazer. Who is he really, the brains behind the Lenin Award? Numerous articles in newspapers and magazines have been written about this communist entrepreneur over the years, but here I will try to keep it short when I tell a little about Lasse and his doings. Some describe Lasse as a provocateur and, of course, several of his projects have created some controversy. Someone might also see it as exaggerations to try to give his child the name Brfxxccxxmnpccccllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 in protest against the Swedish naming law or to go to court to stop a bread-stealing municipal politician? Furthermore, is it perhaps a bit presumptuous to publish ones collected Facebook posts in book form? I leave it up to You to decide for yourself.
Beside the Lenin Award, Lasse Diding is probably best known as hotel manager. In 1987 he left the job as a teacher in history and Swedish to take over Hotell Gästis in Varberg. During 30 years of intensive renovation and expansion, Lasse, among many other things, was named entrepreneur of the year in Varberg, saw his Gästis get high praise in Dagens Industri and, of course, created the notorious Lenin Spa. In 2013, he opened Hotell Havanna, which with its consistently implemented Cuban theme became an immediate and lasting success. An oasis for guests from near and far, but also a living room for the residents of Varberg.
And it is in Varberg Lasse Diding was born and raised and where he is still living and working. A city that the dramatist and poet Lars Norén in his diary describes as “a rich and extremely bourgeois city” and “one big spa”. He continues: “It’s a terribly fanatic Sweden, where nothing foreign is allowed. […] A well-ordered Nordic fortress for the middle class where the Moderate Party and the social democrats have agreed on everything in advance, because that is best.”
However, Norén’s partly telling description of Varberg failed to mention Lasse Diding, who in spite of his spa hotel creations can be said to be working against this picture of the small town by the sea. It is thanks to Lasse that Lenin has replaced Bockstensmannen as a symbol for Varberg, and although there is a vanishingly small minority of the Varberg residents who fully share his political views, many of them have taken Lasse, his hotels and his sometimes a bit crazy escapades to their hearts. Or at least with calm.
One exception is the local Nazis who, on a couple of occasions, have set up their barrier tape at the entrance to Lasse’s home. Apart from the obvious reason that they are on the opposite side of the left–right political spectrum, the Nazis turned against Lasse’s commitment to a group of romanis from Romania who, for a while, lived in Lasse’s cellar when they were evicted from their tent camp.
For many years, a standing feature for hotel guests at Gästis has been Lasse Diding’s presentation of himself and his hotels at the afternoon coffee on Saturdays, and in recent years Lasse has become a popular speaker both in Varberg and in other places. Most often, the subject is simply Lasse’s life as a communist hotel entrepreneur, manic collector, sober alcoholic and gluttonous bookworm. There are some stories to tell and under the headings below, we go deeper into some of the antics and projects of recent years.
Waiting for Jan Myrdal’s death