Facsimile Magazine, Published by Haoyan of America. Volume Three, Number Seven, 2009. ISSN 1937-2116.
By Rick B. from Berlin Wall Online, November 20, 2003
This is my personal story that I wrote based on the memories of my tour of duty in the City of West Berlin, Germany.
My story begins on October 6, 1979. As a young sergeant in the United States Army, I volunteered and was assigned for duty in what was then known as West Berlin, Germany. I was assigned for duty with HHC Berlin Brigade. My job was to reassign incoming American personnel to military organizations within the city of West Berlin. This was a time when the city of East Berlin was still occupied and controlled by the Communistic influences of the East German and Russian governments.
My journey began at the LaGuardia Airport in New York City with an eight-hour non-stop flight to Frankfurt, Germany, and a connecting flight to the Temple Hoff Airport in West Berlin, Germany. My plane landed early in the afternoon and I was escorted by U.S. military liaison personnel to what would be my new home for the next 12 months, Andrews Barracks. Andrews Barracks was home to various U.S. military organizations assigned to West Berlin. It also served as the Headquarters for Hitler's elite SS Troops during World War II and was the execution arena for enemies of the Third Reich.
As we departed the airport terminal, I noticed two carloads of Russian soldiers parked next to the curb, which made me feel very uncomfortable. I would discover later that an apparent agreement had been established between the United States and Russia that allowed the Russians to drive freely in the Western sector of Berlin and that the United States could do the same in the Eastern sector of Berlin.
During my first two weeks in the country, I attended what was known as soldier orientation. We were transported to class each morning by bus and, without fail, there were always two Russian cars parked across the parking lot observing our actions with intense curiosity to try to identify our motives for being there. In actuality, this was their means of keeping track of U.S. personnel assigned to Berlin and to ensure that no secret weapons were being brought into the country or that no special training was being conducted without their knowledge.
As a United States soldier, I was instructed to either ignore the Russian vehicles or salute; any other greeting was strictly forbidden. Anyone found cursing or throwing objects at the Russian vehicles were immediately transfered out of the country. Such actions would create an international incident that the U.S. Government would not tolerate. Besides, the Russian vehicles were always equipped with cameras and would film each incident and report them to their command authority.
As part of our orientation, we were transported through Checkpoint Charlie, which was a control point between East and West Berlin. At Checkpoint Charlie we were processed and allowed to proceed into occupied East Berlin territory for a bus-guided tour of the city. We were not allowed to take pictures of the city or of any Russian, East German soldiers, or civilians. In most American cities, many people walk about shopping or just spend the day having a good time. One might even notice the many vehicles of various makes and models lining the streets and curbs. However, that was not the case in East Berlin. Very few people and vehicles are seen during the day. I would later learn that only high-ranking officials or individuals in the Communistic party were allowed to own and operate vehicles. During our orientation tour I noticed only one gas station in the entire city. Cars were lined up for one or two blocks waiting for gas. Many of the city buildings were still scarred from the bombings of World War II. The Russian embassy was identified by the heavy bronzed-metal German swastikas still embedded on each side of the entranceway. The swastikas had been placed there during the days of the Third Reich.
We were allowed to visit the Russian cemetery built on the outskirts of the city and dedicated to the Russian soldiers who were killed during the invasion of Berlin in World War II. The cemetery entrance was constructed of an archway made of beautiful red marble confiscated from Hitler's bunker that was destroyed by the Russian government. Upon entering the cemetery, one observes a statue of Mother Russia facing north over the gravesites of the Russian soldiers who were killed in World War II. The grave sites were landscaped with marble walkways and various assortments of beautiful flowers common to the area along with weeping willow trees purposely planted along the confines of the cemetery giving the visitor the impression of a mother reaching, embracing, and weeping for her lost children.
We saw numerous East German factories with armed guards posted at all four corners of each facility. Later in the afternoon, we were allowed to stop and visit some of the local shops to purchase items of interests or souvenirs. Of course, our shopping locations were limited to a specified area of the city designated by the East German government. The money exchange rate during this period was seven American dollars for every East German deutchmark a good exchange rate for buying souvenirs. Unfortunately, there were limited items for purchase. This was also evident in many of the restaurants. In one particular restaurant, I remember seeing only one dinner roll and one sausage link on display. When we tried to order other food items, we were either ignored or the owner would simply say they had nothing else to serve.
Probably, the saddest moment of my tour was watching West German family members climbing upon wooden scaffolding type platforms built next to the Berlin Wall to view the Eastern sector of East Berlin in hopes of seeing a family member or to yell and scream obscenities at the East German border guards as they patrolled back and forth. In, some cases, the East German guards would wave or attempt to entice individuals including American military personnel to cross over the wall. Of course, if any Army personnel or West German national decided to make the attempt, they would have been shot immediately. I recall, many nights lying in bed hearing gun shots being fired in the distance and finding out the following day that an East German national was killed trying to get over the wall to freedom. After all, I too was a prisoner of the Communistic regime. The Berlin Wall itself not only divided the city of Berlin but also surrounded the city. The only escape routes for military personnel were either by aircraft or by car through East Berlin. The three allied countries of the United States, Great Britian and France who were committed to guard the well-being of the German people in West Berlin, knew that the life expectancy should Russia attack, would be only twenty-minutes.
The year that I spent in West Berlin made me realize just how much we as Americans have taken advantage of the freedoms we enjoy everyday. Most importantly, we have forgotten that freedom doesn't come cheap, that there's a price that must be paid. Many have paid the price with their very lives so that our families can continue to enjoy what so many in the city of East Berlin were deprived of for so many years. After, twenty years of military service, I was reminded of an old military saying that was instilled and repeated so many times that it is etched on my mind. It states "Freedom is worth fighting and dying for."
I find that I have to put myself in those situations to produce any reasonable good writing. I've still got that same thing about when I get to a country or a situation and I have to put myself on a dangerous level, whether emotionally or mentally or physically, and it resolves in things like that: living in Berlin leading what is quite a spartan life for a person of my means, and in forcing myself to live according to the restrictions of that city.
- David Bowie speaking with Charles Shaar Murray in 1977
East Wall - Eyes of Glass (1985)
For conversation, participation, and lesser-mitigated happiness. Interests and themes that motivate our starting are:
It is intended that the game space has the possibility to itself be played, through the use of mobilized furniture, perpetually changing decor, installations, exhibitions, etc. It is thought that there is an appeal to walking in to a room in which one expects to be surprised. For example, the room may be rearranged as necessary in order to suit momentarily changing needs, as in a gymnasium in which sports equipment is moved and exchanged depending upon the activity at hand.
The organization of the organization, as well as its space, are therefore intended to be less than comprehensively organized. It should be clear what makes up the association and its activities, but less definable in what it produces in the way of a specific atmospheric quality or public image. We, like the public at large, might at times wonder what exactly we're dealing with here, and never know.
Eberswalder Strasse 21
Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
By Frisbee Jackson
Die Welt ist groß, aber die Welt ist auch klein.
Lenina wartet auf den Arzt, Dr. Zauber. Lenina hat Dr. Zauber gesehen, wenn sie ist krank, seit sie sechs war. Dr. Zauber ist 15 Jahre Arzt gewesen. Wenn nicht praktizieren, Dr. Zauber spielt die Flöte in einem Orchester gern.
Frau Chopin ist die Dirigentin von dem Pluto Orchester. Wenn der Musik macht, sie hat wilde Leidenschaft. Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Haydn, Bach, Wagner—sie liebt sie alle. Sie mag auch lesen. Ihr Lieblingsbuch ist Le Petit Prince—auf Deutsch, Der kleine Prinz.
Edwin Peabody ist ein Prinz—in seinen Träume. Jede Nacht liest seine Mutti sie ihm Der Kleine Prinz. Edwin ist in Grundschule und er studieret König und Königin. König Berger ist dein Lieblings König. In der Schule hat der Lehrer Herr Thompson hat, "Könige und Königinnen sind sehr mächtig," gesagt. Aber Edwin wird ein netter König.
In Zukunft wird Edwin Politik studieren. Politik ist die modernes Spiel den Königen und Königinen. Ander Universät, hat Edwin ein fantastisch Professor. Sie heissen Dr. Brehmer. Dr. Brehmer haben viele Wissen und hat Edwin animieren. Sie sind auf der Universitätfakultät mit Lisa Perry.
Lisa Perry ist ein Meeresbiologin. Sie haben an die Universtät gearbeitet. Sie studieren viel Seetiere, besonders Narwals. Narwals haben ein lange Horn und Flossen. Sie heißen "Die Einhörner des Sees."
Lisa ist Lenina's Mutter und Narhwals sind Leninas Lieblingsanimal.
By Jane Yager from Berlin Stories
In a city where so little of daily life feels specifically German, the supermarket is always there to remind you that you're foreign. Walk into a typical Berlin supermarket and you will first notice that it is small by American standards, the aisles about two shopping carts wide. With space so limited, you may be surprised that your neighborhood grocery store finds room to carry things like chocolate fountains, ladies' bathrobes, and decorative garden baubles. Approach the supermarket with a shopping list and you will learn how it makes room for the chocolate fountains: by not carrying spinach. Or chickpeas. Or avocados or couscous or chicken breasts or black beans or risotto rice or any number of other things you used to think of as kitchen staples and now learn to view as exotic items sold only in specialty shops.
Cycling or walking through Berlin, one sees startlingly few billboards. One of the city's charms is the absence of the consumerism-as-barrage that marks cities like New York. On a good day, the supermarket seems to be part of the same pleasing austerity. Nobody really needs the number of products an American supermarket holds, after all, and isn't it a relief not to have to make the number of minute consumer choices the American supermarket demands? (White or orange cheddar? Block, pre-sliced or pre-shredded? Full-fat or reduced-fat? Berlin supermarkets will not waste your time with any questions beyond: Is there cheddar at all?) But on a bad day, when the Kaiser's in your East Berlin neighborhood doesn't have any salt, you grumble that these people might as well just go back to communism already, cause they’re really bad at capitalism. A supermarket that doesn't even have salt! You marvel to yourself on the walk home, your anger dissipating into wonder.
By Lionel A. Biron from Queer Arts Resource
The notorious gay porn star of the early 1970s, Peter Berlin is best known for his groundbreaking porn films That Boy and Nights in Black Leather. Those two films were shown in gay porn theatres in the US and art houses in Europe. In Paris, his movie billboard on the Boulevard St Germain competed with Joe Dallasandro's in Andy Warhol's Trash showing in a neighboring theatre. (Peter Berlin eventually walked through Warhol's Factory while living in New York in the 80s, but did not linger long in his unrelenting pursuit of anonymous hot male sex.)
What is less known is that the countless covers and photos layouts of Peter Berlin in gay magazines through the late 1980s were all taken by Berlin who is himself a professional photographer. After two years of rigorous training at West Berlin's Photo Technical School in the late '60s, he launched his career working three years at the Second Channel in West Berlin on a TV program that featured fashion and movie star interviews. His assignments routinely took him to Paris, Rome and London where he photographed celebrities including Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Brigitte Bardot, Alfred Hitchcock, Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Chevalier, Richard Widmark, and the clothes designers: Pierre Cardin, Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino.
When Peter turned the camera on himself he was well equipped with a professional Nikon camera and a Hasselblad that he used to create his enormously demanding side by side in-camera erotic double exposures. He played each of two roles on different halves of the separately exposed negatives wearing his hallmark crotch grabbing costumes. These photographs were created, not as single images, but as still sequences whose unambiguous homosexual plots blur the line between photography and film. Berlin then painstakingly printed these images which sometimes required elaborate hand burning techniques. A few of these double exposures were later hand colored and several are included in this exhibition.
From the photo set up through the resulting prints, Berlin maintained himself in a state of constant sexual excitement. Nothing fake or contrived in these photographs as is so often the case with art or pornography. One can imagine the energy and technical dexterity involved in creating these sexy sequences where Berlin's libido is set free. This is potent and authentic sexual fantasy whatever your sexual identity: the individual creative mind playing both roles in the eternal one-on-one sexual seduction game.
Even less known, is that Peter Berlin is a gifted graphic artist. When the handling of black and white negatives in the darkroom occasionally resulted in prints that were slightly underexposed and grayish, he used his touch up pen and brush to darken the lines and increase the contrast. Soon he was using oils, acrylics and watercolors permitting him to enhance, embellish as well as colorize his black and white prints (all the images shown with white backgrounds). The next step was the complete transformation or elimination of the backgrounds. He also started cutting up his photographs and creating collages with single or multiple self-images using different backgrounds from magazines including their covers and interior street and nature scenes.
The final step came while I was sitting with my good friend Jochen in his New York studio-apartment in the mid 1980s. [Jochen Labriola, known for his paintings of large single flowers and water droplets, was cared for by Berlin for several years before he died of AIDS in 1988.] I spent lots of time sitting and chatting with him while he was painting. One day I said to him: 'I might as well paint too instead of just sitting here.' So he set up a canvas for me, gave me some paints and this single piece of advice so I would not smudge the canvas: 'If you are right handed, start from the left corner.'
- Peter Berlin
Peter Berlin only painted five or six paintings and two later were lost. They were all done in the mid '80s. Photos of two of these paintings are included here.
Berlin's talent as a graphic artist is perhaps best shown in his detailed pencil drawings which are well represented in this first exhibition of Peter Berlin's art.
The body of Peter Berlin's creative work defies easy characterization. He challenges conventional notions of art and pornography and is perhaps alone with Tom of Finland in having created iconic images of masculine drag. (Incidently, Berlin commissioned Tom of Finland to do several pencil drawings of himself.) More importantly, his creative genius demonstrates that Art can equal Life. He not only created on paper and canvas the persona of Peter Berlin, but took him wherever the action was in the back streets, parks, and alleys of the major European capitols and in the US, to San Francisco and New York.
All images shown were first published in 1999 as part of the four CD-ROM set The Peter Berlin Collection created by Lionel A. Biron and containing over 1,000 digital images available online at Gorilla Factory Productions.
An exhibition of Peter Berlin's art titled: Berlin On Berlin was held at The Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, 127 Prince Street, in New York City from January 10 to February 25, 2006. In conjunction with this exhibition, the US Theatrical Premiere of "That Man: Peter Berlin," a documentary produced by Lawrence Helman and directed by Jim Tushinski, took place at SOHO's Cinema Village, 22 East 12th St.