David Bowie was asked in an interview in the early 2000s whether he could imagine living in Berlin again. Not a good idea, replied the wise Bowie, “I am very particular about what I remember as my Berlin. Maybe I wouldn’t find it again, ”he said, this over-the-top figure from Berlin, knowing full well that emotional states cannot just be transported across decades and continents.
There is a bar in Manhattan, a very hyped one called “Berlin”, and this bar, located in the East Village, wants to do just that: convey a feeling. The feeling of Berlin. Which Berlin? Could, one would have to ask now, there are thousands. But there is probably only one idea of Berlin that has become hipsterglobal. “A refuge for artists and people who want to live to the limit.” This is how owner Jesse Malin, a rock musician who looks like the serious version of the comedian Noel Fielding, described his shop when it opened last summer. A bit rough, relaxed and pretty sexy, that’s how his bar should be, theoretically, and that’s roughly how Berlin’s millennial idea is formulated.
A little too cool in Berlin
And then you run down the stairs, past the doorman, into the basement, where the Manhattaner “Berlin” is, and the first thing you meet is David Bowie. Sunglasses, combed back hair, butt in the mouth, above the two killer words: “No Smoking”. The smoking Bowie on a no-smoking sign. Bowie as the mascot for an ironic bar? You wish he didn’t have to see this in his final months.
Two young women, or old girls, are on stage this Sunday evening. Flower dress and ballerinas, they giggle and sing and sing and giggle. Pop. Nice really! Couples are sitting at the bar and a drunk tourist in flip flops is trying to dance. The bartender, a Snow White with tattoos, sells Beck’s for six dollars and a cocktail called “The Berlin Hustler” (bourbon, vanilla, lemon, maple syrup, cardamom) for 13 dollars. The woman cannot explain why the bar is called what it is called. It’s as cool as any public building in Air-Condition City New York: a little too cool. Disco ball, black leather armchairs, glittering candlesticks hang over the counter, the bricks are painted white, and in the middle of the room are two plastic antique columns. “We are a secret bunker,” said owner Jesse Malin. But how did the flip-flop man find out about it? And what do you have to protect yourself from here?
“A touch of Kreuzberg in the East Village”
The fact that Berlin is selling well is nothing new in New York. Club mate is sold at illegal techno parties in Brooklyn-Bushwick because it was seen that way in Berghain, and especially in the thoroughly gentrified, sterile East Village, the desire to implant a bit of broken Berlin is omnipresent. “A touch of Kreuzberg in the East Village,” wrote the “New York Times”, and in fact this bar could just as easily be located on Bergmannstrasse, somewhere between the Blinis espresso lounge and the hairdresser’s interface. But the Berlin that party boys around the world talk about, the Berlin that causes so much longing around the world, is actually different. In trying to convey the feeling of Berlin, the feeling of Berlin was transfigured for the same reason that Bowie no longer wanted to go back. One cannot quench wanderlust far from reality
Berlin is cheap, the “Berlin” bar is expensive. Berlin is always becoming and never being (Karl Scheffler), “Berlin” has definitely already arrived. In Berlin you can swamp like a fairytale, “Berlin” closes at 4 o’clock in the morning. As Hanns Zischler once said, Berlin is too big for Berlin. But “Berlin” is probably too small for Berlin.