At the Ref Desk (8/18/17): So what happens if the moon just gets stuck? Then what do we do? #SolarEclipse2017 [more...]
Subscribe to RSS - Berlin

Berlin

What with all the talk of the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, I recalled an episode that happened to me a bit earlier while visiting East Berlin.

The way it worked is you got to spend a day there but had to be back by midnight or they'd make you pay a fine. Normally we'd go there, visit the sites (such as they were), head to a couple of bars to spend the practically worthless East-German marks, and then head back to Checkpoint Charlie.

One night as we were racing back, we got stopped by an East-German policeman or border guard or I don't know what -- on the final street right before Checkpoint Charlie. "Why", I asked the guard.

"Because you crossed the street against the light," he explained. The fine for this trespass was 20 marks (West German of course). Naturally I grumbled as I handed over the ransom money.

"But," he said by way of defense, "we have our laws, you have your laws. It would be the same in Chicago."

I looked at the deserted street I had just crossed and then the huge forbidding Wall stretched left and right with watch-towers, spotlights and men armed with machine guns -- all to keep their own people trapped inside.

"No," I assured the guard, "this is nothing like Chicago."

Location: 

West Berlin : Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 9/22/13 (9:29am)

Old pal, Tony Millionaire, best known as the illustrator of Maakies, adds me to one of his comic strips this month. He portrays me singing 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' -- in German -- at a concert in either Munich or West Berlin at sometime in the mid-Eighties. I can't exactly recall the episode but he follows up (offline) with a description of my attire:

...[Y]ou had a potato sack on your head and shoulders with a hole for your mouth.

You can see the complete comic strip in all its original glory here...

Location: 

Jesse Jackson & Me

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 6/7/12 (10:50pm)

I ran into Jesse Jackson while in Milwaukee. I've run into him a couple of times before. One memorable occasion was in West Berlin during the Eighties. He had made a speech to thousands of Berliners at the Gedanknis Kirche (i.e. the center of town) finishing with the line, 'we defeated the 3rd Reich in Germany and we'll defeat the 4th Reich in South Africa'. The Berliners cheered. Then he added that he'd be at a party in Dahlem later that evening.

Party in Dahlem! With Jesse Jackson! The moment we heard that, we headed straight to the location -- a lefty social center for students. Unfortunately what Jackson forgot to mention -- probably because he didn't know -- was that they were charging at the door! Charging at the door? Impossible! So instead of going in, we waited. Finally a car arrived and Jesse Jackson got out. "Jesse," I said, running over to him, "I'm from Chicago and they won't let me in!"

He turned to me. "You're from Chicago", he asked. "Come with me!"

We walked arm-in-arm into the place. I headed straight to the liquor table. I filled up my glass and then sauntered back to the entrance to wave to my companions who were still outside. I motioned to the doorman to let them in. Having just walked in arm-in-arm with Jesse Jackson, the doorman assumed that I had a certain elevated degree of mojo -- so he let my friends in.

I reminded Jesse of this episode when I saw him in Milwaukee. He was in good spirits and laughed.

Location: 

NY Times ArtsBeat Blog: Stew in Africa: A Long Time Coming

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 8/3/11 (3:18pm)

"Pathetic Eurocentric Negro!" That's how Stew, an old pal of mine from my Berlin days begins an account of his first trip ever to Africa. He's working as one of the creative advisers for a program in Kenya that coaches upcoming African theater people. He's also agreed to share his experiences by posting regularly on the New York Times' ArtsBeat Blog. Stew was the lead guitarist of a good-time band we had in Berlin called 'The Wonderful Guise'. Tony Millionaire was also a member of the group. Anyway, it's good to see Stew maintaining the spirit of those free-for-all wild times in passages like this:

The workshop I'm giving on Manda will probably consist of a song by song analysis of the Rolling Stones 1966 release "Between the Buttons" which I'll compare and contrast with "King Lear," even though I've never read "King Lear" and I'm almost certain absolutely no connection between the two works actually exists. But Sundance can handle this sort of thing.

You can read the whole post here...

Location: 

'Er Kommt' - Or My Short Stint as a False Prophet

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 7/10/11 (11:07am)

Of the many encounters I had in Berlin recently, one of the more interesting was with a woman who I had never met before. It was at the Bauhof Anniversary Party and she came up and gave me a photo which she had taken over twenty years earlier.

The photo was of a poster of me with the words, 'Er Kommt' (i.e. 'He's coming'). She had seen the poster plastered all over the neighborhood and like a few others at the time, had interpreted it as the harbinger of some significant event.

The truth was far more mundane. I had spent much of the year (1987) in New York and when Tony Millionaire heard I was coming back, he grabbed a photo of me from my expired passport, enlarged it and proceeded to paste photocopies of it all over Kreuzberg. So I guess you could say it was a significant event -- but more along the lines of Tony Millionaire finally getting his American drinking buddy back. I hope she wasn't disappointed.

Location: 

Berlin SO36

Submitted by Leo Klein on Fri, 7/1/11 (4:15am)

Popular tourist destination.

Topic: 
Location: 

Party in Berlin

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sat, 5/21/11 (1:40pm)

Don't want to miss this:

"Party in Berlin: Squatters' Ball. Dresscode: Evening Attire."

Topic: 
Location: 

Berlin, Oct. 3, 1990

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 10/3/10 (1:17pm)

I remember the ceremony out in front of the Reichstag very well. The flag was raised and they played 'Deutschland, Deutschland'. It was the cumulation of events that had started a year earlier with the opening of the Berlin Wall (11/9/1989) and the upheaval all over Eastern Europe.

This date has always had personal significance for me. I had been in Europe by that time for 10 years (Paris, Rome, Berlin). The reunification of Germany represented a new beginning. I had known the old way: the two Berlins, the Wall, the crazy lovable nut-house ('Bonnie's Ranch') on one side and the police state on the other.

That was coming to an end -- and thank God it was -- but the new beginning prompted me to think about what I was doing and where I wanted to go.

I got into an airplane and flew back to the United States the next day.

Location: 

In Berlin When the Wall Came Down

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 11/9/09 (8:57am)

I was in Berlin when the Wall came down. In fact I had been living there since 1984.

I had just woken up from an early evening nap when one of the people from the Wohngemeinschaft where I was living told me the Wall had come down.

This seemed strange since it looked perfectly intact only an hour before when I had gone to sleep.

Of course my room-mate was exaggerating. In fact, the Wall hadn't come down -- it had simply opened up. That's an important distinction which I'll get back to in a moment but at that point it really didn't matter. I like everyone rushed out to welcome the incoming East Germans at Checkpoint Charlie, buying a bottle of Sekt (German sparkling wine) along the way.

[read more...]

Location: 

More Berlin Stories - Stew and 'Passing Strange' on NPR

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 8/30/09 (7:17pm)

So I'm listening to NPR's 'All Things Considered' and they start talking about an old pal of mine from my days in Berlin, Stew. The segment is called, "Wondrous 'Strange': Spike Lee Makes A Musical" and it's about how Spike Lee produced a film version of Stew's musical 'Passing Strange' which won a Tony last year (see my write-up).

The musical is about Stew's experiences growing up in L.A. and then going to Amsterdam and Berlin. Since that's when I knew him (we were in the same group called the 'Wonderful Guise'), I look forward to seeing the film. Below is the trailer.

Location: 
Institution: 

Pages