The old red light district of Stuttgarter Platz is now a very chic upmarket place with barely a trace of its former naughty past left.
Chocolate night bar is now Antiquadrat bookshop
Hanky Panky and Mon Cheri (it was in the black bedrooms above these two clubs I lost my Berlin virginity) are now Medusa and Galander Cocktail Bar respectively
Some photos of Galander Cocktail Bar from their own website; this used to be Mon Cheri–the absolute heart of Berlin for me
Starlight, and Night-Light is now Albert’s cocktail bar
Golden Gate and Blue Bananas is now Arena sports bar
Only Sissi Bar and Monte Carlo kino bar remain (as well as Bon Bon further along the road)
For me Berlin is some kind of Holy City. For some people Jerusalem is a holy city, or Mecca; for me Berlin is a holy city. I feel very emotional just to be here. My last few visits have felt disappointing it is true but I still come back, because its holiness remains undiminished. All the same, this feels for me a make-or-break visit to Berlin. A last chance for Berlin. Can it still provide any excitement to compare with the old Stuttgarter Platz nights, going to Hanky Panky and Mon Cheri, to Chocolat, to Starlight, to Night Dreams, to Golden Gate, to Blue Bananas, to Sissi Bar, to Monte Carlo—all next to each other. Now? Last time only Sissi & Monte Carlo left, as well as Bon Bon over the road. Tonight we will see.
I always described the rooms above Mon Cheri and Hanky Panky (fka Stutti Frutti) in Berlin’s Stuttgarter Platz as being Cameron Rennie Mackintoshian, because of their Stygian blackness and massive canopied four poster beds; lit by nothing but a single heavily covered bedside red lamp; it was in one of these rooms that I lost my Berlin virginity one drunken night to Yulia, and then returned at least a couple more times with Berlin blonde Riccarda. I now discover it was THIS picture by James Pryde that I was thinking of all the time, and it was nothing to do with Mackintosh at all (a wonderful Freudian typing error made me initially write James Prude).
Fifth Avenue was packed on Friday night. It was ridiculous. More and more guys just kept pouring in, there was standing room only; the strip clubs of Munich were packed every night; once again I ask the eternal question: where do all the men go in Berlin? Where do all the men go in Vienna? At night they are like ghost towns. What few night bars remain are always totally empty. You will be the only man there with all the girls coming up to you one after the other, and some getting quite rude, “if you don’t want to do anything you have to leave”. “You aren’t allowed to just drink”. Although even here in Brussels Gascogne and Empire are nearly always empty. Why do Fifth Avenue get it so right that they can be so packed every night? They have absolutely hit on the magic formula, whatever it is. This is how Mon Cheri and Golden Gate should have been, still thriving every night. Why don’t the Berlin men young and old pour into those places the way the Brussels men young and old do here? I think big part of Fifth Avenue’s success is down to the fact the beers are just 3 euros each and it is free to get in. it’s just like your local pub, it just happens to be full of big bottomed Esmeraldas. Another attraction is the girls never approach you, they leave you in peace if that is what you want. The jukebox is really loud pounding music. It really is the most fascinating brothel I have ever been to. Sex, apparently, is 50 euros to the girl plus 25 euros to rent the room for half an hour—more than enough time for anyone!
The loss of the ABC is so sad, after Mon Cheri and Golden Gate in Berlin, and Pour Platin in Vienna. I bought myself some boots for my birthday. I have said it before, but Brussels is truly the best city I have ever been for shoes. It was so hard for me to choose from 10 or 12 different boots, all of them gorgeous. In London I never find a shoe shop with anything I can buy. I looked in Berlin but saw nothing. But Brussels? Amazing. Shop after shop with gorgeous boots I would love to wear. One reads in one’s newspaper how all the young Spaniards have to leave their country to find work, and how interesting it is to see evidence of what one reads in a paper with one’s own eyes. Both my hotel receptionists in Munich were Spanish. Then I went into the bar and both barmaids were Spanish. Now here in Brussels my hotel receptionist is Spanish, and can you believe, today is her birthday also. The big building next to Munich Hauptbahnhof which always used to be a bank or Post Office or something is now a Tapas Bar. This is how the Spaniards are spreading around Europe. It is like how I read years ago of some scandal whereby the German Embassy in Kiev was handing out visas to Ukrainians like smarties, and then you travel to Nuremberg and Munich and find the strip clubs about 80% full of Ukrainian girls. That tide has seemed to have receded, but it is always interesting when one can connect what one reads in a paper with what one then experiences on one’s travels.
In December last year to find a hole in the ground in Vienna where Pour Platin used to be hit me hard. Last week in Berlin to find Mon Cheri, Chocolat, Starlight, Golden Gate and Blue Bananas all reopened as other businesses hit me hard. Then Brussels to see Cine ABC closed up has hit me hard. I live in the wrong age. How many more blows can I take?
Wow, that is it then—the Ciné ABC is gone. Not just shuttered up but some of the poster display cases outside have gone leaving a hole as well. What a tragedy. A porn tragedy but a tragedy none the less. Rightly listed as a cinema treasure—and this is why I say you have to travel regularly. If you don’t all the places you loved will be gone when you go back. Mon Cheri turned into a furniture shop or something, Chocolat turned into something else, Night Dreams and Starlight turned into Albert’s cocktail bar, Golden Gate and Blue Bananas turned into a sports bar, all in Berlin. Now here in Brussels the great Ciné ABC conclusively closed. Who knows? It may be closed for refurbishment! But I think not. I suspect the Brussels council forced them out by putting up the rents, I read that is how the California Peep Show and videokabins place next to the ABC was shut—and what respectable decent business has replaced the California? Nothing. The lot still remains empty 4 or 5 years later. A derelict site. Better to have let the California stay in business, no? The thriving strip club and sex scene in Munich and Nuremberg stands out in ever greater contrast as incredibly bucking the trend, swimming against the tide, like a brave little fish! Keep swimming! Keep swimming!