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Smiley Baldwin: From the Cold War to Berlin Nightlife | Movies | DW

Smiley Baldwin: From the Cold War to Berlin Nightlife | Movies | KG

"I try to avoid this stiff, cramped way, which is usually associated with this job," says Smiley Baldwin in the documentary "Berlin Bouncer", which runs since this week in German cinemas.

Later, a man approaches Baldwin at a club entrance and tells him, "You're a legend."

The documentary takes the audience on a journey through Berlin's recent history, portraying three legendary – and mighty – doorkeepers of nightlife. The movie begins with the fall of the Berlin Wall and shows Baldwin and two other prominent bouncers: Sven Marquardt, his legendary Berghain-Mates with the heavily tattooed face, and Frank Künster, who directed famous former clubbing hot spots like Delicious Donuts and King Size.

The film by David Dietls sketches the biographies of the three bouncers in front of the pulsating and vibrant backdrop of Berlin.

Each of the stories has to do with the Berlin Wall. Smiley Baldwin but has landed in Germany because of her: He was stationed for the US Army in West Berlin.

The atmosphere in the city during the Cold War attracted him: "I was a soldier for a weekend break in Berlin – that must have been 1984 or '85. That felt great."

After that he knew that he wants to go back to Berlin. "I requested to be stationed here and it worked, and within two weeks I knew this would be my new home, and the whole atmosphere was like a new 501 jeans."

Stationed in the divided metropolis, he acted as a military policeman and patrolled the American sector. He also had a battle command. But that did not happen. "It never happened," he says.

Smiley Baldwin in the movie Berlin Bouncer. (Flare movie)

From GI to Bouncer: Smiley Baldwin

GI-cultural transfer

Around the US troops around in the late 70s and 80s, a club scene emerged that brought variety to the dull West Berlin of the Cold War. The GI discotheques have blended different genres: club music, jazz funk, rock and roll, soul, R & B, hip-hop or motown hits. By bringing their favorite music with them, African-American GIs made a major contribution to anchoring these sounds in Germany.

Smiley Baldwin became part of this scene and is committed to preserving the cultural heritage of GI discos. So he organized an exhibition in 2013 in the Allied Museum in Berlin, which looked back on American music in Germany from the late 70s to the early 90s. In the 260-degree club in Berlin, where Baldwin is at the door, there are monthly GI disco evenings.

From the army to the bouncer

For the time after military service Baldwin had no plan. But although he did not immediately switch from military to nightlife, it became a seamless transition.

"I wanted to try something different, but I came back to safety, and that was what I imagined." That's what I learned and trained in the military for years, so it seemed natural to me to go into the security industry I thought back then that I could turn it into a business, "he says.

And indeed, Baldwin has been running its own security service for clubs and events for over 22 years.

Party from Sunday to Sunday

In the more than two decades that he now works as a bouncer, he has seen how Berlin's nightlife has changed since reunification. At that time, he says, the underground scene was definitely more active. 'From Sunday to Sunday', something went off for a while, I worked every day for a while and I had a lot of fun with it, and a lot has changed since then, without my noticing it. "

"In the underground scene at that time in Berlin Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, they were all connected, we were our own friends, people met every day – and not just at night – there were also events during the day."

Today, there is no significant club scene in the two districts. Many of the legendary party spots Baldwin has worked on, such as the rodeo, cookies, or 103, are now closed.

Berghain with queue. (Picture-alliance / image broker)

Has survived – the cathedral of Berlin's nightlife: the techno-club Berghain with its notorious snake

"Getting the most out of space and time"

In "Berlin Bouncer" Baldwin reveals a sensitive side that contradicts the bouncer cliché. "I do not like hurting people's feelings, and every time I say no to someone, I'm well aware that it hurt someone's feelings, I want everyone to come to a club, and listening to great music, but I'm limited by space and time and must try to make the most of space and time. "

Because of the limited capacity of the Berlin clubs, he can not afford anyone who is in line. In addition, his job as a bouncer is to compile a diverse mix of party people for the night.

For those hoping to come through the door, Baldwin just gives this one advice: "Be yourself." Originality is what it's about. "Earlier, when someone was a punk, he did not go to H & M to make a punk." Punks were punks because they made their own outfits. "

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