The soft, sensuous and scary Sven Marquardt
This is how it goes: you get there at about one in the morning. You stand in line for two, maybe three hours. Then it’s time for the Gesichtskontrolle – facial scrutiny. A bright beam into your face and you’re suddenly looking deep into the eyes of the ultimate Mr. Scary. His face is a web of tattoos. His ears, nose and mouth are heavily pierced. He’s half Goth, half gangster. And he’s judging you. The question is: are you good enough, or are you bad enough, to get into the coolest club in Berlin, the Berghain. The club that Mr. Scary so fiercely guards in his capacity as the baddest bouncer you’re ever likely to meet. He’s Sven Marquardt, my latest guest on Talking Germany, and I know that I must look deep into those eyes. And not flinch.
As somebody who is, and has always been, an outsider, he’s justifiably suspicious. Of people prying. Of journalists. Of people in suits – like me. After all, he was an underground photographer in the former East Germany. A punk, too. Yes, such things did exist! So, of course, he had his brushes with the communist authorities. He’s also very, very moody. On one talk show I saw, the two interviewers were left dangling in on-air desperation after he simply refused to engage with their questions. So: another cause for concern.
And there he is: Sven Marquardt, sitting in our make-up suite, looking comfortable and coiled at the same time. We break the ice by talking about his shiny new red Dr. Martens boots. They’re not worn in yet and they’re a bit tight on his heels and toes. Then we move on to his “patchwork family”: three brothers, each from a different father. And mum: Sven and his mum are clearly very close. As I listen to him talking about her, about Berlin, about the photography – which he’s still involved in, there’s no doubt: this is a sensitive and sensuous man. A man with a subtle sense of humour.
So how come so many people find their encounters with him in that legendary Berghain line so terrifying? It’s cruel, elitist, inhuman, even fascist, people have said. There’s one woman who claimed to have been left traumatised by the evil bouncer. And it’s not just that this is a man with a hard exterior who’s chosen to reveal his soft center to me. No, I think there’s more to it than that. Something that really is scary. “It seems to me,” I venture, “that there are two sides to you. Two very different sides: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?” He looks me in the eye: “Yes, I think that fits.” And he doesn’t flinch.
DateJuly 2, 2012