VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - CONTENTS - By LOÏC PRIGENT

The Berghain is Europe’s most se­lect club. A sea­soned club­ber re­ports.

— Go­ing to the Berghain is a night–time ex­pe­ri­ence that changed my life. I have wit­nessed lively con­ver­sa­tions both at work and in Paris cafés that went on for hours be­tween those who were let in and those who weren’t. Tales of queue­ing for four hours to get into the Berghain and then be­ing turned away in an­guish, to mull over a thou­sand the­o­ries on the se­lec­tion method used by the cru­ellest phys­iog­nomist in the his­tory of mankind. The first thing you see is the front of the huge for­mer East Ger­man power sta­tion. The build­ing stands the equiv­a­lent of seven storeys high. Five tall win­dows on the left give you an inkling of the red and blue lights in the Panorama Bar, the club’s qui­eter sec­ond floor, mu­si­cally speak­ing, that is.

The Berghain lies in the mid­dle of nowhere on the bor­der be­tween Berlin’s Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain dis­tricts. And yet, since De­cem­ber 2004, from Fri­day evening through to Mon­day morn­ing, there’s a line of taxis nearby at all hours of the day and night. A cou­ple of guys sell bot­tles of drink to peo­ple in the queue. As you wait you can hear a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent lan­guages. Some­times on a Sun­day morn­ing you get lucky. There’s no queue, and you can go straight up to the door. But usu­ally it’s like a sort of lat­ter–day El­lis Is­land, with a seem­ingly never–end­ing line that is scarcely mov­ing. Some peo­ple give up and leave. Ten yards be­fore you reach the door, you be­gin to feel ner­vous. You see those who are re­fused en­try walk­ing away. There’s a lot of them. At least one per­son in three is not al­lowed in, some­times one in two. Their backs stiffen, and their faces tighten. You see the ap­pre­hen­sion in the faces of even the most blasé, the har­dened night owls, or those who have had the most to drink. Here, there’s no room for the op­por­tunis­tic lib­eral val­ues of New York’s Stu­dio 54 club. Look­ing rich and beau­ti­ful won’t get you any­where. Se­lec­tion is on an en­tirely dif­fer­ent level. The prob­lem is that no one seems to know what level that might be. The phys­iog­nomist’s name is Sven. He is the sub­ject of many a des­per­ate chat room dis­cus­sions, and the most feared man in the elec­tronic world. He’s the fil­ter. He can say nein or nod his head in the di­rec­tion of the mu­sic. He can ask ques­tions, “How many of you are there?” is one of his favourites, and there are myr­iad the­o­ries on the right an­swer. He looks at what you’re wear­ing, in de­tail. You try and imag­ine his whims and pho­bias.

The back of the queue turns into a bot­tle­neck, and fol­lows the wind­ing maze of a metal bar­rier. The ten­sion is at its peak, and seems in­ter­minable. You hear “nein” after “nein”. Few dare to ob­ject when Sven de­liv­ers his rul­ing, the hu­mil­i­a­tion is bad enough, and his judge­ment not sub­ject to ap­peal. Those on the list who don’t need to queue are mem­bers of Berlin’s bo­hemian aris­toc­racy.

Five yards from the door, you hear Sven say “nein” three times, then a fourth. He lets a girl in whose face is hid­den be­hind dread­locks, and then turns away some fash­ion­istas. He lets an oddly sober, well–heeled young guy in. There’s no logic, no point try­ing to un­der­stand. It’s as if Sven knows ex­actly who’s inside at any one time and that he is cre­at­ing the per­fect bal­ance to make for the best so­cial mix pos­si­ble, so that no one sub­group will be over–rep­re­sented. Rich or poor, techno mu­sic lovers or tourists, the EasyJet–set or Ber­lin­ers(… He takes all types, but as and when he feels like it.

The en­trance to the Berghain, on the edge of Berlin’s

Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain


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