Invisible Stranger

Invisible Stranger

Collecting Crises on Old Compton Street and Beyond

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Little Tinker

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Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Only A Cabaret, Old Chum
Kaiserwetter, they call it round these parts, when the temperature hits twenty-nine, the sun shines on the linden trees from a sky bluer than the teal hankie in your back-pocket, and you strip off as much Calvin Klein as you dare. King's weather? Queens' Weather, more like, if the number (six hundred thousand) of gay men, lesbians and homo-friendly straights on Berlin's boulevards was anything to go by.

Last Saturday, along with over half-a-million other queens, dykes, and Normalos as they're known (affectionately) around here, I minced on a march for God-knows-how-many-kilometres through Berlin's city streets, en route to a free party held in what also just happens to be one of the largest outdoor cruising areas in Europe.

In the rest of the world, we boringly know this sort of Showing-Off-And-Flaunting-It as Pride (or, if we're really, really bold, and it won't upset our sponsors too much, as Gay Pride), but more and more frequently as poncey Mardi Gras. In Berlin it's your actual in-yer-face and political Christopher Street Day. The name's a reminder of the riots on that New York street in 1969. Way back then, on the day they buried Judy Garland, the patrons of the gay Stonewall bar finally had enough of NYPD intimidation and, for the first time, fought back. That day's now commonly regarded as the beginning of what was then called Gay Pride.

Just by virtue of its name alone, the CSD march through Berlin, ending in the free music and dance festival in the Tiergarten park, has always been classed as a political demonstration. (There are financial advantages too. As a demo, it’s not the CSD organisers, but the Berlin government, which is liable for the clean-up bill - something the organisers of the city's rapidly-ailing Love Parade techno-fest have discovered way too late.)

I had an empowering time in the city I love, celebrating not just my sexuality and my propensity to party till I get far too embarrassing, but, most importantly, comradeship with gay - and especially, straight - friends, new and old.

I suppose I really should tell you about the fantastic costumes, and the sixty-plus floats which lined the four-hour-long and sun-scorched route. Or the golden-skinned angels with twenty-feet wings on corporate-sponsored trucks (Burger King, I ask you!). Or the 70s queens in full leather when the temperature was pushing thirty (two of whom I unwisely gave my number to, after twelve too many vodkas, and who are still texting me now I'm back in London).

Or the mermaids; or the guy with the vines and red roses who was a dead-ringer for Dionysus; or the straight boy I kissed (for a giggle) and who kissed me back (definitely not for a giggle); or the guys from Dusseldorf who wanted to take my picture; or the Hilda Baker look-a-like and her girlfriend who did the entire route naked; or the open-topped float where everyone was shagging each other.

Or the after-demo party, when Jimmy Sommerville and Boy George were the only acts I recognised, but they were all fantastisch, Mensch; and the rustling in the bushes (don't ask); and the comatose party-goers I fell over even before the 3 a.m. fireworks went off.

Instead, I'll tell you that "Wowi" - Klaus Wowereit, the gay superstar mayor of Berlin - led the march with his boyfriend, and later demanded of the German government equal partnership, and adoption, rights for both gay and straight couples. And that more money be poured into AIDS research, and also treatment for breast cancer. That grannies and granddads bussed themselves into Berlin to support their grand-kids (and to have a cracking good time as well). And that the stores on the Ku-damm main shopping drag stayed open till midnight.

And that a special law was passed, allowing all Berlin's local councils to fly - in addition to the national, and their own municipal, flag - the gay and lesbian Rainbow Flag.

And that every single one of them did.

(This blog is not sponsored by the Berlin tourist board. I am, however, open to offers.)