ausgabe 1

berlinale 2007

   

“jewboy bottom wants bavarian daddy, thick cock, heavy balls, meet here weekday afternoons”

von Marc Siegel
       

I’d like to read some excerpts from letters I wrote to my friend, Dexter Day, who named himself after Doris Day:

Hey Dex,
I recently saw Die Dritte Generation again and thought of you. Not because you’re a hilarious pesky bourgeois wannabe left-wing terrorist, but because, I think, one time you rubbed Fassbinder’s photo in my face and forced me to kiss it and fall to the ground at your feet. If not, it’s something you would have done. And something I would have happily submitted to. Anyway, I’ve been fascinated by the text epigrams that introduce each of the numbered chapters in Die Dritte Generation. I know, you’re saying, “Of course you have, you toilet queen you.” Well, yeah, each one is taken from a different men’s bathroom in Berlin. Some of the texts are the typical stupid jokes, stupidly sexist or racist, that you see in men’s bathrooms. The first one taken from a wall in front of a urinal is typical of bathroom double-entendres: “Du ziehst immer den Kürzeren.” Actually, “ bathroom double-entendre” or stupid bathroom humor pretty accurately describes one kind of language Fassbinder uses in his films—and we use in our daily speech. (Dex, what do you call two fags fucking? Fucking fags.) There are also some explicit sex ads among the texts, the kind you find in sex bathrooms, like: “Habe grossen Schwanz. Mache alles mit. Kein SM....etc..” or “Sklave sucht Herrn, der mich als Hund dressiert....etc.” The date the graffitti was seen and its location (which bathroom in Berlin, which stall, etc.) are indicated at the bottom of the epigrams. These bathroom texts are therefore almost site-specific documents. But, of what? Of particular spaces? Of particularly crude or unmediated ways of expressing oneself or one’s desire? Of particular kinds of speech one can’t or wouldn’t use elsewhere? Of particular publics or counterpublics? And what’s the effect of taking them out of their specific time and place—taking them away from the public they were addressed to--and inserting them in this story which would seem to have nothing to do with them? So, Dex, what do you think about when you see these bathroom texts? Because I know you notices them. I know that you know they’re not just trivial, that they affect or direct the way you watch the film—‘cause as Jayne County sung, “I like toilet love, you like toilet love, we both like toilet love, yeah, yeah.”

***

Dex, I was talking to Nancy and she said nicely, in that Stalinist way of hers, that maybe the bathroom texts function as a way of telling us and our bathroom comrades that the problems of left-wing terrorism are not simply an issue for hets. I think what the incorrigible Nancy means by that is something about the way a certain leftover leftist way of thinking considers some political issues—capitalist class oppression for instance--as if they affect all of us as unmarked individuals. Issues of gender, race, and sexuality, however, are treated as if they only affect specifically marked individuals. The bathroom texts then, according the thoughts of the Stalinist Nancy--She considers herself a Stalinist, rather than say a Maoist, because she thinks ist the hardest thing to justify--function as familiar markers in unfamiliar, unmarked territory. For the many of us who like to spend a lot of time in public bathrooms (parks, department stores), these texts are indices of a space we know well, an eroticized space: a space to connect for sex, yes, but also a space to try out different sexual possibilities, different sexual roles and practices, different ways of communicating about sex and sexual desire; a space to have sex with different people of different races, classes, to have the kinds of sex one might not have elsewhere. For those who don’t like to spend their time in such places or who don’t know about them, the epigrams in the film put them in the position of listening in on something, of eavesdropping on someone else’s form of communication. What I love about Fassbinder is that he just spits out this stuff, raw as it were. By stuff, here, I mean the culture of communication in a public bathroom, Fassbinder just plugs that into the social world, without providing the helpful mediators, sociologists, community spokespeople or role models who could help ensure that everyone understands each other.

***

But, Dex, here’s the deal: I’m going to read these letters as a kind of talk, a statement of sorts, at an event for Fassbinder’s 60 th birthday. (He‘s a Gemini, like me, that explains our double lives, huh?) Anyway, the event takes place at the Volksbühne, and that’s not exactly a comfortable place to talk about homo stuff. I mean, you don’t know it, but it’s like most official theater here in Germany, not in being pretty much only about hets, which it is, but in being arrogantly about hets. It’s not that they don’t do gay theater—god forbid!—or deal seriously with homo stuff—which they don’t. But they don’t really challenge any basic assumptions about gender roles, and gender/sexual hierarchies, either on or behind stage. This is not even to talk about race issues, which typically get segregated into special events organized by outside groups, you know the story. A crunchy granola Santa Cruz type like yourself would of course be shocked by the lack of critical self-reflection on questions of difference here. Because of that, I guess, when these things get pointed out, one is typically dismissed with incredulity, with accusations of being all PC or all cantankerous, or with a response like “Of course we’re not sexist, racist or homophobic. That’s why we could circulate sexist, racist and homophobic images.” (Hence the arrogance I mentioned above.) I know this is all hurting the theater queen within, but no Dex, theater in Berlin is not run by a gay mafia, like it is rumored to be in the states. Then again, theater here is far better and more interesting than it is in the States. Maybe we were lied to all our lives and fags really aren’t good at the arts...Anyway, to talk about homosexuality at the Volksbühne is not my idea of a good time. But I’m doing so on one of those special evenings organized by an outside group...

***

Dex, you know, you could read Fassbinder’s entire oeuvre as bookended by the space of the bathroom? I should say the tearoom, because the tearoom or Klappe, is the name of the social space that we make of the public toilet by cruising there, right? By having sex there, by establishing its functions as a social institution. And it’s this space that we see very often in Fassbinder. Fassbinder’s a tearoom queen from his very first appearance on film, a walk-on part in his 1966 short Der Stadtstreicher. He comes into the men’s bathroom, cruises the tramp, doesn’t get any action and leaves. His final film, Querelle, has those gorgeous see through, blue-ish bathroom walls, where Lt. Seblon hangs out, looking for cock. There are so many more. Just off the top of my head: Armin Meier cruises Kurt Raab in the bathroom in Satansbraten; although it’s not a bathroom scene, we could also include the majestic cruising sequence at the beginning of In einem Jahr mit dreizehn Monden, where poor wonderful Volker Spengler/Elvira gets outed as a tranny and beaten up. (Never cruise to Mahler’s Fifth. It didn’t turn out good for Dirk in Death in Venice either.) And then there‘s Fox, who cruises the tearoom and hooks up with the bourgeois fag, Karl-Heinz Bohm. The tearoom is a kind of hinge in the film, a space that enables out of work Fox to come into contact with the world of the rich scum who will cheat him out of his lotttery winnings, his apartment—in short, his life, until he ends up dead in the U-Bahn. I mean, it’s sad, but you know, Fox was a risk-taker, he wasn’t a good upstanding gay, like Eugen and his scummy bourgeois friends. As Guy Hocquenghem said about Pasolini’s death/murder, which took place in the same year as Fox‘s “ we can’t all die in bed.”

*****

So, finally, Dex, I need a title for my statement. What do you think? I don’t know why I ask. I know the kind of thing you’d suggest: jewboy bottom wants bavarian daddy, thick cock, heavy balls, meet here weekday afternoons. Well, I mean, it sort of fits. There is something about Fassbinder‘s nose, his cockiness, about his bull-dagger swagger, that’s kinda sexy. Even when he got all fat. Or perhaps even more so then. In a strange way he reminds me of that Assistant Dean at UCLA (sexy-disgusting, top, thick juicy cock) who I met regularly and who took me to his office after hours, in the secret locked portion of the Administration building. That he did that was kinda hotter than he was. But the jewboy thing, Dex, I’m not sure if it really works for me—or rather how--here in Germany (and it only occassionally does so in the States). But here the Jew is such a loaded figure, a kind of untouchable symbol. I haven’t really figured out how or if it relates to me as I go through my daily life. On the one hand, I know that it has nothing to do with me, my life, my pesky liberal American Jewish upbringing. On the other hand, it could easily have something to do with me, given the right or wrong situation. At any rate, you’re right, in that it does work for me erotically. It has. I mean, whenever I take out my dick in a bathroom or cruising area, I think about it. Shut up, not because of the size. (Did you hear the one about the Jew with a boner who ran into a wall? He broke his nose. Ha ha). The missing foreskin, stupid. I mean, I don’t know if the others with me are thinking about that. They may just think, “Oh gross, an American.” Or “Oh hot, an American.” Yeah, so I don’t know how the jewboy thing works for the others, or how it would have worked for that special bavarian daddy—though I could pretty well imagine. But, I’ll go with it. As Becca said after her frustrations with union organizing, that’s the problem with politics, the fucking other people.

Ok, dear, gotta go.

Love, Marcu

 

 

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