Home Book Summary Table of Contents Max Hofstetter
The Berlin Book of Lists

I am gay, and that’s also a good thing.  (Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so.)
    Klaus Wowereit, born and raised in Berlin, was elected Mayor in 2001 and has been having himself a grand time in the role ever since.  Although it was never really a secret that he’s gay – any more than it was a secret that he likes the night life, baby – he still made headlines by coming out.  His timing was entertaining.  He was due to appear at a convention of his party, the center-left Social Democratic Party, or SPD, in Berlin shortly before he was elected mayor and was fully aware that the German tabloids would waste little time in treating the topic with their usual good taste and fairness.  So he beat them to the punch and came out way ahead, earning cheers – and smiles – for his style.

Berlin is poor, but sexy.  (Berlin ist arm, aber sexy.)
    Right on both counts! Berlin’s dire financial straits, highly amusing to rich Bavarians and other Germans, are well known.  Wowereit, with his usual sly grin and distracted air, turned a weakness into a plus with this instantly famous formulation back in 2003.  Three years later, the scope of Berlin’s poverty struck home with frightening force when the German federal government refused to bail the city out of its debt, which was well over 60 billion euros at the time.  But Wowereit’s quip earned points with Berliners, who have forgiven him a lot since then, and helped cinch his reputation as an easy-going party boy.

Berlin is change, Berlin is the place to be.
    This was Wowereit talking to the English-language publication The Local (www.thelocal.de) in 2011 in a formulation that, again, echoes what many Berliners think about their city.  By this point Wowereit had tamped down his image, as The Local explained in an accompanying article: “Detractors call him a champagne-quaffing lightweight more interested in partying than governing and whose coalition with the far-left Linke party has left the city with a staggering €62-billion ($84-billion) mountain of debt - the highest of any state.  Wowereit and his long-time partner, doctor Jörn Kubicki, are fixtures of Berlin's whirlwind party scene but the mayor has worked hard in recent years to gain gravitas.  Gone are the days when he was caught on camera smooching a female cabaret singer, a close friend, and sipping bubbly from her shoe.”

Most Berliners are cosmopolitan and welcoming to guests.  Xenophobia has no place in Berlin.
    This was Wowereit, in that same 2011 interview with The Local, in responding to a question about the rival Green Party and echoing language he had used in 2005 to welcome participants to an event described in the press as “an international gay sadomasochist fetish party.” His letter on that occasion stated, “Berlin is a tolerant and open metropolis.  We are proud that people from different backgrounds and with different preferences feel comfortable here and party together.” For those of you who are curious, the event in question was the second Folsom Europe Fest, a now-annual BDSM and leather fetish gathering in Berlin inspired by the self-proclaimed “grand daddy of all leather events,” the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco.

There’s no question it is a flamboyant scene, but that is also Berlin… and as long as nothing illegal happens, I expect tolerance.
    Faced with criticism of his friendly letter to the aforementioned 2005 fetish party, Wowereit shot back with this statement, which has probably been circulated even more widely than the text of the original letter. 

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