So as you know, I was in Berlin last week. I don’t even know how to talk about the last week and a half, so I guess I will just go chronologically to play catch-up.
I took the day off work and got up at 6:00am to go to the gym. I packed my gigantic Comme des Garçons full of clothes and zines and everything, since I insisted on bringing only one carry-on bag to Germany with me.
It was hella cute. And hella heavy.
And then I waited for my car to come. I got to the Airport ridiculously early for my 5 o clock flight, and noticed I was on the same flight as the inimitable SHERRY as well as RYAN from Fischerspooner, Ssion, etc. I tried and tried, but did not sleep a bit on the flight over.
I arrived in Berlin at 7am like a zombie and slowly made my way via U-Bahn to my friend Stevie Hanley’s house. He was an excellent host and let me nap for bit while he did some errands. We went to a couple art shows for the excellent Based in Berlin exhibits, and he took me to look at some of his new paintings at his studio in Neukoln. We went out for amazing Turkish food on Oranienstrasse, and I promptly decided to not be a big baby about eating fresh vegetables. The food was great, more so for the fact that in order to enjoy it I had to face my fears of death. We stopped by the Silver Future for a drink on our way back to his place in Kreuzberg. Although there was a performance by Berlin It-Girl Mary Ocher that night, I begged off due to exhaustion and passed out early.
I could hardly contain my excitement! My wonderful soulmate La JohnJoseph had been performing in Koln the night before, and was on his way back to Berlin. Stevie and I woke up extra early and went out for (at my insistence) coffee and pastries up the street. Kxberg is such a party town, and it was nice to see it all calm and quiet and beautiful in the morning. Stevie and I went to some more museums for the Based in Berlin exhibition, which was nice, and went out for very nice coffee, while we waited for JJ to get back.
And then he did! And we were reunited! He is so gorgeous and wonderful. We hugged for so long. It was great. His apartment is gorgeous and I got my OWN ROOM since his roommate was out. It was just so great. We went out for pizza and to scope the tech situation at the Silver Future, where JJ’s disco alter ego Alexander is doing a series of shows in July.
Next I got ready for my performance and Dj set at Berlin’s most infamous and controversial gay art sex party dance night, PORK at the club Ficken3000. Tennessee Brian, the host, was so gracious and wonderful to me. Monday was a national holiday in Germany, so a ton of people were out partying all night. Boys, girls, in-between-and-beyonders. German, American, Irish, everyone. All cramped into this tiny little sexclub/party space/bar/evening. I did my little performance and thought I did an okay job. I began with a cover of Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die” which I think always sets a nice tone for things. It’s such an awesome song, I can’t do it justice, and guess what? I don’t even try. I just want to convey the way that song makes me feel, and I think I do a pretty good job of this. After my little set, I DJ’ed the party for a bit, which was more nerve-wracking than it sounds. I haven’t DJ-ed in so long, and I definitely remembered why. It’s stress full! La JohnJoseph and I used to Dj at EasternBloc every Tuesday night Happy Hour, from 7-10, at our party, which we called YUMMY!. No one ever came to this party, but it was still quite nerve-wracking. I managed to get fired from this DJ gig, which is interesting considered I wasn’t paid or anything. SO: bad DJ luck in the past for Billy. I was so scared, and kept wondering “What do German kids want to dance to?” The answer is, pretty much anything. Especially the new Beyoncé single, and also, inexplicably, “Fergalicious”. Such a guilty pleasure song. These girls (I later found out they were Irish) went NUTS for it. So nice! Brian had, in his DJ set, played Janet Jackson’s “Escapade”. When I started Dj-ing (in Germany, if you are a lady DJ, you are known as a DJane—cute, huh?) a nice soft butch German girl approached the booth and asked if I would play Janet Jackson. I said I could do that, but we JUST heard a song.
“Yes,” the girl said “’Escapade’.”
“Yeah,” I said, over the music, “Brian just played that, so… was there another Janet song you wanted to hear?”
“Yes!” the girl’s eyes lit up “Can you please play ‘Escapade’?”
“Yeah, I mean… he JUST played that…”
I played “Together Again” and everyone seemed to like it. Go figure. Eventually JJ and I went home to sleep.
JohnJoseph and I went to this new vegan restaurant just opened down the street from his flat, called KUCHEN MAFIA for vegan brunch. The food was excellent, the service was frosty and continental. Great! I took another of many naps, and we walked along the canal near his house. It was gorgeous. We listened to the new Planningtorock album W, sitting on the floor of JJ’s apartment. I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting on floors and listening to this record with friends, and I think this practice is making me a happier person. I dunno. A great way to spend an afternoon. Soon, the legendary Sophie Iremonger came by, and it was such a thrill to meet her. We were then joined by Stevie and had a grand time. JJ and I couldn’t convince them, however, to join us for the queer party at Monster Ronson’s, where JJ’s friend Joey Handsome was Dj-ing. JJ and I went and were too “tired” to sing, but we watched a lot. Another early night, at least by Berlin standards.
I went shopping, what can I say? The amazing B.CALLA (whose couture I wore onstage all week) gave me a list of places to check out. I went by myself to the CdG shop in Berlin, to Apartment and WoodWood and Star Styling. I got some great Comme des Garçons SYNTHETIC cologne at WoodWood: SKAI, which is meant, from what I understand, to smell like fake leather. It smells really great.
I love it.
Met back up with JJ and Stevie, and we went to this really great German restaurant near Gorlizter park for authentic German food (spaetzle, which apparently I fucking love) and this delicious Berliner Weiße, sweetened and dyed green with Waldmeister.
We retired for a mini-party at Stevie’s studio, where we hung out with Evelyn, a lovely Americanische girl who is long been friends with Stevie and La JJ, and was incidentally my first and last girlfriend. We’re both gay now. It was great to hang out with her at Stevie’s studio. We all had a great time talking about all sorts of nonsense, and then felt sleepy once more so went home to retire.
The other main reason I made JJ go home early with me is that aside from being a total baby about staying up late, I had made a date for us very early on Wednesday morning. What date? Well, getting breakfast with the legendary Miss Vaginal Crème Davis, of course. When I saw Vag give her brilliant lecture at NYU last year, she mentioned that she is an early bird, and is always looking for other early birds to have breakfast with in Berlin. So being as I am a huge fan and admirer of Ms. Davis, as well as an early bird myself, I made an appointment for Wednesday morning. And try as I may, we were totally late getting there. We got lost. Vag was very gracious about it, and we met up with her and Manuel Schubert at a nearby restaurant and had a gorgeous breakfast and chitchat. After our meal, we retired to Vag’s abode, all decked out in decoupage (she ought to be an interior designer, in addition to everything else) and sat in on an interview she was doing for Manuel’s podcast series Film Highlights. We gossiped about Hollywood, Berlin, boys, music, life and art. Vag is such a hero of mine, and a truly sweet person. I was so thrilled I got to hang out with her! So fucking rad.
JJ and I went back to KreutzKoln to get ready for our reading that night, an event called BORDERLINES at a far-out part of town called Treptower park. A black cat stalked around the beautiful room we were reading in, with our lovely hosts Thomas Gotz Von Aust and Andreas Schwartz. The crowd was full of friends and we had a great time. And a lot of white wine (my favorite!). After our reading we tried in vain to see the eclipse, but Stevie and JJ and I went out for Thai food. It was pretty good! We walked home and passed the heck out, again!
Another beautiful morning in Berlina. I got up early and went on a mini-adventure to The Corner, this super luxe clothes store. It was kind of total Zzzs fest. The nice thing was that on my way there I got totally lost, and found the Ritter Sport store! Where I learned a lot about Ritter Sports, watched a short documentary about them, saw the diorama exhibit, and got to sample some of the limited edition flavors. Rock the fuck on. Having had my dessert, I went back to JJ’s hood and went to the Best Falafel Place In the World, where this lovely ancient old old old old lady makes falafel sandwiches by hand and it takes forever and she speaks only German and so it was hard. And it’s also hard to find. But I found it! I got my sandwich! It was totally worth the hassle. So excellent.
JohnJoseph and I met up and hung out for a bit, getting ready to go to the legendary German photographer Iwalja Klinke’s house for one of her equally legendary dinner parties. There we saw Sophie, Evelyn, Mary Ocher, Tennessee Brian as well as a pair of lovely Swedish boys who had these really gorgeous painted nails. I had to leave the dinner party before the food was served, because I had to run across town to do my sound check for that night’s show at Chantal’s House of Shame. Chantal was, sadly, out of town, in Israel, where the documentary about her long-running and amazing party (HOUSE OF SHAME) was debuting at the film festival in Tel Aviv. So she was out. I found my way to the venue and did my little sound check. Thomas, the promoter, wasn’t there. It was an empty club except for me, the sound guy Frank, and another tough-looking guy who was playing pinball. As I passed Pinball Guy on my way to the stage, he got upset at the pinball machine and started screaming in German, kicking and punching the machine. He saw me and started screaming at me and gesticulating wildly.
I thought I was going to die.
So, I did what any good half-Jewish performance artist would do, I hopped right onstage and insisted that I do my sound check right then. At least if Pinball was gonna kill me, I’d be in my spotlight. So as I checked the microphone, Pinball paced the empty club back and forth, still screaming at me, and mocking me every time I said “Check, check, one, two”. At some point, he got right up to the stage and began pointing at me, staring at me and screaming something over and over and over. I thought “okay, this is going to end really badly.” Finally, Frank, the sound guy, yelled at me over the sounds of Pinball’s shouts to inform me that in fact, Pinball was asking if I wanted something to drink. I asked for a beer. He got me a beer and left me along. Sound check being done, I ran the fuck out of the club and went back to Iwalja’s for my dinner, which she had lovingly saved for me. I collected La JohnJoseph and we went back to the club for the performance, only to notice that the nice Swedish boys had come along! They had to catch a flight back to native Stockholm in the morning and decided to spend their last night backstage with us at Chantal’s House of Shame. How sweet! I wish I could remember their names. So we all hung out backstage drinking and carrying on. Various contingencies of German clubgoers poked their heads backstage to hang out with us. A pair of girls came in to snort lines off of the club’s fliers, and show each other pictures of their ex boyfriends. Old creepy dudes came in to ogle us. Some folks just came in to, I guess, test their English-language skills? Or maybe because there was a huge fucking sign above the curtained door that said BACKSTAGE and they wanted to meet the performer. I really do have the NICEST fans. My little monsters.
My show was great, I must say. I had perhaps a bit much to drink beforehand but I was still afraid that the bouncer, Pinball, was going to murder me, so I drank to calm my nerves. And because drinks were free. A lovely new fan, also incidentally from Israel, invited me and JJ to record a video letter to Björk on his iPad in his car. We obliged. I wish I had that fucking video. Anyway after the show I convinced some other of my fans to help me get paid, which I did, and then our Israeli driver took me and JJ all over town and then to the U-Bahn stop to catch our ride home. What a long and adventurous day it was. Really. Yikes.
JohnJoseph worked on some business stuff in the morning, so I took myself for a little stroll past the Turkish street markets to sit by the canal and enjoy my coffee. I basked in the sun and watched swans swim down the canal. It was actually incredibly perfect.
La JohnJoseph and Stevie and Sohpie and Evelyn and I checked out this rad art gallery crawl called 48 hours in Neukoln. A really fun night. I felt so much like my life is now caught up. Like I’m not waiting anymore to participate in my life. At least not as much. Maybe this feeling will not last. Maybe I will recover my anxiety. Something, though, about a spontaneous food fight in a foreign city in the middle of the night with old friends and new, was really liberating.
La JohnJoseph and Stevie and I went to the best store ever, KaDeWe to get fancy cakes. It was so fantastic. Really exciting and definitely a highlight of my trip. I had to run, though, afterward, to meet up with Iwajla for a photoshoot at her apartment. She’s a fantastic artist and I can’t wait to see the shots we took. I mean, I got a preview. They’re cute. You’ll see. JohnJoseph and I went to a very cool party called TOP SECRET and I can’t tell you where it was, but it was rad. Our fantastic Israeli driver/BFF was there, took us to his studio nearby to take some more photos of us (it never ends) and gave me some cool clothes for my trip back home. After the party JJ and I got pizza and I went home to try to sleep before my flight. I couldn’t sleep. Boo.
Got up at the fucking crack of dawn to go to Tegel to fly home. The flight was full of German schoolchildren, teenagers, and I did not like them one bit. The food on Air Berlin was kind of cool though. I had the foresight (rare, for me) to request vegan meals. So there was a modicum of ceremony about serving me first, etc. On the flight back, delirious as I was with no sleep, I also got what felt like an excessive amount of free alcohol. Maybe they gave us booze because the kids were so obnoxious. I watched the following films on my flight back:
- Meet the Fockers (which I loved)
- The King’s Speech (which I thought was just OK)
- How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days (which was kind of lame, but I love Matthew McConaughey)
Arrived at JFk just in time to go to Bobo’s going-away party at her house in Queens. I saw a bunch of my NYC friends, and, sad as I was to leave JohnJoseph and Berlin behind, it was nice to be welcomed with Champagne and love.
And I am exhausted. But happy.