The “Pussy-Cat” is a gay, lesbian, trannies, straight, be-as-you-want-bar, with the strictest door in town when it comes to fun killers, otherwise it’s open to everyone. Until the turn of the millennium, the boss in front of and behind the counter was Hans-Dieter, whom everyone just called HD, which sounded cosmopolitan and made us forget our origins in Spenge, East Westphalia.
“Boy, you can’t walk around like that,” scolded the mother, which didn’t bother little Hans-Dieter, because he knew early on what he wanted: out of the province, into glamour. His father didn’t stop him, he died young, and as a trained upholsterer and decorator he would find a job anywhere in the republic, especially in West Berlin, the city of his dreams. His feelings did not deceive him, nor did his luck, because he met O.E. Hasse, heartthrob, film star, “beloved liar”, who took him under his wing and introduced him to “Tabasco”, one of those clubs that caters to the city’s gay community offered a safe retreat. He advanced to become a barman, and since he was very popular with the guests, the Bel Ami type, he was soon able to give up his job as a decorator at Neckermann and devote himself full-time to the nightlife from then on. Thanks to the presence of the Allies, the bars in West Berlin were cosmopolitan, there was a lot to forget, a lot to celebrate, but not everyone wanted to be seen. HD was discreet, helping his guests when raids were pending, vouching for them when they didn’t have their papers to hand, and keeping their secrets when they got too sentimental into chatting.
The bar “Vagabund” recruited him. Her motto became his life motto: “But I will always remain mine / and nobody should ever know / who I really am. / This is the vagabond’s night … / I can’t be nobody here!” That sounds like Zarah Leander in a duet with Marlene Dietrich, and he actually met both of them personally, with Zarah Leander being so drunk that he discreetly escorted her home at sunrise had to. A number of celebrities were drawn to the bar. Bubi Scholz, who shot his wife while intoxicated and was unable to drown so much grief. Horst Buchholz drank himself hard at the bar, “the German Alain Delon”, who was increasingly suffering from this role expectation and from his bisexuality, which he could not openly live. Inge Meysel was a regular guest, “the mother of the nation”, who was so fond of ranting about the sanctimonious and sane world of television.
There were many seeking comfort and understanding, and HD listened to all of them, and what he heard he kept to himself. A family. There was no one he pushed away from unless he was acting like Count Koks. Although he had a weakness for everything noble. He himself liked to dress like lord casual, silk jacket, handkerchief, and quite a few rings on his hand. At home, they ate from royal porcelain, preferably Meissen, which he could afford at the time. Because when he took over the “Pussy-Cat” in 1979 at the request of the previous owner, his golden twenties began.
Approximately 70 people fit into the small bar, but hundreds lined up on weekends, queuing in threes for the door. From 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., at some point the day off was cancelled, and open from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. “They come as strangers and leave as friends”, HD advertised for his home, because he actually invited the guests into his living room. He made sure of everything, especially that everyone was enjoying themselves. And when it was too cold outside, he had buckets of sand strewn inside: beach party. Everyone came, including the celebrities, who didn’t always pay, there were a number of unpaid bills that HD conscientiously kept in a cookie jar well into old age. Personally, he was never stingy, every winter he went to the station mission, donated coffee and cloakroom. “I feel like Mother Teresa,” he then sighed coquettishly, knowing full well that there was little risk of confusion when it came to lifestyle issues. Because when he closed the bar behind him exhausted in the morning, he often got on the plane to Westerland and continued partying there until the tiredness disappeared.
At that time, for gays, Sylt was like West Berlin, an island of the blessed, only sandy. When there were celebrations in the “Hotel Atlantic”, Arndt von Bohlen und Halbach, heir to the Krupp works at a young age, was also happy to do the honors after renouncing the dynastic succession as a jet setter, which HD occasionally imitated, however in the scheduled flight fare. He visited Siegfried and Roy in Las Vegas, went on board the “MS Italia”, wanderlust in his eyes, reminded a little of Curd Jürgens, so that the older ladies lay sighing at his feet. And a few gentlemen too. He was serious about love, once even very serious, but it didn’t last to the end, the great partnership of his life. But there were no tragedies either, except for AIDS. He had to delete many acquaintances from his address book too soon, about which he did not waste much time. When he was troubled, he kept quiet, but raised his voice about trifles. HD could be very capricious. A Virgo in all the facets that are inherent in the zodiac sign: hard-working, reliable, self-sacrificing, with a pronounced penchant for fussiness and know-it-alls: if he wanted to be right, he also wanted to be right, knowing that he was very likely completely wrong.
When he gave up the “pussy cat” because he felt too old, he did so with no fanfare. He let “liquor seller a. D.” on his business card and took care of his home. A large, old-style Berlin apartment on Mommsenstrasse, which he shared with a friend and regularly redecorated. When that became too much for him, he moved into a smaller apartment. He just didn’t give up working. He went back to the “Vagabond” and took over the afternoon shift there because he wanted to earn money, but mainly because he was bored on his own.
“I’m a tough bitch,” he joked when the illnesses came, and he took it all well except for the fall. He couldn’t leave the apartment anymore, the neighbors helped, the friends, the we, in which he had always believed so firmly, carried him to the end. When it was time to say goodbye and there was a risk of a build-up of tears, he dismissed: “I had a wonderful life, what more do I want?”