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Maggie Spooner: Sex and City West

What's happening to the sex industry in Charlottenburg? Maggie Spooner investigates.

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It’s official. After nearly 20 years, the Beate Uhse Erotic Museum near Bahnhof Zoo has closed “quietly and somewhat earlier than anticipated” in mid-August. The Beate Uhse sex shop will follow mid-September. Apparently, clients at the Waldorf Astoria situated opposite objected to the blinding glare of red latex. Or maybe found it hard to resist? Anyhow, this block is done for – Despite that gallery of ‘midriff’ columns that others found so alluring on Bikini House.

And since the investor responsible for this latest chapter of City West’s urban cleansing is an American named Hines, any future squeaking seems likely to arouse, sorry, arise exclusively from processes involving just leather – and maybe a spot of detergent.

After weeks of insisting on its untimely death, Uhse has found new premises – albeit significantly smaller and discreetly tucked away on the first floor of a pink house opposite KaDeWe. The girl is back in the honky tonk. And the honky tonk is back in the girl.

Mulling this situation with the barmaid in a local sky club (football season has started), I was not surprised to learn that other physical outlets of Wilmersdorf-Charlottenburg’s sex industry are also doing prettay, prettay, prettay good. Lady Nina on Niebuhrstraße has been around for a while: red-light aristocracy. There’s a smattering of sex shops and walk-ins on Wilmersdorfer Straße just to the north of Adenauer Platz. Café Pssst near Fehrbelliner Platz was the first bordello to be granted a concession to operate as such and is thriving.

Its plush website hyperlinks readers to an article on the recent demise, also in August, of another institution: Steffen Jacob, the “Puff-Prinz vom Stutti” (Stuttgarter Platz) who was already complaining, back in the 1990s, that Russian mafia was also takin’ care of business. In its own inimitable way. But Jacob survived that, at least. His ‘striptease’ bar Bon Bon is still around. And then there’s that place that rubs shoulders and other things with the art galleries on the posh end of Fasanenstraße opposite the Literaturhauscafé: the Dorett Tanzbar.

But this is just the (semi-) official stuff. My source at the bar reeled off a whole list of local premises operating off the radar including a “happy-end” Thai massage parlour – obvious when you think about it – opposite a local Kaisers and a new one opening a little further away in a side street of Konstanzer Straße: a big old house for really, really shy punters – the only thing you have to buy is a drink.

So what with the Russians beefing up the action on one side and cleaner-than-thou Americans on the other (wait, why does that sound familiar?) may be it is time, as the great Erich Schumacher said, to think “small is beautiful.”

Let the big guys tough it out for real estate around Bahnhof Zoo and high-end call-girl rings. We’ll just stick with the small and medium-sized (sexual services enterprises, that is).