Christopher Isherwood first came to Berlin in March of 1929, for a weeks visit with his friend, the writer W.H Auden, at the age of 25.
By his third visit of that year, in November, he had decided to stay indefinitely and took a room at an apartment attached to Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexual Science in The Tiergarten district of the City.
“I’m looking for my Homeland and I’ve come to find out if this is it”
By October of 1930, he had moved into the Attic apartment of the Wolffe Family, with whose son Walter he was romantically involved, at Hallesches Tor. Then a month later to the Admiralstraße in Kottbusser Tor. It was not until December of 1930 that he arrived at Fraulein Thurau’s boarding house at Nollendorfstraße 17.
On his first visit, back in March, Auden had introduced him to a boy bar called The Cosy Corner, at Zossenerstraße 7. It was formerly a neighbourhood restaurant called Nosters and it’s interior was shielded from the outside world by a heavy leather curtain across the door.
“Nothing could have looked less decadent than the Cosy Corner. It was plain, homely and unpretentious. Its only decorations were a few photographs of boxers and racing cyclists, pinned up above the bar. It was heated by a big old-fashioned iron stove. Partly because of the great heat of this stove and partly because they knew it excited their clients, the boys stripped off their sweaters or leather jackets and sat around with their shirts unbuttoned to the navel and their sleeves rolled up to the armpits”
(Christopher And His Kind)
(image source: Voluptuous Panic by Mel Gordon)
Speaking in the 1970′s Christopher Isherwood said:
“Well, The Cozy Corner is now a dentists office, but I’ve heard the Kleist Casino is still the Kleist Casino”
The Kleist Casino was in Kleiststraße, between Nollendorfplatz and Wittenbergplatz, and just a short walk from Isherwood’s Nollendorfstraße lodgings.
“There are no windows on the blank wall. and the inside is dark and gloomy. In a small foyer, two nondescript young men lounge behind a counter. One of them demands that coats be checked for fifty pfennigs, while the other one , in boots, continues idly leafing through a magazine called Him. Inside, at the end of a corridor, the Kleist Casino turns out to be a parody of elegance. Striped blue and white awnings sag from the ceiling, bunches of faded flowers hang from the maroon wallpaper, and the bar is illuminated by two lamps supported by half-size torsos, without fig-leaves. About fifty young men sit around in morose silence, about a quarter of them affecting leather jackets, the rest in timid business suits. The two bartenders absent-mindedly twitch to the beat of a rather mild rock and roll and at the far end of the room, there are two couples engaged in a half-hearted twist. One of the dancers appears to be a girl, with long black hair, but if so, she would be the only girl here, and in the darkness it is hard to tell.”
(Otto Friedrich “Before The Deluge” 1970)
In the 1960′s, the operatic performance artist Klaus Nomi regularly performed arias there, whilst working as an usher at the Deutsche Opera
The Kleist Casino was operational until as recently as 2002, and is now one of Berlin’s most outrageous gay bars, Bull (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) and it is thought to be the site of the oldest gay bar in Europe.