Frank Künster & Smiley Baldwin

SPECIAL Berlinale Interview with Berlin Bouncer Frank Künster & Smiley Baldwin

Regisseur David Dietl copyright Alicia von Rittberg
Regisseur David Dietl copyright Alicia von Rittberg

Berlin Bouncer is a documentation about the stories of Frank Künster, Smiley Baldwin and Sven Marquardt. Written and directed by David Dietl.

And yes, of course, there is no footage from Berghain, what happens in Berghain stays in Berghain, and there was also no exception for David Dietl. The beautiful thing is that this documentation Berlin Bouncer does not need that. The stories of Frank Künster, Smiley Baldwin and Sven Marquardt do not require that either. Where “excess counsellor” and “dogma decliner” Frank Künster freely shows a painting of him as Liberace or a picture of the Sun King hanging in his apartment, and admits that he enjoys the attention of beautiful women, Smiley talks about his motivation as a teenager to join the military police, to protect and to serve, and about his idealism and the inner knight as an influence. For Coeur et Art I talked to Smiley Baldwin and Frank Künster shortly before the premiere about their life as bouncers and their memories of the legendary early 90s and the years after. As different as the two are, both are not only forever inseparable from Berlin´s nightlife, but also in the perception, the reality and the lives of countless clubbers.

BERLIN BOUNCER Smiley Baldwin copyright Flare Film GmbH
BERLIN BOUNCER Smiley Baldwin copyright Flare Film GmbH

Smiley, in the documentation you said that even after the short time of 2 weeks after your arrival in Berlin, you felt “Something was right“ here. Can you describe in a bit more detail what you felt?

Yes, I can. My first two weeks in Berlin. Well, its the feeling when you come home from travelling and your apartment, your home is warm and cosy. (I came in February, and it was cold). The people I met were wonderful, and I still enjoy some of their company to this day. Everyone was friendly.

BERLIN BOUNCER copyright Frank Künster
BERLIN BOUNCER copyright Frank Künster

Frank, in the documentation your sister talks about the fact that you were always different. Was there like a situation which made you realise you weren’t cut out for the average small city life?

Frank: Unfortunately, I can not remember, but in genereal I do not believe that it was an event, but that is was a process of learning and experiencing … About me, and what was the world around me. 

BERLIN BOUNCER Berlin Mitte copyright Ben de Biel
BERLIN BOUNCER Berlin Mitte copyright Ben de Biel

When I think of my first years in East Berlin, I always immediately remember the smell of coal in the cold winter air, as back then all flats had coal stoves in the East, are there visual or sensual memories the two of you connect to your early years to Berlin?

Smiley: West Berlin was full of light and color. East Berlin was dreary and grey.

Frank:  Since I was already in East Germany before the wall came down, the brown coal smell was nothing special, for me, it was extraordinary that there were so many empty spaces in the middle of a city, which all just wanted to be used and “played”.

BERLIN BOUNCER copyright Flare Film GmbH
BERLIN BOUNCER copyright Flare Film GmbH

All three of you shared the will to leave the so-called “comfort zone” that was your home and daily life when you were young, but yours differs a bit more even, as you were born on a Caribbean island, you called it a literally tricky place to leave in terms of the conditions. How much do you miss the environment of the island, or is it more like a vast memory? 

Smiley: Well Esther, first of all, St. Thomas is heaven on earth, I love the island.

And my biggest wish in life is to be able to afford to go back and forth whenever I want. 

How would you describe your life on the island in three words? 

Smiley: Family, Family, Family!

And Is there something typical from your upbringing there you try to teach your daughters?  

Smiley: Patience. 

BERLIN BOUNCER Frank Künster copyright Flare Film GmbH
BERLIN BOUNCER Frank Künster copyright Flare Film GmbH

Frank, I remember you not only as a bouncer but also as a very determined filmmaker and creative mind, fed by your daily Berlin life reality. You are a also a pretty good actor as we all recently experienced once more in the tv-show Babylon Berlin – how strong are these aspirations concerning your future?

Frank: I still do not want to commit myself. I will continue to be an actor, just like I want to remain part of the Creative Club Life and also maybe make a movie again.

It seems you had and still have many ideas, but in my perception it got a bit swallowed up by your bouncer persona? 

Frank: A bouncer I was and still am, most often, and also in most in the public eye. Of course, I sometimes think about it, about the public perception of myself, but I cannot change that anyway. 

BERLIN BOUNCER copyright Flare Film GmbH
BERLIN BOUNCER copyright Flare Film GmbH

You are forever connected to our “living room”, the legendary King Size Club. How realistic is it to create something like this again in today’s Berlin? 

Frank: Before King Size, I did not think it would be possible to create such a space during this time, but it was a great fit, and I know that you can not preserve the past. But every time has the potential to be unique, to bring certain phenomena and certain things out, and we may have to try to reinvent ourselves.

After all, I cannot believe that it won´t be possible to have a place again where the excess is at home for Sapio sexual people. 

BERLIN BOUNCER copyright Ben de Biel
BERLIN BOUNCER copyright Ben de Biel

Are there any favourite experiences or club memories you both had while working?

Smiley: Actually what I love is when sooo many people come to me and tell me about their first encounter with me. It is difficult for me to remember because I have so many of those. But they remember because it gave them a lasting impression. Even the people who say I didn’t let them in say I was very friendly and respectful. 

Frank: Every day was special.

Where do you see each other in Berlin in 10 years from now? 

Smiley: Wow!!!  I am hoping that negative politics and new Berlin arrivals won’t kill the vibrancy and living hard. I hope that the creative spirit will continue to grow and keep growing. For youth culture, I am hoping for new ideas and new ways to present them. If I am blessed to witness the next 10 years I will hope that someone of my team will keep on doing my work the way I showed them through my example. 

Frank: Right here … where I am now …

in der Perspektive Deutsches Kino der 69. Berlinale 2019

Buch & Regie: David Dietl

Mit Sven Marquardt, Frank Künster und Smiley Baldwin Produktion: Flare Film


10.02. – 22:30 Uhr – CinemaxX Berlin 1 (Weltpremiere)
11.02. – 22:00 Uhr – UCI Deutschland 1
16.02. – 20:00 Uhr – CinemaxX Berlin 1



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Author: Esther Harrison