In Berlin, almost everyone knows the name Smiley. Over the years, the smiling bouncer has become an integral part of the Berlin party scene: For decades he’s been one of the curators of the capital's nightlife and has decided on who’s allowed to get involved in the evening’s activities and who isn’t. Coming from the US to Berlin with the military in the 80s, Smiley was the bouncer for clubs like Delicious Doughnuts in Mitte and that way put his mark on and participated in the cultural awakening after the fall of communism in Germany. Today, Smiley leads his own security firm and mediates bouncers to cultural events of any kind.
Now, the German director David Dietl accompanied Smiley, along with two other famous bouncers, Sven Marquardt of Berghain and Frank Künster from the King Size Bar, for his film Berlin Bouncer and gives a deeper insight into the otherwise so secretive business.
In our interview Smiley discusses the change of the city of Berlin, places of calm and of uproar and what his unu Scooter enables him to do – because for over three years, Smiley’s mainly been getting around the city on our scooter.
In the movie Berlin Bouncer we learn that you came to West Berlin with the military in the 1980s. How exactly did you end up working as a bouncer?
I’ve never had the ambition to work in the security business – I mean working in the one place where I spent my free time, but it just sort of happened that way: I got an offer to do the door at Mitte Bar at a decisive moment. The rest is history.
And how did you meet David Dietl, the director of the movie?
I got to know David via Daniel Best. He’s one of the leading people behind Jazzanova, Sonarkollektiv and is also a DJ. Daniel has a huge network in the arts scene. I was doing the door at his events, so it was natural that I got to know a variety of artists. That’s how I met David.
Your attitude towards the job is drastically different to other bouncers in the city – it is also reflected in your name. Can you explain your philosophy of being a bouncer to us?
I’ve often asked myself this question in hindsight:
In retrospect, it's a question that I've often asked myself: "If I enter this profession, it won't get me anywhere if I have the same product or the same way the guys at the other doors of the clubs in the city do it. So I chose the opposite. That means to be positive, respectful, friendly but determined and to give the guests a good feeling on their way despite the refusal of admission. Smiley on Steroids, so to say.
In Berlin Bouncer, viewers get an insight into your work in Berlin’s lively nightlife – where do you find some calm?
I spend my free time with the people that mean something to me. And I read a lot.
You’ve seen Berlin drastically change throughout the last couple of decades, which also is one of the major topics of the movie - what is it that you still value about the city and what do you miss, that might have disappeared?
I’ve always appreciated Berlin’s creative power and it looks like the youth always brings new impulses. I hope that this creativity will not be guided by economic or political interests and that art will not become a victim of commerce.
Which places in today’s Berlin inspire you the most?
Since we work all over Berlin, we’re always surprised that the city is bursting with creativity in supposedly unexcited corners of the city, and that the city is thus confirmed time and again in its uniqueness. Today Neukölln, tomorrow Moabit, then Weißensee and so on. So I would say that I’m inspired by Berlin as a whole.
In the film, you’re riding around the city on your unu Scooter a lot. What made you choose an unu Scooter as your vehicle?
The possibility to move through the city without exhaust fumes or noise, the beautiful design (black suits me very well) and of course to get from A to B fast and without the annoying parking problem in the evening. As luck would have it, I was working on a job for Arun Markus about four years ago, when the scooter was introduced and I fell in love with this scooter at first sight.
How has your scooter changed your daily routine? And what does it enable you to do?
When the weather permits, I really only use my scooter. This saves me time, fuel and I experience the city differently - à la right in the throng of it and not just on the sidelines.
Are there places you visit more frequently because you can reach them easier with your scooter?
My travel time to jobs is considerably shorter and I am quicker on the spot for short-term enquiries. All in all, I have become more flexible - both privately and professionally.
Thank you, Smiley Baldwin for this exciting interview.
On the occasion of the cinema launch of Berlin Bouncer we’re giving away 3x two cinema tickets in Germany for you and a friend. And this is how it works: Follow us and Berlin Bouncer on Instagram and leave a comment on this Instagram Post. The three winners will be notified via Instagram messages on 11.04.*
* Terms & Conditions:
The competition is organised by unu GmbH, Tempelhofer Ufer 17, 10963 Berlin, Germany.
Persons who are at least 18 years old and reside in Germany are eligible to participate. Employees of the organisers and their immediate family members (spouse, parents, children) living in their households are excluded from participation. Participation is free of charge and independent of the purchase of goods or services.
Action period and game instructions:
The participation period begins on 03.04.2019 00:00 CET and ends on 10.04.2019 24:00 CET. Participation is by leaving a comment on this Instagram Post (LINK), as well as additionally following @unu and @berlinbouncer on Instagram. Each participant may only participate once. This also applies if he has several Instagram accounts.
The winner gets two cinema tickets for the film Berlin Bouncer. The free tickets can be redeemed in all German cinemas from 11.04.2019 during all regular screenings, excluding the cinemas of the CineStar Group. This does not apply to sold-out screenings. If the film is no longer in the cinema programme, there is no entitlement to compensation. The payment of the admission price or the sale of this free ticket is not permitted.
Determination and announcement of the winner:
The determination of the three (3) winners will take place on 11.14.2019 among all participants who have left a comment up to this moment, at random using a number generator. The winners will be informed of their prize by Instagram message by 12.11.2019, 18:00 CET and asked to provide the organisers with their name, postal address and telephone number in order to receive the prize.The winners must report to the organizers by 15.04.2018 12:00 CET. Otherwise the prize will be forfeited and the organisers are entitled not to award the prize.
As far as personal data (name, surname, date of birth, postal address, email address) of participants are collected within the scope of the competition, these are collected, processed and used by the organizers exclusively for the purpose of carrying out the competition. The data will be treated absolutely confidential.
The responsibility of the organisers for abusive behaviour of a participant, in particular insults or false allegations of facts in the competition, is excluded.Apart from liability within the scope of the Product Liability Act, liability for intentional or grossly negligent acts as well as for injury to life, body and health, the organizers only assume liability for the violation of a cardinal obligation. Cardinal obligations are those obligations whose fulfilment makes the execution of the contract possible in the first place and whose observance the participant can usually expect. In the case of slight negligence, the participant's claim for damages is limited to the damage that usually arises within the scope of the execution of this type of contract.The organisers reserve the right to exclude a participant from the competition in the event of irregular conduct.
Exclusion of legal recourse:
These Conditions of Participation are subject to the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany.The organisers reserve the right to exclude a participant from the competition in the event of irregular conduct.The Organisers are not obliged and are not prepared to participate in dispute resolution proceedings before a consumer arbitration body.Legal recourse is excluded.