That Man: Peter Berlin Reel Affirmations 15: Washington DC Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

Date: Sunday, 10/16/2005
Time: 12:00 pm

Venue: DCJCC
Tickets: $9 Buy tickets online

Type: Feature presentation

Metro Weekly Rating: (3 out of 5)

by Sean Bugg

IN THE BEGINNING, there was the bulge. It was legendary from the public parks of Berlin, to the hipster lofts of New York, and to the newly liberated streets of San Francisco.

Even a passing familiarity with the history of gay porn would include the name Peter Berlin, whose iconic self-portraits and brazen sexuality helped define the erotic ethos of the '70s. Of course, many have presumed him dead, as so many of the original porn superstars. But he's alive and well in San Francisco, where he has allowed director Jim Tushinski access to his life to try to understand his role in gay culture.

''I was amazed how little one has to do to be picked up by the press,'' says Berlin of his self-made fame. Haunting the streets in his trademark skintight white pants - which he still sports at 60-years-old -- he created a gay sexuality of exhibitionism and voyeurism. To hear him, and others, tell it, he was never cruising for the sex, he was cruising for the looks.

Watching the aged Berlin hold court in his knick-knack filled apartment where every wall is jam-packed with photos and paintings and prints of the artist, it's hard not to see narcissism as his primary motivator. Tushinski delves into many aspects of Berlin's life -- the final story of the death of Berlin's partner of 20 years is moving -- but skims too quickly over other topics. In fact, in a chapter ostensibly devoted to drugs you get an almost offhand dismissal of the topic by Berlin. One senses there were places the icon did not allow opened.

While Berlin himself can be off-puttingly self-centered, occasional commentary from others highlight his historic role and provide much needed context. Armistead Maupin provides a telling anecdote about encountering Berlin in one of San Francisco's cruisiest locations. John Waters steals the show with his on-target observations of watching Berlin stalk the streets: ''It was like Dinah Shore with a hard-on with that hair.''

Is the reclusive Berlin the Garbo of gay pornography? That Man: Peter Berlin doesn't quite have enough heft to make that case. But for connoisseurs of gay porn, it may be required viewing.

More information

Film Links:
· Reel Affirmations details
· Internet Movie Database
· Rotten Tomatoes

Festival Venue:
Cecile Goldman Theater at the DCJCC
1529 16th Street, NW; Washington, DC 20009. (202) 518-9400. (map)
3 blocks east of Red Line Metro / Dupont Circle station.

You may buy your tickets or passes in advance: Online at or by phone at (800) 494-TIXS (494-8497). Or you may visit the Lincoln Theatre (1215 U Street, NW, WDC); the DCJCC (1529 16th Street, NW, WDC); Lambda Rising (1625 Connecticut Avenue, NW, WDC); or Universal Gear (1601 17th Street, NW, WDC).

For more info visit the official Reel Affirmations website.