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What Katie Did Next: In which I leave my alter ego at the door


Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

I generally avoid any club that operates an elitist door policy. Or worse, any club that separates the civilians from the so-called celebrities.

Elitist clubs are for those that want to be in the company of other people with double-barrelled names, or surrounded by other women with double D breasts. Well, all bar one.

Berghain in Berlin is reputed to be one of the best techno clubs in the world. It also has the dubious reputation of operating one of the most stringent door policies in clubland. It's housed in a sprawling grey building that looks like a concentration camp, manned by merciless doormen.

I'd heard all the stories. This is a club that you don't arrive to before 6am, or leave before putting in a 24-hour shift.

I was told about the epic sound system, the dark rooms for sexual shenanigans and the lack of mirrors and reflective surfaces.

And of course I was told about the door policy where nein means nein. The doormen turn away as many people as they let in and it has nothing to do with wearing trainers or having had too much to drink. It's about your attitude.

There are entire internet forums dedicated to the Berghain door policy.

Most punters suggest that you leave the glitter and glitz at home and instead wear all black. Others advise keeping schtum and looking miserable while queuing.

Some sites suggest looking "more gay", although I know of two heterosexual men that held hands during the three-hour long wait in the queue only to be turned away.

So why bother? Well, once inside there are no velvet ropes or VIP structures and the best club in the world awaits.

So when my long-distance lover and his pals suggested a trip to Berghain it was with an emphatic "ja" that I agreed to come along and face abject humiliation with a group of people I barely knew.

Thankfully that wasn't how it panned out. Something happened that morning - the group unravelled and, with no warning, began to taxi out to the club in ones and twos. They arrived back just as promptly.

I was walking home from a 24-hour pizzeria when I encountered the first casualty. He was standing on the other side of the street. Somehow he didn't look as tall as I remembered. "I didn't get in," he said meekly. It was a lonely sight, but not enough to dissuade us from soldiering on.

A queue was forming to the left of the door when we arrived but I decided to avoid it and instead stood right in front of the firing line. Himself waited in the queue. He later told me that he tried again and again to signal to me but I was too busy eyeballing the bouncers with my very best badass look.

I was pretty sure it worked but when himself eventually stood in front of the bouncers he was rejected, probably because he was earlier seen fraternising with the local lunatic.

"We were in!" I whispered as we shuffled along. "I had that situation under control."

"You didn't even get into the queue!" he railed. "We're supposed to be a team and you wouldn't even get into the queue with me."

This was serious. I couldn't leave my ego in Berlin. We had to regroup.

"When I say I have a situation under control, I have a situation under control," I told him. "Well you need to communicate that," he retorted. "And besides, you're not as slick as you think." Ouch.

One hour and two very bruised egos later, we were back in front of the firing squad.

I opted for a different tack this time. I lowered my hoodie in mock deference when I approached and tried my best to convey the right mix of submission and dominance.

My ego shattered into a million pieces as they looked me up and down and I was ecstatic when one of them finally asked me how many were in my group.

"Zwei," I answered before walking towards the door. I was met with the palm of his hand. Not so fast. Apparently my ego hadn't been dismantled enough.

They stayed staring at me, taking in my trainers and my leggings and my satin bomber jacket. And then they turned their backs on me to have a little chat about what sounded like a local football tournament.

Was this a test? Was I supposed to walk away? Or remind them that I was still standing there?

It was a good three minutes before they turned around, smiled and waved us in. I tried not to sound as pitifully grateful as I was when I said "danke".

So is it worth it? In a word, yes. One hundred times yes. As I ascended the stairs I heard a woman scream "Yeeeeeeeeah" and then realised that woman was me.


All the elements - the music, the lights, the people - are in sync. Everything resonates at the same frequency and the labyrinthine layout of the club amplifies the flow of energy.

I can't quite work out if the doormen turn away people who are lacking in energy or if they simply let any old punter in knowing that entry will energise them.

What I do know is that I didn't encounter any of the types that ruin a club experience. Men that pinch arses? Nein. Women that cry in the bathroom? Nein. Men that dance aggressively? Nein. Women that spend the night looking for their handbag? Nein.

The door policy is certainly divisive but I can't help but conclude that they're onto something. It's the Higgs boson of rave and I'll gladly put my ego on the line for it.

'This was serious. I couldn't leave my ego in Berlin'