As I mentioned in the last email, Hamburg is a city with two personalities...the rich, cultured metropolis and the sordid sailor's city. Of course, we were booked into a hotel on the main strip of the Reeperbahn.
Our first night in Hamburg, we had a show to do, so by the time we checked into the hotel, there was just enough time for Betty Ann, Myself, Patrick and Michael to escape from the rest of the cast to find a steak dinner just around the corner. The Reeperbahn by day looks much like 8th Avenue in New York, except there are even more porn theaters, topless bars, sex shops. The other interesting thing is that the "legitimate" culture seems to be mixed in with the racier stuff...CATS is playing next to a strip show, (much like New York), but also all of the night clubs and trendier bars are thrown into the mix in the same neighborhood - so it's not the tourist trap that Midtown Manhattan has become...people who live in Hamburg also show up. Also, it is one of the safest parts of the city because of an extremely heightened police presence (and the police station on the Reeperbahn has a huge neon sign as gaudy as anything else on the street).
Anyhow, our show that night was just across the Elbe from the St. Pauli District, at the Buddy Holly Theater (where "Buddy" the Musical has been running for 10 years) which was built in the middle of the docks - the only way for the audience to get there is to take a ferry across the river or drive (and get lost like our tour bus did) all the way across town, over the bridge, and back though the labyrinth of the huge port district. The downside of the theater was, of course, since it had been built explicitly for "Buddy" our show was a technical nightmare, especially since they didn't clear their backstage area and we were not allowed to touch anything. There were quickchange costumes scattered all over '57 Chevy's and the lighting grid was a mess (When we came back about a week later, things were much better). The stage wasn't even ready for us to do spacing and sound check until 7:30, and we only had 15 minutes from the time we finished until they started the show -- 15 minutes late. It was a very frustrating experience, since the cast is excellent...and the only thing keeping the show from being something to be proud of are the large number of embarrassing technical gaffes.
After the show, everyone needed to go out for a drink,so after quick stops at Pizza Hut and Burger King (My first taste of America's National Cuisine in a month) we all ended up at a very comfortable feeling English pub for a few pints of stout, and then we all went to bed very shortly after that.
The next day was a day off, so I went into the main part of the city to play tourist, and do a little shopping - It truly is a beautiful city. The subway system works quickly and I was in the real part of the city in no time. I had lunch at a beautiful little cafe right on the canal (middle picture), and had my time to walk around with my tourist guide. It was also a little time away from the rest of the cast, which is greatly needed from time to time. I did my shopping ( I had been looking for a different kind of telephone jack adapter, which, obviously, now is working) and just enjoyed the sights.
After Dark, I headed back on the subway and at the St. Pauli Stop (at the start of the Reeperbahn) was a huge Carnival. There was a large roller coaster that I saw on the way into the city on the day before, so I went in for a quick ride before heading back. When I sat down in the seat, the attendant said something very quickly in German, which I did not understand. Seeing my lack of comprehension, he leaned over and took off my glasses, then walked off and started the ride. The coaster itself was good...and with no glasses, the whole effect was quite spectacular...I couldn't see the track, just the colored lights of the fair all around me.
As I was getting off, and retrieving my glasses, I heard a voice calling my name. I turned around, and Betty Ann, Johnny and Brian were getting on the coaster. I waited for them to finish, and then we spent the next 2 hours riding rides and eating various Wursts from the stalls. By far the most fun things at the fair were the Funhouses -- unlike any I have ever been on in the US (they could be liability nightmares) -- that force you to walk through an obstacle course of mirror mazes, rotating and undulating floors, slides and the like. Like everything else they do, the Germans take their fun very seriously.
On the way back from the fair, we decided to take a walk down Henrichstrasse, one block south of Reeperbahn. Both ends of this very short street are walled off with a sign that says (translated) Women Prohibited. Men under 18 Prohibited. We left BA at the gate and walked the short block. Both sides of the narrow street are lined with huge picture windows with prostitutes sitting behind the glass. As we walked down, they would tap on the glass, or open the window to call for us to sample their wares (in a manner of speaking). Since there is no "Red-Light" district in New York, I had never seen anything like it. We explained it to BA, who later on put on her hood, dressed like a man, and went down the street with a group of other men from our cast just to see it...she was spotted by a girl in the window about half way down, who promptly started screaming at her in German to get out.
Back at the hotel, a group was congregating in the lobby to go out to see some of the "local color" of the Reeperbahn. Michael Danig, our Julian Marsh, had arranged a group rate at one of the clubs showing a live sex show. Since there were about 15 of us we each would pay about $25 and that would cover our entrance fee and our two drinks. We walked in, and were surprised at how "upscale" the whole environment was. We took our places (in the front row, of course..our drinks were on lip of the stage) and the show began. The first act was a woman in a CATS costume, stripping to MEMORY in German. I was sitting next to Jamie, whose dream is to someday be in CATS, and the camp value of this had reduced her to laughing so hard she could't breathe. The acts got more and more graphic as the night went on, culminating in a Flinstones act (Fred and Wilma...figure it out). I won't go into details, but there were things I had never expected to see on a stage...
After it was over (the show lasted from midnight to 2AM, we headed back to the English pub to meet up with the rest of the cast, and compare notes. Our musicians had gone to a local Jazz club, and our trumpet player, Brian, ended up sitting in on a session and was apparently excellent. (I'm not surprised, since after soundcheck at the theaters, the band breaks out into a free-form Jam session, that our sound engineer pumps into our dressing rooms...which would really annoy me if the music wasn't so good). A number of other people had gone back across the river to see "Buddy" and had also enjoyed themselves a great deal.
I'm not quite sure what time it was when I finally made it to bed, but I woke up the next day around noon, just enough time to do my laundry, eat and make it to the bus for our excursion to Stade (apparently a quaint little port city near Hamburg, all I saw was the inside of the theater) to do the next show.
First Row: Jamie/Christine/BA: The Funky Pussy Club, Me, Amanda.Second Row: S-Bahn Stop, Christine. Third Row: Patrick, Mayumi/Pam/Angela, BA&Jamie. Fourth Row:Olympic Roller Coaster, London Pub, Hotel Monopol.