His two films, Nights in Black Leather (1973) and That Boy (1974) (credited in the latter as Peter Burian), played to packed houses for years and, along with other pioneering erotic filmmakers such as Wakefield Poole and Jack Deveau, helped bring gay male erotic films artistic legitimacy.
He was the second of the three children (a sister Mirna and a brother Reinhold who died in 1970 in a car crash) of Eduard Baron von Hoyningen-Huene and his wife Marion, 20 years old at the time of his birth. He was born in Łódź, Poland, and grew up in Berlin, Germany. The extended family included the American fashion photographer George Hoyningen-Huene.
He received post-secondary education in Germany as a photo-technician. In his early 20s, he worked as a photographer for an interview program on German television, photographing some of Europe's biggest celebrities and film stars.
Berlin designed and sewed all of his clothing without a pattern. He also was a painter and illustrator. He began photographing himself in erotic poses and making skin-tight clothes to wear as he cruised the parks and train stations of Berlin, the streets of Rome, Paris, New York and San Francisco.
by Robert Mapplethorpe
by Tom of Finland
In the early 1970s, Berlin moved to San Francisco and became a fixture on the streets with his highly suggestive clothing and constant cruising. He collaborated with friend Richard Abel on a 16 mm hard-core porn film entitled Nights in Black Leather (1973) in which he played the lead role. Berlin's poster for the film helped make Nights in Black Leather an underground hit.
As a follow-up, Berlin directed, produced, wrote, and starred in That Boy (1974), another successful film. He also made four short films in the mid- to late-1970s, which were primarily sold as 8 mm "loops" by mail order. His self-portraits were published and sold. He was also the subject of several Robert Mapplethorpe photographs, five drawings by Tom of Finland, and at least one photograph by Andy Warhol. Two Robert Mapplethorpe Polaroid images of Berlin can be seen in the 2008 book, Mapplethorpe: Polaroids, and the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition of the same name. Some of his famous friends were Salvador and Gala Dali, Warhol, New York fashion designer Koos, and painter Jochen Labriola. He was acquainted with ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev.
Berlin's photographs and artwork have been exhibited around the world, including the exhibition "Split/Vision" (New York, 1986), curated by Mapplethorpe, and in the exhibition "Berlin on Berlin" (2006) at the Leslie Lohman Gallery in New York.
Although he retreated from the limelight in the 1980s, he continues to make videos of himself and lives quietly in San Francisco, where he is still frequently recognized on the streets.
He was trained in Germany as a photo technician in the 1960s.
In 2005, filmmaker and writer Jim Tushinski directed and co-produced (with Lawrence Helman), the feature-length documentary That Man: Peter Berlin, which began a resurgence of interest in Berlin's works. The documentary premiered at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival and garnered several awards at film festivals worldwide, reconnecting Berlin with his older fans and introducing him to a new generation. In 2006, Berlin launched a web site devoted to his work.
That Man: Peter Berlin (2005)
Actors: Jim Tushinski, John Waters, Armistead Maupin
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Water Bearer Films
DVD Release Date: June 13, 2006
Amazon: That Man: Peter Berlin (2005)
Filmmaker Jim Tushinski traces the life of the artist who was the gay poster boy for the hedonistic and sexually liberated 70s. Extras include deleted scenes, interviews, director's commentary, photo gallery, and cast and crew bios.
More LGBT History at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Persistent Voices
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