B.look at the clock, 15, no, 20 minutes have passed, and that thing, that much is clear, the author of these lines has now completely hit the thing against the wall. Nervous smile, hello waitress, another cappuccino, please, thank you very much. Take a deep breath. Think. How do you get out of this thing now? So here we are, Wolfgang Bahro, the Phantom and me. It is a sunny Wednesday afternoon in late autumn in West Berlin, the lockdown is still a simulation game, and we are surrounded by older, but very proud women, probably none of them falls below 75, covered with coffee and cake, on offer today: Black Forest cherry.
Bahro chose the café. The plan I had made for myself, the plan that has completely collapsed in the past 20 minutes, but Wolfgang Bahro, who smiles, tilts his head a little and waits for things to come. After all.
So the unspoken plan was to have a conversation with the 60-year-old German actor that only revolved around Wolfgang Bahro. A conversation about acting, pop culture, maybe a bit of “Star Trek”, because Bahro is a big “Star Trek” fan, as Bahro says about Bahro. In short, it should be a conversation about everything. About everything, just not Gerner. Didn’t work. And here we are now with the phantom, which also sat down a good 20, no 21 minutes ago.
Because the thing is: When you sit at a table with Bahro, then there is never just Wolfgang Bahro, then there is always Hans-Joachim “Jo” Gerner, his parade, no, his role in life. Jo Gerner, permanent character in “Gute Zeiten, Bad Zeiten”, specialist lawyer for everything, opponent of virtually everyone, personified antagonist and, yes, you don’t really like to use this word, but you have to: TV authority.
There are probably very few Germans who have never seen this man anywhere, whether they have watched “GZSZ” or not. And of such pop celebrity faces, there are not very many in the German cultural landscape: Dieter Bohlen, Til Schweiger and, yes, Wolfgang Bahro. So, so the thought, it would be interesting to separate people from their roles, to consider them for themselves, not, as always, to come back to the obvious: How much Gerner is in Bahro and what does Bahro think of himself in Gerner? Not even to talk about the phantom at the table.
The soap increases the intensity of human life
But that doesn’t work, because Gerner automatically sneaks into the conversation with Bahro. Here, Bahro suddenly says, very close by, an elderly lady spoke to him once. Oh, I said, that’s you. Yes, yes, she recognized him right away. Great, really great, she thinks it is. Every evening she was on time in front of the television, quarter to eight, RTL, Monday to Friday. A matter of honor. But, among us, you’re not really a lawyer, are you? No, said Bahro, just an actor. No, it just doesn’t work. Gladly always sits at the table.
You could think that Bahro should slowly get tired of this Gerner, but he should have had enough of being asked again and again about this role, the role with which he is identified, the role that is reflected in the pop culture consciousness of Branded nation. Doesn’t an actor want to be more than just the one character he’s played for 27 years? He doesn’t want to. Or to put it another way: he doesn’t really care. “It’s not that I’m bored with the role. How could she? “
The life story of Jo Gerner, Bahro gets together in broad outline, but not in detail. Completely impossible, that is simply too much, also for his book, his autobiography (“Always Gerner”, Riva), which he recently published, he had to do another research on the Internet, in the so-called “GZSZ” wiki, where the fans carefully and factually archive all events.
That is also sorely needed, because a daily soap has a different time calculation than our reality, a soap increases the intensity of a human life, brings a day, sometimes even a fate, to less than 30 minutes. In just a few episodes, things happen to the characters that happen to real people at most in their entire life: love, cheating, marriage, separation, illness, unwanted pregnancies, concealed pregnancies, aborted pregnancies, murder, incest, death, scandal, scandal, scandal. Everything always there, everything always at the same time, everything drama and he in the middle: Jo Gerner, mostly the driving force behind the intrigues that keep the script going.
GZSZ also wrote German television history
The story of Wolfgang Bahro, on the other hand, can be told in a much more straightforward manner. He does that, neatly sorted into 25 chapters on 225 pages, so let’s start at the very beginning: Born in 1960 in West Berlin, sheltered childhood, applied to a TV casting while still at school in the hope of meeting beautiful girls, and then became an actor.
He played cabaret, classical theater, then television films, all very German films, ZDF productions and in 1993, for episode 185, he came up with “Gute Zeiten, Bad Zeiten”, which is not an originally German format, there was in the Netherlands already had the series “Goede tijden, slechte tijden”, but what then became of “GZSZ” was quite German.
“I’ve always been a fan of American pop culture,” says Bahro, “but I never found the idea of wanting to copy it with German productions appealing.” Not least because such productions were doomed to failure from the start, simply, because German film never had the technology, the know-how and above all the budget to match Hollywood. And anytime you tried to look like Hollywood, it ended up just looking like a cheap copy of Hollywood.
Perhaps there were only four real moments in German post-war history in which one could develop a real signature, an independent aesthetic-visual film signature: in German Heimatfilm, in New German Film, in Til Schweiger romance comedies – and in daily soaps such as “ GZSZ “. Sure, you can look down from the columnist ivory tower at the exaggerated reality of a daily soap, but you could see it very differently from a cultural anthropological perspective.
Jo Gerner can also be found once again in a rap video
Anyone in Germany, if not Wolfgang Bahro, has ever before consistently developed a single role over 27 years, day after day, week after week, from the stereotypical, scheming lawyer figure to a much more complex character, to a figure that also once Showing weaknesses and, yes, even tears?
Who, besides Wolfgang Bahro, has created a character in Germany who has outgrown its original role so much? Because he’s not only Gerner in the “GZSZ” universe, but also on the street, he plays his role by invitation in a Joko and Klaas sketch or in a music video by rapper Shindy. If you will, what Wolfgang Bahro has created with Jo Gerner is the largest, ongoing acting experiment in German film.
And that’s why, back in the café – the ladies have meanwhile left – that’s why, you could say, it’s okay that Jo Gerner’s Phantom was also sitting at the table alongside Bahro. Because, of course, without Bahro there would be no Gerner, at least not this one, but without Gerner, Bahro wouldn’t be who he is today either. And at the very end, Bahro is also doing the author a favor and briefly talking about “Star Trek” because he has a nice “Star Trek” anecdote ready.
Once, in May 1999, he was at one of the famous “Star Trek” conventions, and there he had the opportunity to meet Leonard Nimoy, the actor who, like him, is identified much more with his famous role: with the of Mister Spock. Bahro, a big Spock fan, really wanted to interview him, so he tried a little Gerner audacity, ignored the press agent, just caught the actor backstage and told him he was a famous german actor be what he is, because he has almost a higher celebrity status than the “Star Trek” celebrities.
But Nimoy just raised his famous Spock eyebrow and flashed him freezing. Jo Gerner would probably have pulled out all the stops and threaded some interstellar intrigue against Spock. Wolfgang Bahro, however, was left disappointed. At that moment he was just completely human and no longer a role at all.
Wolfgang Bahro with Andreas Kurz: “Gerner again and again” (Riva Verlag, 224 pages)
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