Munich Exposed – Part 8

Irina Bako

Der wöchentliche Blick auf München von außen – oder: a weekly rant of a non-Münchner Mädchen.


I like the liking frenzy all around – the facebook likes, the stuff white people like, the awesomeness lists everywhere – and I shamefully submit to the pavlovian reflex of looking for a ‘like’ button next to anything remotely interesting I see/read. It’s like that other habit I got from watching NBC comedy series too much – whenever I see someone doing something stupid I instinctively look into an imaginary camera for a second or two. If anyone tries to make a survey about the most popular word in the English language, ‘like’ will surely make it to the top five. And did you know its root is actually ‘gleich’?

Since I’m a sucker for trends and I sincerely enjoy this ‘like’ phenomenon, I decided to start writing about stuff I fancy and even admire (for a change). And since ‘people’ mostly carry out ‘stuff’, what you’re about to read deals with some of the people I like (in Munich, of course.) And this first chapter is about Cleo and the Münchner rockabillies.

The idea of a feature literally surfaced when I spotted four people in a nearby U-Bahn station one evening, laughing their hearts out and looking explosively awesome. The guys had greased quiffs, the girls had bangs, ponytails and ruby red lips and they looked like they had successfully replaced walking with dancing. Bam! Were these the Halbstarke I had read about a few days earlier in and old magazine in a thrift shop? I quickly remembered there’s a mysterious store on the corner of the Lindwurmstüberl, where I had spotted some sailors and pinup girls at some point.

So I just went in.


I tend to idealize Munich in the early1950s – mostly because of the American mess in the Haus der Kunst and the jazz and rock’n’roll scenes that emerged and flourished in the city. I’m pretty sure those were some very hard but amazing years – I wonder if your grandparents would agree. The leftover furniture in all the vintage shops and the German jazz and American rock’n’roll vinyls you end up with after a successful session of crate digging are proof of an intense decade of … hmm, of what exactly? I promise I’ll get into that in a future article, I didn’t yet manage to come up with enough facts.

‘Rock’n’roll is for the heart and soul’ says Cleo as she rearranges the position of some styling products in front of the mirror of her lovely little (one-seater) hair parlor. Some uptempo boogie plays in the background, there are flower patterns everywhere and I find myself lost in the eyes of the women in the b&w pictures on the wall. ‘Yeah, we live slowly. You caught me in a bad day; I almost never wear pants’ she says, while I notice the curly letters reading Rock’n’Roll on her right arm. Surprisingly enough, even if it’s packed with retro furniture (she even has one of those cliché dome-shaped hair dryers) the place does not have a vintage feel to it. I undergo some involuntary time travel; not ironically at all, the sign outside the shop reads ‘Timeless’.

Cleo goes on telling me about a sweet 90s romance with a member of the Grease Curlies – ‘if you like something you somehow just get to meet the right people’ – and about how her grandfather used to be a real rock’n’roller. Besides doing hair and make-up she also has her own 40s inspired clothing line (which I didn’t see but I sure wish I could have) and momentarily she is split between two big decisions: whether to buy a 57 Volvo Buckel (which is a seriously cute car) or to go on a lengthy road trip.


I’m very much enjoying her company so I take the liberty of asking her every silly thing that crosses my mind. So I gradually find out what it takes to be a rockabilly and how the Munich clique spends its time. I had no idea that these people are so serious about adopting a lifestyle so different from what it would seem normal to do these days.

They drive big, old American cars, only listen and play the music of  the  American 40s and 50s, their daily lives revolve around objects from these years, they fall in love and have families and stick with their lifestyle; I’m picturing them on an everlasting quest for the perfect diner or a drive-in movie theater, because if it survived for 70 years, it surely won’t die out soon. Cleo tells me they spend their time driving around  – ‘and of course, we dance’ she adds, and then, to my request, recommends me to listen to the Domestic Bumblebees, Ronnie Dawson or to Linda Gail Lewis.

Quick facts: 59:1 is a good place for a rockabilly to be in, the rockabillies around here are probably no more than 50-60, the Smalltown Casanovas, a local band, probably managed to leave Spain by now and there are quite a few young people interested in the style and the lifestyle. Cleo blames this on Dita Von Teese and her popular pin-up girl look  – but I think that it’s mainly because it feels quite nice and it’s also convenient to be living inside a historical window. At least for a while.

After we giggled a bit about her favorite movies, which you can guess the topic of, she told me to go to the Peppermint Lounge in Gronsdorf to see Dani. Since I live how the wind blows I didn’t bother to make an appointment and I just went there – I had to give it a look. It turned out to be exactly what I was expecting. I was expecting a local Tiki-themed suburban pub with a relaxed atmosphere and it turned out to be just like that. Had it not been for the football game, I could’ve snapped a few shots.

The Speisekarte was pretty awesome – or at least it sounded that way. I mean who would say no to Awakadeeawakadoo Käsespätzle, Tricky Dicky Schinkennudeln or a Hipsville Salat, huh. But I didn’t meet Dani, although her mom was pretty nice – she was a real bartender for what I could tell. It’s hard to concentrate bits and pieces of Polynesia into a local Bavarian Kneipe but the intention was definitely the right one. There’s also a shell-shaped stage in a corner – I imagine that when there are crinolines spinning and sweat is dripping from all that swinging the place looks completely different.

What surprised me was that the people inside this colorful little bar were not staring. They hardly even budged when we arrived and that felt nice. Also, the road to the Peppermint Lounge was paved with hot rods – the boyfriend took a great photo of this Pontiac Firebird, which was as long and wide as 6 Smarts parked in tic-tac-toe positions.  I also saw this huge cream Cadillac, which totally made me replace all my words with ‘wow’ for a minute there.

So that was mighty fine and I got to enter a subcultural niche for a little while; since I still didn’t learn the secret to amazing hair I’ll head back to Cleo soon to investigate some more. I’ll leave you now because the cat is in heat and screaming, the neighbors are drilling, it’s sunny outside and in a couple of hours I’ll get to see my favorite act ever, WHY? at the Feierwerk. See you next week, hopefully with a good story about the old days.

Cheerios, daddy-o-s!



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