Saturday, January 17, 2009

How David Hasselhoff Saved the World

I thought I'd post a brief history of the Berlin Wall--about it's sudden overnight construction and its equally sudden fall--but then I realized that, although the story could be a fascinating one, there is no way for me to make it brief. Instead, I'll share one of the more random and lesser known bits of Berlin history.

The photo above -- DAVID HASSELHOFF SAVED THE WORLD -- is a message tagged on buildings, walls, and other graffiti-covered surfaces (of which there are many!) around Berlin. If you were to notice it walking by, you might chuckle to yourself about the unusual popularity of David Hasselhoff in the German-speaking world, but you probably wouldn't think twice about it.

By the time the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, David Hasselhoff was already an extremely popular singer in Germany and Austria, and his newest ballad Looking for Freedom had already been the #1 hit in West Germany for several weeks. With lyrics such as, "I've been lookin' for freedom; I've been lookin' so long; I've been lookin' for freedom; still the search goes on," it's no wonder that the song spoke into the hearts of a nearly reunified Germany. Hasselhoff was invited to play a concert at the Brandenburg Gate on New Year's Eve of 1989, where he belted out the hit atop a partially demolished Berlin Wall to nearly a million East and West German fans.

Later, Hasselhoff remarked on this event in an interview with the German magazine TV Spielfilm on a publicity tour through Germany, saying he felt he'd moved people on both sides of the wall...admitting, however, that very few of the East Germans could speak or understand English. Feeling that his performance helped unite the East and West Germans in attendance at the New Year's Eve concert -- thus leading to the reunification of Germany, which just happened to coincide with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War -- he told the reporters: "I find it a bit sad that there is no photo of me hanging on the walls in the Berlin Museum at Checkpoint Charlie." Indeed, he was deeply moved by the experience himself: "After my appearance I hacked away at pieces of the wall that had the black, red and yellow colours of the German flag on it. I kept the big piece for myself and gave the smaller pieces to colleagues at Baywatch."

By highlighting his own important role in the reunification of Germany, and consequently the end of the Cold War, David Hasselhoff tells us -- in his own words -- how he saved the world. ...And maybe that does deserve a photo in the Checkpoint Charlie Museum after all...

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