“Rex Gildo – The Last Dance” in the cinema: The gay hit star – culture

Rosa von Praunheim, director, activist and doyen of the German gay movement, is a notoriously curious person. At a meeting a few years ago in Berlin, for example, the idea of ​​interviewing him was natural, they had scribbled a whole pad of questions for it; but Praunheim asked at least as many questions. He likes to talk a lot, sometimes about things that other people would rather not talk about. A good thirty years ago, for example, he outed celebrities like Hape Kerkeling and Alfred Biolek as homosexual on a television show. At the time, the men affected did not go down well with that, even if Kerkeling and Biolek later spoke in a forgiving manner about the incident.

Other celebrities remained uncommitted for the time being, some until the end of their lives. Rex Gildo, for example. The pop singer and actor was a superstar of the 1960s and 1970s. He sang, danced, sold 40 million records and acted in many entertainment films. There was always speculation about his alleged homosexuality. He was officially married, but to his cousin. Unofficially he and his manager Fred Miekley were probably a couple.

“Did you have sex with Rex?”: In his film, Rosa von Praunheim is primarily interested in one thing

The much older Miekley discovered the salesman, who was born Ludwig Franz Hirtreiter in Straubing, Lower Bavaria, in the mid-1950s, and from then on he was to accompany him through life as his “uncle”. Fred Miekley died in 1988, when his protégé’s decline had already begun. The tabloids poked fun at the aging “Sexy Rexy,” who wore a jet-black toupee and had alcohol and drug problems. In recent years he has performed in hardware stores and furniture stores. He died in October 1999 after falling out of the window of his Munich apartment. He was 63 years old.

An exemplary Praunheim figure, which is why the director made a film about him: “Rex Gildo – The Last Dance” is a docudrama about a German hit life. It’s about the mendacity of an industry that played West German society exactly what they expected of it. Their stars lived in an ideal world, were friendly and always smiled, were not allowed to age or be different.

But it is also about Rosa von Praunheim herself, as in almost all of his films. In this way, he links his own biography with that of Rex Gildo, who is only a few years his senior. In his youth, he often celebrated to his music, he once said. As a student, he almost got arrested for being gay. Sexual acts between men were still punishable, paragraph 175 was only relaxed in 1969. At that time, not only gay pop singers should have led a double life.

Still, you can’t deny a certain fixation on this topic, the director is only marginally interested in Rex Gildo’s career. He met many colleagues and asked them many questions. “Did you have sex with Rex?” He wants to know about the singer Gitte Hænning. But she just laughs and shakes her head.

And then there are the three women dressed all in black who are said to be his biggest fans and perform like a chorus from ancient Greece. They connect the various elements of the film: sometimes they appear at real locations such as the grave of their idol in Munich’s Ostfriedhof, sometimes they disrupt the shooting when the young Rex and his discoverer (Kilian Berger and Ben Becker) are lying in a bed together. “The scene has been deleted,” they complain. And when they identify the person responsible on the director’s chair: “Rosa von Praunheim, you are an old pig!”

He doesn’t seem to have lost his desire for trash, scandal and provocation – which is also an achievement more than 50 years after his probably best-known film “Not the homosexual is perverse, but the situation in which he lives”. Whether he can still cause a riot with a film about a dead pop singer is perhaps questionable; whether anything has really changed in this industry, but much more questionable. There is still a lot of material for Praunheim, who turns 80 in November.

Rex Gildo – The Last Dance, Germany 2022 – Director: Rosa von Praunheim. With: Kilian Berger, Ben Becker, Kai Schumann. 88 minutes, Missing Films. Theatrical release: September 29, 2022.

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