Gay men of a certain age will likely recall Peter Berlin as a unique — I would argue singular — sex icon of a bygone era. With his unique bowl cut-and-basket combo (John Waters once snarked he was Dinah Shore with a bulge), his tall and lanky frame, and his Tom of Finland-esque vibe, Berlin stood out in porn magazines and, eventually, non-porn magazines as a quirky mix of sexy and cheeky.
How nice that such a defiant emblem turns out to have survived the plague and is today a 76-year-old working artist — one with a new book …
I popped by the signing for Berlin's Peter Berlin: Icon, Artist, Photosexual (Damiani, $50) Thursday night at Bookmarc, discovering him holding court as a mix of leathermen and 50-and-fab fans anxiously posed for photos with him.
I told Berlin I was a fan from way back, to which he said he went even further back, playfully posing with and without a Peter Berlin mask. “It's funny,” he explained, with a Warholian drollness.
I wish I could have stayed longer — those who did received champagne — but I was mainly thrilled to have made the journey. He's a character, and his book is a revelation of who he really is and what he's about, offering countless images of and/or by Berlin, an interview, a meaty bio and a rumination by Jonathan Katz about the imaginary-seeming creature who is piled into (or artfully out of) skintight pants throughout. It even includes movie stills, helping to make it the definitive statement on the artist's life and impact.