A machine-rendered application for an apartment in Berlin, with a mention of the civil servant-status and plenty of spelling mistakes. What is such a document doing at the Schwules Museum? Easy answer: the signature at the bottom is that by Frank Ripploh, actor, regisseur and German teacher. But as much as he wished for it, he never got to be a civil servant.
With his movie „Taxi zum Klo“ (German for “Taxi to the Toilet”), he rose to international fame in a swoop in 1980. Not only Germany showered the film with loving feedback, but it also gained traction in France and the USA. That this attention didn’t exclusively remain positive, is easy to understand knowing the content of the film. Ripploh succeeded in depicting the life of a gay couple, in half autiobiographic manner, with all its lows and highs, that most relationships are accustomed to – thus including the topic sexuality, the foundation of most conflicts within the film. Via funny, dry and emotional representations of the main characters, the movie evokes empathy and understanding not only amongst the homosexual audience. However, educational institutions remained unconvinced by such gay confessions.
„Taxi zum Klo“ wasn’t Ripploh’s first experience with the public. Prior, he enjoyed medial attention through other, smaller acting projects and his dia-shiw “Blutsturz oder wie ein Stern in der Nacht” (German for “Blutsturz or like a star in the night”). The show presented explicitly sexual pictures, which had to face some backlash from the audience. During the screening of this dia-show, a reporter reached out to Ripploh, thus making him part of Stern’s report “Ich bin Schwul” (German for “I am gay”).
This report led to a notice from the school he worked at, but Ripploh fought back. While being successful at first, a permanent spot was denied on basis of his chronic illness. However, he was sure that this wasn’t the true reason. So, Ripploh resigned from his occupation as a teacher, one that he attended to with passion, and pursued his passion of film in full-time.
Ripploh’s film was able to depict the relationship between two men, with all its intimacy and conflicts, like no other up to this point: in a way that didn’t focus on their gayness. Frank showed himself in his job, at some gossip over coffee, while bowling with collogues, and while having sex with men. As explicit as the scenes are, Ripploh emphasizes that there is nothing pornographic or sensational about them. They are simply basic components of Frank’s every day; along with discrimination on the basis of his sexuality.
Although Ripploh’s plan to pay young sex workers from his retirement pension didn’t quite work out, he kept producing films, stayed active in acting and wrote for magazines, while spreading his creative work. And looking at this written document and the totality of his publications, we can consider ourselves lucky he didn’t stay a German teacher.
Application letter from 1975 and stills from Ripploh’s movie “Taxi zum Klo”, Photo: Julia Heuser/SMU