“How to get into Berghain” is the omnipresent question for first-timers visiting the legendary Berlin nightclub. Joining the ranks of these sweaty, nervous newcomers this week was a very unlikely figure: Elon Musk, the richest man in the world. But did the Tesla founder and father of Grimes’s children get rejected at the door, or did he actually refuse to enter the techno club, as he claimed on social media?
Musk, who just bought a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter, has clearly been enjoying himself in the German capital. According to breathlessly reported accounts in The Times and other publications, he has “dived into Berlin’s famed fetish and electronic music scene” on his visit to the European city, including a visit to KitKatClub, better known as the city’s most notorious techno sex club, and the labyrinthine warehouse club Sisyphos, where he was spotted in a Zorro mask.
But the real question remains: Did the billionaire get into Berghain?
“They wrote PEACE on the wall at Berghain!” Musk tweeted at 3.51AM on Sunday morning. “I refused enter [sic].” Around three hours later, he elaborated on the incident. “Peace. Peace? I hate the word,” he said, quoting a line from Romeo & Juliet, adding: “Those who do care about peace (myself aspirationally included) don’t need to hear it. And those who don’t care about peace? Well…”
Based on these tweets, Musk at least saw the outside of Berghain. The PEACE sign is a relatively new addition that currently stretches across the outside of the club in stark black and white lettering – you can see it in this Instagram post from French DJ Miss Kittin, who played the upstairs space of Panorama Bar over the weekend.
The PEACE sign is the first thing you see as you walk up to the imposing concrete building, originally a post-war heating plant. The letters of the sign are almost as tall as the top floor windows. But did the sign send Musk into a rage that made him leave the queue? Or was he, as multiple social media users and publications have since speculated, simply turned away at the entrance?
Berghain declined to comment for this story. The club has a strict policy of not discussing anything that happens there, which, given the kind of things that happen in its darkroom, kind of makes sense. So where does that leave our billionaire playboy?
Playful magazine founder Filip Sandström Beijer was there on the night but didn’t spot Musk. “It's always hard to predict who's gonna come in and not,” Beijer tells VICE. “It depends on the door crew's gut feeling of you. But our advice for Elon is to not come together with a big group, and then don't care too much about the rumours of a strict dress code. Just be yourself Elon, and it will be up to the guys and girls at the door to decide on your future.”
Though Beijer told VICE that there was “nothing special” about the number of people who got turned away that night, a clubber on Reddit who waited around an hour and 45 minutes to get in says that the “rejection rate was quite high”. If Musk really did attempt to get into the club around the time of his tweet, he would have been going at the worst possible time for a non-regular.
“Any crash course in Berlin nightlife will start with a lesson on peak hours,” VICE writer Catherine Fields noted in this piece on spending 24 hours in Berghain. “While Friday and Saturday nights are prime time in the US, Berliners seem to consider any time between 10 PM and 6 or 7 AM touristy.”
Musk also would have waited for a not-inconsiderable amount of time, as you can typically wait for hours in the Berghain queue at peak times. That’s not to be sneezed at, given historic weather data shows that temperatures plunged to minus three degrees in Berlin that night. Does a man worth $273bn like to wait in the cold? I mean, does anybody? Musk could be forgiven for taking one look at the queue and peacing out. Hey, it happens to the best of us.
On Reddit, however, a user on the /r/berlin forum named KaspersLunita said that Musk actually made it to the front of the queue – only to get turned away. “Today he got rejected at Berghain door!” they posted on Sunday. When asked for confirmation by another user, they replied: “I saw it.” They told VICE over Reddit DMs that they saw Musk rejected by none other than Sven Marquardt himself, Berghain’s imposing and heavily tattooed head bouncer.
“Musk recently built one of his ‘gigafactories’ here in Berlin, behaved extremely arrogant and ignorant when it came to the needs of environment, nature and the people of this city,” KaspersLunita said. “Arrogance and ignorance are both attributes real Berliners can’t stand, including Sven.”
At the end of March, Musk opened the first Tesla manufacturing facility in Europe – Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg, some kilometers away from the capital, where he was seen dancing alongside the first German-made cars to roll off the manufacturing line. Environmental activists have long opposed its construction, pointing to the potential strain on the local water supply and wildlife.
Musk would not have been the first person to have been rejected from Berghain, where entry policy is so legendarily tough that it has inspired simulators and satirical card games. Most attendees are simply judged on appearance and vibe alone. And, as Marquadt put it in an GQ interview: “The club evolved from the gay scene in Berlin in the 90s. It’s important to me we preserve some of that heritage, that it still feels like a welcoming place for the original sort of club-goers.”
Does the richest man in the world have a good vibe? Debatable. But judging from his choice of casual clothing on Instagram, the man tends to favour plain T-shirts, loose-fitting jeans and expensive trainers (see: the Yeezy 500 High Slates he wore to hang with Ye). Now take a look at these photos of Berghain ravers coming out of the club – even the most casually dressed person among them is in a leather trench and has dyed blue hair. Let’s just say: The odds did not look good for Musk. And if he was wearing his Zorro mask? Probably even worse.
Musk and some of his friends did run an illegal nightclub out of a frat house when he studied at the University of Pennsylvania in the 90s. Unfortunately, he did not seem to exactly enjoy the club element of it, with former housemate Adeo Ressi describing him as “the most straight-laced dude... he never drank. He never did anything. Zero. Literally nothing”.
“There were some nights where I’d be like, ‘Where’s Elon?’ and I’d go up to his room and pound on the door and he’s in there alone playing a video game,” Ressi said in the biography Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.
It seems this time, Musk may not have passed the infamous Sven Marquadt vibe check. But he wouldn’t have been the only one. He joins an illustrious group of fellow rejects, including Felix Da Housecat, Conan O’Brien and every single English stag do to ever try their luck at the door. Better luck next weekend, guys.