Names are a big fat fucking deal here on the circuit. Do a guy a favor -- any favor, be it real or some perceived load of shit for which some guido feels compelled to throw you a twenty -- and he'll need to know your name. Show him yours, and he'll show you his, and the two of you can be nightlife butt-buddies forever after.
Of course, releasing one's name to the guido gen-pop can be dangerous business for the bouncer -- namely me -- who's hell bent on keeping his nose out of the almighty favor game. The last thing you want at a club in New York is to have your name bandied about on the floor, especially when you're a veteran and said name has developed some measure of cachet amongst the staff.
Come to my club, approach any bouncer, and drop the "Rob" brand name, and it'll take you where you need to go. It'll open doors that heretofore hadn't existed. Get you those elusive drink tickets you've so dearly craved. Give you access to those bathrooms behind the plants in those little alcoves where all the women seem to disappear. I can do that for you if you ask.
But whom do you ask? You don't know me. Book or no, I'm still down on the floor, doling out favors and running my games on the unsuspecting. And yeah, there's a modicum of risk involved in making a play, because there's always someone watching around here, waiting for some dumbass bouncer to fuck something up and show his cards at just the right time to get himself good and snagged. This I know well, because it's all part of the show when you're angling for a bigger piece than your straight-up take-home.
That's what we're all after, right? There's a difference between me and most, though. A major one. See, I don't tax. I couldn't give two shits what the other guy makes as long as I'm getting mine. I don't need any of yours. You cast out and hook the Italian blowfish on your line, he's yours to keep. You don't need to slip me the tribute, or the vig, or anything else off the top, because you did the work. All I did was stand there and watch you do your thing.
"I can't stand workin' your fuckin' door."
"Why?" I asked. "Because of the money? Because everyone's takin' people through every five fuckin' minutes? Because it all turns into a big fuckin' political hassle, and you don't know how to handle it?"
"Yeah. I dunno how you put up with it all night."
"Live and let live, man."
"Fuck that," he said. "They're comin' through my door, they gotta cut me in. That's bullshit everyone wantin' to come through here and not givin' up any money."
"That," I said, grinning, "is why everyone wants me at this door and not you."
"Why, 'cause you let everyone take fuckin' advantage all night?"
"No, dumbass. It's because I know how to make my own money, and I don't have to stick my hand in anyone else's pocket."
"What the fuck's that s'posed to mean?" he asked. "This is your door. They use it to make money, they owe you."
"That," I replied, "is where you're dead fuckin' wrong. Nobody owes shit to nobody here. What you gotta do is sit back, let everyone through, and wait to see who pays you off. You get your cut, you go outta your way the next time. The guy doesn't throw you a little taste? Time and time again you're gettin' stiffed? You cut that shit off, no questions asked. When they shut the comp list down, fuck 'em. And you know what? They'll know exactly why. You can't just start right in taxin' people, 'cause that creates nothin' but bad feelings."
"Dude, you can't be so obvious about shit. Sometimes you gotta just wait it out. Okay, fine, somebody's abusing the privilege a little too much. Fine. Take him aside and tell him the facts of life. But you can't just come right out and make yourself a target like that."
"A target like what?" he asked.
"Listen. You ever, in the entire time you been workin' here, had somebody come up and say 'Rob sent me'? Anywhere in this entire fuckin' place? You ever hear anyone drop my fuckin' name?"
"That," I said, "is what I mean by a fuckin' target. You wanna fly here? Then fly under the fuckin' radar, 'cause if you don't, you're only creatin' problems for yourself."
And there's a damned good reason for it. Because when you're at the door of a Manhattan nightclub -- at least when you're at the head of the general admission line, and it's a different set of Sonic the Hedgehog looking motherfuckers coming at you every night -- what you need to do is keep your head out of the multiple lines of fire streaming just above you. And what that entails is keeping your name out of the lexicon.
So what you do, every night on your way to work, is you come up with a name for the night. Nothing over the top. Nothing they wouldn't believe. Nothing that matches the name of another bouncer on the staff, unless it's someone you'd like to see get fucked. I've been Dave. I've been Jim, Brian, Kevin, Patrick, Liam, Billy, Steve, Danny and Frank. I've been Chris, Tommy, Anthony, Andrew, Brent and Jack. I once called myself Diesel, claimed to be the son of impoverished Slovenian immigrants, and told women that the name Diesel meant "John" in Slovenian.
Saturday night, it was raining. Hard. And I'm an asshole when it rains. I've been told I'm an asshole in the sunshine, too, but it seems to seep through my pores in the rain. Just happens. When it does, the names get creative. They become an extension of my personality, which, like I said, is that of an asshole when it rains so damned hard.
Saturday night, I was Dick. Not a dick, mind you, but Dick. Makes you a better man, being under a certain age and calling yourself Dick. Sort of makes you have to justify being alive. You sprout a personality to compensate.
"Hey, you're cute," she said. "You should smile more."
"Thanks, honey, but there's not a hell of a lot to smile about up here tonight. I'm fuckin' soaked."
She had her arm around my waist, but still wasn't getting in gratis, which was the goal of the operation here. "Can't you just go inside? Won't they let you dry off?"
I shook my head. "I guess they figure having the same three or four guys get wet all night is better than rotating everyone around and having the whole place stand out in the rain."
"You're so cute. What's your name?"
She looked up, incredulous. "No, really. What is it? What's your name?"
"I'm serious. It's Dick. My given name is Richard, but my parents called me Dick. That's the name I was given."
"And people actually call you Dick? I don't think I can call you Dick. Can I call you Rich? Or Ricky? Or Rick?"
"Oh, no," I said. "No. You can't do that. Rick was my dad's name, and Rich was my grandfather. They both died horrible deaths. The only thing that was left for me was Dick, and I don't see what the problem is. There's another guy inside named Dick, too."
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah, really. He's like six-foot-eight, so everyone calls him 'Big Dick,' and they call me 'Little Dick,' ' cause I'm smaller. Just the way it is, I guess."
"Bullshit. I don't believe you."
I took her arm and removed it from my waist. "I hate when people do this to me. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I've been going through this for my whole life, with this name. It's a family name, and I'm proud of it, and if it's not good enough for you people, then there's nothing I can do. But at least you could have the courtesy to not insult me and ridicule my family."
"I'm sorry! I'm not..."
"What's your name, sweetie?"
"Amanda," she replied.
"Listen, Amanda," I said, gesturing at the guestlist podium. "I'm sorry, too. You've been nice about this whole thing, and I didn't mean to lay all this shit on you and get all emotional like that. Next time you come in, you can ask for me at the front door, but if it bothers you to ask for Little Dick, I go by another name, and you can use that, too."
"Yeah, really. My nickname is 'Cock,' and..."
"...and if you go up to the podium and ask for 'Cock,' I'll bet my life on it that they'll slide you right in."