Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Why

It's a strange time to be a bouncer right now. Very strange. Things had gone well for me for a time. I started this blog. It got pretty big. I tried to come across as what I am: a decent guy who got a second job because he needed the cash. I tried to explain to the world what bouncers typically are: decent guys who get second jobs because they need the cash.

And all that went over smoothly until a sick fuck named Darryl Littlejohn introduced himself to the world and let everyone know that the bouncing "profession" needed a bit of fine tuning. So I went with what I had. Told the story the way I knew it.

"I'm not like him," I said. "Nobody I know is like him."

I tried to make sure everyone reading this site knew that what happened at The Falls that night wasn't the norm. That the vast majority of guys manning doors in New York, and elsewhere, have more in common with me than they do with Darryl Littlejohn. That The Falls wasn't part of the nightclub industry's "real world" because they hired people off the street, regardless of whether applicants were licensed and vetted or not. I told you all how the so-called "major" Manhattan nightspots take much more care in the hiring process, and how a guy like Darryl Littlejohn wouldn't even make it through the door for an interview at any of the places I've worked.

And you believed me, I think. You believed me when I told you I didn't want to kill you. You believed me when I told you there's a difference between wishing you were never born and wanting to end your life for you. That's not my job, just as it's not your job to decide when my time is up. I'm just some stiff who stands in a meaningless pisspot of humanity breaking up fights over nothing. You're just somebody out for a good time on a Saturday night. I don't want to kill you, because I'm not insane. Darryl Littlejohn is insane and evil. I am neither, and most of you believed this.

Now, a certain Mr. Stephen Sakai has come upon the scene, and we're back to square one. Back to the misconceptions. Back to the preconceived notions. Back to idiotic portrayals of "club culture" and the "bouncer lifestyle" in the media. We're thugs again. Morons. "Beefy" -- must they include this description in every story involving the shooting? -- meatheads who can't make it in civilized society.

I'll tell you why I work as a bouncer. I work as a bouncer because I didn't grow up in Upper Brookville. Or Wellesley. Or Beverly Hills. I was raised in a place where people weren't unaccustomed to violence. I was raised by a father who desensitized me to the concept by throwing me in a boxing ring before I hit puberty. My "town" didn't have a Village Green. Storefronts had security shutters out front. The new ones would be "tagged" and "bombed" within a week. Shit happened in my neighborhood, not all of it good. I'm not claiming my neighborhood made me grow up to be a bouncer. My own failings did that. My upbringing, however, equipped me for the job.

Our family had problems. We couldn't afford to live in Scarsdale. It wasn't my fault.

It wasn't a slum, but it was a place where both your parents worked, and when they weren't around, their kids got into things. I got into things. The things I got into wouldn't ever be confused with "play dates." But when you get into enough things, you eventually get used to things interfering with your daily business, and when you come out of those things intact, you're a little less scared of things than someone else who's never been into such things. And when you're not scared anymore, you learn a lot more about things, and how to handle them properly.

How to avoid them, like.

Then, if your life takes a certain turn, somebody might eventually say, "Listen, I have the perfect part time job for you." He tells you he'll give you $150 for five hours of work. Cash. Most of the time, he'll say, you'll be standing around doing nothing. Talking to broads. Staring at the clock. Nothing to it. Every once in a while, you'll have to grab somebody, but that's no problem because you've done that before -- those "things" I was talking about -- and you're not scared.

You're doing your best not to end up a schlong like your father. You want better. You want to live better. You've made some mistakes, and you've landed here because of them, maybe, but the money helps.

Having a background different from yours doesn't make me a thug. Being bigger than you doesn't make me a goon. Knowing what to do when someone throws a punch at me doesn't make me a bully. The things I've learned are a part of my background, just as thinking people like me are trash is part of yours. Violence is not a part of my life. I just want to get paid. To go home. To avoid problems and play with my niece and live a happy life. That's how it works.

I don't claim to speak for the entire profession. I only speak for myself. It just so happens that a lot of bouncers tend to agree with the things I have to say. These bouncers are sane. To them, the job is broken down into three parts: Go to work, get paid, go home.

I've never had a job where I was treated this well by my employer. They leave you alone. There's no sycophantic supervisor hovering over you when you bounce, pissing and moaning about your paper clip expenditures and demanding the Vandalay report on his desk by five. Doesn't happen here. I like that. I like the guys I'm working with. You run to your share of calls, show them you can handle some "things," and you've made thirty friends. Instantly.

And when moving day comes, and you live in a fifth floor walkup, they'll show.

The nightclub industry, however, is a shady business. And in a shady business, you'll find what we call shady characters. Some of these shady characters are bouncers. Among this group of shady character bouncers are those who bounce in order to commit criminal acts, like selling drugs or pimping. Within this criminal shady character bouncer subgroup, you'll find the occasional bouncer who is mentally ill. This is where you'll find the Darryl Littlejohns and Stephen Sakais of the world. The criminally insane.

And believe it or not, this is as big a problem for me, the sane bouncer, as it is for you, the customer. I worry about this. Do you honestly think I'd feel confident running into a fight with Littlejohn or Sakai at my back? Do you think I haven't ever wondered about some of the people I'm working with now? Do you think I don't have my suspicions? Do you think I don't know?

There is no answer. Nightclubs will always exist. Shit will always go on inside of them. Bad shit. Shit that decent people want no part of. Behavior that never fails to shock me, no matter how long I stay in the business. Clubs, especially here in New York, will always attract the worst kind of people society has to offer, because there's money to be made. Quick money, generated by the exploitation of vices. And there's no stopping any of it. Ever.

I can't defend anyone. I can't defend an entire profession. I'm not the one to stand up for the industry, because I despise the industry. I do what I do for money. I still do it for money. I do it because I'm not qualified to make this kind of money anywhere else but there.

And I can't wait to get the fuck away from it, and never go back.