Tuesday, May 01, 2007


There are so many different shades of tough in clubs that it’s nearly impossible to list them all in one sitting. There’s tough, and then there’s really tough, and then there’s last call tough, and then there’s on-the-way-out tough. The one theme common to all the various kinds of tough, even the many I won’t be discussing here, is that they’re all fake. The other universal thread connecting them is that they all suck, especially for bouncers whose hands are tied by the fact that most assaults are felonies here in New York.

Tough guys give you problems at the door. They don’t say thank you when you offer them the little courtesies to which they feel they’re entitled. They don’t smile or laugh or pretend to get the joke when bouncers are inclusive, because tough guys are always posturing. Why they play blowfish, I’m not really sure. All I know is that they do. I’ve put forth hundreds of different theories on this site over the past three years, yet I still feel as though I’m missing something when it comes to the actions of your garden variety tough guys. I’m at a loss.

Really tough guys get in fights. They hit people for no reason, they get themselves thrown out of the club, and then they make their traditional sidewalk claims of innocence. Really tough guys are always being told to “relax” and “calm down,” because really tough guys tend to yell and scream about all the injustices they think they’re suffering. Really tough guys don’t like being hit, either. Come across a really tough guy who’s just been in a fight, and all you’ll hear about is how he’s just been hit, and how nobody gets away with hitting him, and how he “pays visits” to people who hit him and kills their whole families. The trouble with really tough guys is that they never shut the fuck up.

Last call tough guys don’t want to fight. They don’t want much of anything from what I can gather, unless you take into account their obvious desire to irritate the living shit out of everyone around them. Last call tough guys seem especially pleased with themselves when they’ve managed to make a club’s bouncers and bartenders angry. They do this by refusing to leave the room when the lights go on, then challenging the bouncing staff to physically make them go.

On-the-way-out tough guys are our favorites of all. On-the-way-out tough guys yell and scream at people as they leave. The do this because they think they’re safe. They think they’re safe because they don’t plan ahead. They haven’t considered the fact that at 4 AM, everyone else in the club is leaving, too. So they yell and they scream as they backpedal, and they lob their incoherent threats at anyone who’ll listen – which, more often than not, is nobody.

Some nights, when there’s a bouncer I like in the lobby, I’ll go inside for a while and watch the crowd file out. I’ll lean against the wall with Kevin and laugh at all the jerkoffs as they make their wide turns and try to keep their feet. Sometimes I take those little rectangular flyers and scale them at people like so many malevolent Frisbees. Other times, I take peoples’ drinks away from them before they make it to the door. Every so often I’ll have to clear the doorway, because stupid people – and they’re all stupid by this point – enjoy blocking traffic.

On Friday night Kevin was in the lobby, so I went inside to do some of the things I just mentioned. This works out for me because I like Kevin. Kevin is a guy who works for a living. He’s a guy who’s divorced with two kids to support. His kids live with his ex-wife. Kevin is usually tired on Friday nights, and so am I. Over the years, we’ve bonded repeatedly over being tired and frustrated and struggling to scrape up enough cash to not have to live like animals. Scraping up enough cash to not have to live like an animal isn’t easy if you’ve made stupid choices. Making stupid choices is easy if you ignore good advice. Kevin could write a book containing all the good advice he’s ignored in his life. So could I. Maybe I will one day.

So we’re standing there, minding our own business with our backs against the wall, when up staggers a backpedaling Guido of the sort I mentioned earlier. This backpedaling Guido was doing all the things that backpedaling Guidos do: yelling and screaming and lobbing threats at nobody in particular. I looked down the hallway and couldn’t see who he was yelling at. I think, maybe, that there wasn’t anyone there at all.

Kevin moved in front of the Guido and I followed. He continued to yell and scream and lob threats over our heads. He was wearing a white tee shirt and jeans, and had spiky hair, one of those thinned out “tracer” beards and a goatee. He was fat.

“Dude,” I said. “Let’s go outside and talk about it out there. Put your hands down.” When we confronted him, he’d started to wildly gesticulate, conducting his Guido orchestra for an audience of two. Sometimes this is all they need.

“Yo, you ain’t got to throw me out!”

“Nobody’s throwing you out,” I said. “It’s four o’clock. Everybody’s leaving. Just shut the fuck up, dude. You’re not gettin’ in a fight right now.”

“Lookit dat n---a, yo! He hidin’. He back there hidin’.”

“Great, so you win, man. He’s scared, so you made your fuckin’ point, right? Now how ‘bout you make everyone’s life easy and go home like the bigger man.” I turned to look back down the hallway. People were streaming out, but nobody was paying any attention to the rantings of this particular Guido. I put my hand on his shoulder and nudged him toward the door.

“Yo, why you got to push me?”

“Listen,” said Kevin. “We gotta go to work in the morning, man. The quicker we get you the fuck out of here, the quicker I can go home and get my hour of sleep. Can you just fuckin’ leave?”

“Aight,” the Guido replied, making his way to the door. “No disrespect to you guys. I don’ even wanna fight dat muthafucka here. I’ll take dat n---a deep in the Cross Bronx, yo, and he won’t never come back.”

“Well isn’t that special?”