An online journal of the nightly (and daily) nonsense endured by a (former) bouncer at two of New York's most popular nightclubs.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Today is the day where nobody is returning my phone calls or emails. I have left phone messages for at least eight people without being called back. I've also emailed several of these people to tell them to check their messages and to call me back. Eight people, I kid you not.
If I have either called or emailed you today, please call or email me back either tonight or early tomorrow, because you are all giving me a massive complex.
Now, despite being "out of the business," I am inexplicably off to work. Go figure.
I’m back on the sidewalk checking licenses and passports again. I haven’t done this for a while because I’ve been posted as a “floater.” A floater is a bouncer without a set, specific place to stand. As a floater, I just sort of hang out wherever I feel like hanging out and try to kill time as best I can by picking out random bouncers and conversing with them until such conversations run beyond the point of utility. When that happens, I simply move on to the next guy and start the process again. So it goes until I go home.
Here is a list of door issues. I thought of these while making my big door comeback this past weekend. This list will contain some good advice that you’re welcome to take. If you take my advice, you’ll have an easier time of it at the club. If you don’t take my advice, you’re just like the rest of them.
1. Put your fucking cigarettes out before you get to the door. If this is too difficult for you, you can at least avoid offering the doorman your ID with the hand in which you’re holding a lit cigarette. Don’t blow smoke on him, and don’t hold your cigarette under his nose while he reads your license.
2. Wait your turn. If you see that a doorman is occupied, don’t incessantly tap him on the shoulder while he’s taking care of something other than your problem. If he’s talking to someone, wait for him to finish and then jump in with whatever piece of important club business it is that can’t seem to wait. When a doorman is being shouted at by more then two people at a time, it pisses him off and he listens to approximately none of you.
3. When you hand the doorman your license, stand still and wait for him to read it. Don’t walk past him and expect him to turn around and hand it to you when you’re already behind him. I fucking despise this. When I read an ID, I hand it back directly in front of me. If you’re not there to take it, I’ll simply drop it on the ground.
4. Don’t ask the doorman to use his flashlight to help you find your ID in your pocketbook. You’ve been in line for half an hour. This task should’ve been accomplished already. This is why you’ve been in line for a half hour.
5. Understand the process. Pay attention. If you see everyone else in line showing me an ID, don’t walk up to me and wave a comp pass or flyer in my face. This means that I have to ask you for your ID, which means that everyone in line behind you has to wait for you to fish it out of your wallet. This is why you’ve been in line for a half hour.
6. Stop dropping names. If you’re on the list, you’re on the list. If you’re not, you’re not, and there’s nothing I can do to help you avoid paying. If the person whose name you’re dropping wanted you to get in without paying, he’d have put you on his or her list. Above all, stop asking to speak to the owner of the club. He’s a busy man who’s probably not even on the property. If he is, he likely has better things to do than coming down and overruling me every time some random dickhead swears he’s a long lost cousin. Also, it’s safe to assume that most doormen have been in the business for several years. If they don’t know the name you’re dropping, the name you’re dropping is worthless.
7. Stop asking me if I need a mortgage. Every Guido “does mortgages,” and I leave work every night with at least a half-dozen mortgage brokers’ business cards. This is the bullshit cold-calling, boiler-room, pyramid scam job of the twenty-first century, and it takes flight every single night at the door of clubs all over the New York area.
8. If it’s raining, and you’re holding an umbrella, don’t expect me to smile at you if you hit me in the head with it while I’m checking your ID. Have some courtesy and raise the fucking thing high enough to clear everyone around you.
9. Don’t surprise me with numbers. If you want to get six people in, tell me you want to get six people in. Don’t give me the impression that you’re handing me a fifty for two comps, then give the high sign to four more people waiting down the sidewalk. I’m not letting them in unless you pay for them, too, regardless of how guilty you’ll try to make me feel for accepting your money.
10. Don’t be an “overapologist.” If you’ve fucked up somehow, and you owe me some sort of club apology, say you’re sorry once and let things be. If I accept your apology, please don’t continue apologizing. And, once again, please stop touching me – especially after you’ve done something for which you need to apologize. Nightclubs are living proof that it’s possible to cancel out an apology by apologizing too much.
“Yo, my bad. I apologize, yo.”
“It’s okay. I accept your apology.”
“Nah, man…I’m really sorry. No disrespect.”
“None taken. It’s okay.”
“Yo, you don’ unnerstan’. I apologize on my kids, yo.”
“Please just die.”
And remember, your apology would only be meaningful if I cared enough to remember you.
When you write a book about some job you’ve had, the only perspective you’re really able to see things from is your own. If you’re capable of writing a book about a job from someone else’s perspective, you’ve a much more vivid imagination than I do. I didn’t do that here. I wrote about my job – and some of the things that happened to me while I was doing it – based upon what I saw and heard with my own eyes and ears. From my own perspective.
What perspective is that?
As I’ve said on this site countless times over the past three-plus years, I’m hardly a superstar in the nightclub industry. This, primarily, is because I can’t be. I don’t stand out in any way. I’m not excessively big, tall or attractive. I have no real connections in the industry aside from knowing some people from my neighborhood who broke me into the business years ago because they needed someone with a pulse to stand on a box for a few hours on Friday nights. One thing led to another, and I ended up working at a club in Manhattan. I have no New York nightclub calling cards to speak of other than competence and punctuality. That’s it for me. That’s all you’ll find in my toolbox.
The perspective you’ll be getting from me is that of an outsider. When I started bouncing in clubs back in 2003, all this stuff was foreign to me. I’d watch people do the shit that people do in nightclubs and I’d think it was completely bizarre because I wasn’t used to it. I’d see some drug addict having what appeared to be a seizure on the dance floor, and I’d point the whole scene out to another bouncer and say, “Holy shit! What the fuck’s wrong with that guy? He looks like a fuckin’ retard!”
I’m calling myself an “outsider” because that’s what I was, and that’s what I still am. I’m an outsider because clubs and the club industry had – and still have – absolutely no bearing on my life. I’ve never, ever been a full time club employee. I’ve worked my shifts, and then I’ve gone home and tried to get some sleep. I’ve never worked or attended an after-hours party. I live a daytime life, thank you very much. Never once, since I started bouncing, has nightclub work accounted for an entire week’s paycheck for me. And, in all likelihood, it never will. It was and still is a part-time job.
This book is not about the industry’s top five percent. Rather, it’s about the bottom ninety-five. The top five percent earn their living at the club. The rest of us don’t, so we see things a little differently. We’re not part of “the scene.” We’re transient, and we’re hardly what anyone would call “memorable.” We go about our business and we go home, because we have more important life-shit going on outside the meaningless world of nightclubs.
This book isn’t some glamorous account of what it’s like to “guard the gates,” picking and choosing the beautiful people who make it into Manhattan’s top nightspots. If you want something like that, you should look into this. I’m not writing about the face of the club here. I’m writing about what it’s like to choke people blue out back. I’m writing about what it’s like to reconcile a normal daily existence with a wacked-out part-time job where your colleagues debate the merits of punching people in the nuts. That’s the part I know about.
You may read my book and wonder if you’ve ever been to the places I’ve worked.
You wouldn’t have given me a second look, though. Trust me on this one. You wouldn’t have.
This is because I’ve never bought into the illusion that the New York nightclub industry has worked so hard to create for you. Clubs, despite what you’ve been led to believe, aren’t the bigtime. When you really think about it, nightclubs are simply places where people go to drink, dance, listen to music and meet people. They also go there to commit felonies involving drugs and prostitution, but that’s not the point. The main idea here is that clubs are glorified bars, and bars, in a word, are irrelevant.
The scene is irrelevant because so many more things of significance are going on in the world at any given moment. The country’s at war. We’re operating under the threat of terrorism every single day of our lives. Cancer and AIDS have yet to be cured. Gas costs $3.50 a gallon. Glaciers are melting. Who gives a flying fuck what’s going on at the club?
Call me crazy, but I’m not impressed.
The whole business was irrelevant to me from the start because I, like most guys I know, took a bouncing job to supplement the income I was earning at a primary, full-time day job. I wasn’t dazzled by the scene because I simply didn’t have time for it, and because I’ve seen enough of the world to know that the entire nightclub industry is a big, fat fucking joke. And the joke’s on you.
You won’t be reading about celebrities or socialites here. You will be reading about what it’s like to knock yourself off track with a series of bad decisions. You’ll be reading about what it’s like to take a shitty part-time job because you can’t think of any other legal way to make cash as quickly as you need it. You’ll be reading about what happens when a “normal” person, out of financial necessity, runs headlong into an “abnormal” environment. Hilarity does, in fact, ensue, but usually for all the wrong reasons.
Understand my perspective, and we’ll get along just fine.
Please email me reading recommendations for my vacation. I don't give a shit what you suggest, as long as it's something you've found interesting. I'd like to finish at least two books while I'm away - and yes, I'm going to Las Vegas to read.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I asked, scurrying to the other side of the lobby. “You’re an asshole! You can’t walk to the other side to do that shit? I was fucking comfortable, dick.”
“Just watch,” said Kevin, grinning. “That’ll fuckin’ clear everyone out.”
He’d farted so loudly, and for so long, that I could hear it over the music. People began to react predictably, moving away from the area as though they’d been tear-gassed.
“Nice!” I shouted over his line of fleeing victims.
“Go outside,” he mouthed, pointing to the front door.
As I started in that direction, I saw him swing around in front of me to do the same. I didn’t want to follow in his flatulent wake, so I stopped in my tracks.
“Dude, fucking stay in here. You’re gonna trail that shit and I don’t want you anywhere near me.”
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied. “I know how to drop it to the floor.”
In other “news,” I’ll be on the road – or in the air, to be more precise - this week, flying to Las Vegas to spend a few days with some friends. I haven’t really traveled much in recent years, so this is a fairly big deal for me. In fact, I haven’t gone more than two-hundred or so miles from New York in well over a year. The one time I actually did leave the area during this time was a one-night trip to WashingtonDC for a bachelor party. Even that wasn’t overly enjoyable because I had to work the following night, and was in my car on the way home to NY, with the requisite massive hangover, as soon as I woke up.
Simply put, I’m really looking forward to this trip. Not for any particular reason, mind you – just because I haven’t been anywhere in quite a while. That said, I’m openly soliciting offers of FREE SHIT. If you, or anyone you know, can “hook up” four guys with any FREE SHIT in Las Vegas, feel free to email me and let me know what kind of FREE SHIT you can “hook us up” with.
Also, shit-to-do suggestions will be greatly appreciated, provided these suggestions tend toward the avoidance of 1) Crowds of Morons and 2) Nightclubs.
"Clint" is in town. Therefore, I wrote this drunk, at four in the morning, with no edits....
“Nothing good is gonna come of that,” I said, nodding down the sidewalk, pointing with my chin.
“What?” asked Freddie.
“Sam standin’ over there with all those guys. That’s gonna end badly.”
“You wanna go over there and get him?”
I put my hands in my pockets and thought about this thing for a while. “I dunno. Maybe he wants to be over there. What do you think?”
“Fuck it. Leave him alone. Maybe something funny’ll happen.”
Sam is a dirty motherfucker. You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but he is. He’s not particularly big, nor is he particularly tough or mean looking, nor does he ever talk a very big game. He’s quiet and reserved, and the only public displays he makes are considerate little actions that reinforce my notion of him as a man with a well-developed sense of propriety. Sam needs things the way he needs them. I get along well with Sam, because I generally need things the same way he does.
This propriety of Sam’s extends to the way he thinks fights should go. He doesn’t believe they should happen on his watch. When they do, he wants them to end quickly. We all want this, of course, but Sam seems to want it a touch more than the rest of us.
Sam will do whatever he thinks is necessary to make you instantly stop fighting. If you turn and square off with him, he’ll punch you directly in the nuts as many times as it takes to make you settle down. When someone punches you repeatedly in the nuts, “settling down” generally entails laying down in the fetal position and vomiting. When Sam sees you on the sidewalk convulsing, he feels as though his work is done and he’ll happily help you back to your feet, provided you don’t get any of your nut-punch-induced vomit on his suit jacket.
If Sam sees one of this fellow bouncers wrestling with an overheated customer, he’ll blatantly kick at the sides of that customer’s knees until he’s on the floor. If the customer hits the floor and hasn’t stopped struggling, Sam will zero in on his nuts and apply finishing blows until convulsions set in and everyone is safe from collateral Guido damage. Nothing’s off limits in Sam’s world of stopping power: neither eyes, nor ears, nor throats nor fingers. Nothing.
I told him how I felt about all this once. “Dude,” I said. “You are my favorite fucking bouncer of all time, bar none.”
“Because you’re so fucking dirty. Sometimes I stop what I’m doing just to make sure I don’t miss someone getting chopped in the nuts.”
“Aw, come on, man. Why you gotta say shit like that?”
The best thing about Sam is that when people point out to him what a dirty motherfucker he really is, he first acts as though he has no idea what they’re talking about. He’ll pull the family man card. He’s got a wife and kids and drives a minivan. Only when pressed will he come clean and spout a little philosophy for you.
“You gotta put ‘em down, man. Why should I get hurt? A hundred-fifty a night ain’t worth me gettin’ hit.”
Rationalizations such as this aren’t exactly comforting when you’re on the sidewalk and you see Sam standing in the middle of a pack of Guidos trying to get them to go home. When you’re watching that, you know there’s a damned good chance you’ll have your arms wrapped around somebody’s neck in about thirty seconds. That’s what it means when you see Sam engaged, because Sam won’t give an inch, even verbally. Someone says the wrong thing, Sam says something back, and before you can even take a step in the direction of the problem, a customer’s on the ground holding his nuts, and his friends are swinging.
“I’m not in the mood for this tonight,” I said, and walked down the sidewalk to where Sam was standing. I put my hand on his left trapezius and gently squeezed. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “Why?”
“Dude, come back over to the door. Please.”
“Why? Who are these guys?”
“They’re nobody,” I said, turning him around and steering him toward Freddie. “I’m just not in the mood to get in a fight with them right now, Sam.”
“I’m not fighting! Nobody’s fighting! Who’s gonna get in a fight?”
I still had my hand on his back. I patted him a few times and smiled. “Come on, dude. I just wanna go home right now.”
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 , 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 . 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.”