Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nightlife: Wee 'Pocket Men' Make Everyone Miserable

NEW YORK, N.Y. – At 5’11”, Christopher Bright isn’t often described as being excessively tall, at least by conventional height standards for American men. In fact, Mr. Bright, a bouncer in Manhattan’s thriving Meatpacking District – where being well over six feet tall seems to be a prerequisite for nightclub security employment – has become accustomed to the good-natured ribbing of his less vertically challenged coworkers.

“I’m used to it,” said Mr. Bright, 29. “I’m the shrimp out here.”

One look down Gansevoort Street would seem to contradict Mr. Bright’s self-deprecatory comments. An examination of the steady stream of patrons waiting for admission to the popular nightspot at which Mr. Bright is employed yields somewhat less-than-stellar results in terms of the average height of the men in line.

If you’ve found yourself standing in the middle of a Manhattan drinking establishment with an unfettered view of all four walls, you’re seemingly not alone. Then again, according to a comprehensive survey done by the New York Entertainment Industry Research Group (NYEIRG), maybe you are.

“We’ve been doing our research on this for almost three years,” said Serena Lydon, executive director of NYEIRG, “and we’ve come to the conclusion that Manhattan nightclubs, especially those in lower Manhattan, are virtual magnets for shorter men. For 2008 alone, the average height of male customers in Meatpacking District establishments is approximately five-foot-seven.”

Mr. Bright concurs. “I’ve worked at a few places down here, but I like this one the best because I’m at the front door. Everyone coming in here has to roll past me, and I say the same thing to the guys I work with every night about how I can’t believe how short some of these motherfuckers are. After all the shit I take from all the bouncers that work here, standing up front makes me feel really good about myself.”

After three years of observation, Ms. Lydon said NYEIRG has developed a large enough statistical sampling to detect height-related behavioral patterns in male nightclub patrons. “I hate to generalize,” she said, “but shorter men, on average, tend to cause more problems. We thought this was an anomaly at first, but the vast majority of incidents we’ve seen here in New York have involved at least one man of less than average height, and sometimes several.”

Eyes on the Prize

Anthony Zizzadoro is one of the men who’ve been on the study’s radar for the past year. Mr. Zizzadoro, 38, is a self-described “small business owner” from Staten Island who frequents Manhattan nightclubs “at least three or four times a week.” At 5’5”, he’s also typical of the troublesome variety of male customer Ms. Lydon describes.

“I’ve watched his evolution for a while now,” said Ms. Lydon, “and it parallels what we’ve seen from most shorter men who fit the profile. When we first saw Anthony come here, he waited in line with everyone else and his night consisted of having a few drinks at one of the bars. Now, two years later, we’re seeing him spend exponentially more money, he’s wearing more jewelry, and he’s obviously been spending a lot of time at the gym.”

Ms. Lydon said Mr. Zizzadoro’s behavior has worsened in the process. “As soon as he shaved his head and started adding tattoos, I had a feeling things were about to get interesting, and they eventually did. He’s much more angry and aggressive now.”

Later in the night, Mr. Zizzadoro’s demeanor - Ms. Lydon said he’s rather “soft-spoken” when not inside a nightclub – had undergone marked changes. Gone was the collared silk dress shirt he’d worn initially, replaced by a “wife beater” – the ribbed white undershirt popularized as outerwear by young working-class males from New York’s outer boroughs and suburbs.

At the start of the evening, Mr. Zizzadoro seemed content to sit quietly in the club’s VIP section, sipping Grey Goose vodka and chatting with friends. After a few hours, however, he was perched atop a sofa, shouting and pumping his fists in time with the music. By 3 AM he was on the sidewalk, ejected by bouncers for attempting to instigate a fight with another patron who, he claimed, had encroached on his space.

“This is a typical night for Anthony,” said Ms. Lydon. “Over the past year, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times he’s left a nightclub on his own accord.”

Captains of Misery

For men like Mr. Zizzadoro, according to Mr. Bright, the negative tone of an evening is established when they first walk through the doors of the club. “They walk in here like they’re fucking miserable,” he said. “All I see, all night long, is all these angry little dudes coming up here. I feel bad for them. Sometimes I want to bend down and say, ‘Hey little fella, what’s the matter? Why don’t you go inside and turn that frown around?’ We should fucking carry lollipops up here for these motherfuckers, I swear.”

Dr. Benjamin Waldenstein, a Manhattan clinical psychologist and renowned expert in the field of anger management, believes he understands the motivations of men like Mr. Zizzadoro.

“It’s obvious from their behavior that they believe, even if it’s at a subconscious level, that they have some deficiency for which they have to compensate,” he said. “For some men, it’s a lack of financial power or social standing. For others, it’s a physical thing. Their physical carriage doesn’t get them the attention they crave, so they try to make up for this in other ways.”

The New York nightclub scene, said Dr. Waldenstein, is a perfect incubator for such insecurities. “In nightclubs, these men feel a sense of power because nightclubs are places where people can pretend to be who they’re not. This is a dangerous business, though, because a psychologically damaged individual is always walking a fine line. When that illusion of importance is somehow broken, no matter how it happens, the results can be catastrophic.”

That, said Mr. Bright, is when nightclub security necessarily gets involved. “I hate all these little motherfuckers. That’s all I see up here is one stupid little motherfucker after another one, and they’re the ones that start all the problems. We should make a height limit for this place, like they do on roller coasters and shit. Like, if you can’t touch this line, you can’t come in. I bet we wouldn’t have a single fight in here if we did that.”

“As a research professional,” added Ms. Lydon, “I’m fascinated by all of this. But as a woman, and as someone who occasionally goes out to clubs with my friends when I’m not working, I’m horrified to think that this is what’s out there. They’re all just fucking short and gross.”