Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Good Fellows

A few months back, I was sitting in a bar in the West Village with some friends when the bouncers on duty threw two people out. We were at a table adjacent to the front door, so the hostility parade necessarily marched right past us on its way to the sidewalk. Being, you know, the poet laureate of the bouncing profession – in addition to being a typical piece of outerborough trash who loves to see a good fight now and again – I excused myself from the table and ran outside to watch.

Two rather frail looking twenty-something post-collegiate types had been forcibly removed from the bar. One of them was sporting a freshly bloodied nose. The other looked more confused than anything else. Shell-shocked, even. The nose bleeder was the apparent mouthpiece of the duo, shouting the requisite frail-looking twenty-something post-collegiate threats at any bar employee within earshot. Pretty standard stuff, boring, until Johnny Nosebleed decided to go there.

“You motherfuckers just make a big mistake!” he screamed, smearing blood across the back of his hand as he wiped his new discovery. “You made the mistake of your life, asshole! You don’t know who I know!”

“Hey shithead, you’re bleeding,” said one of the bouncers. “Stay the fuck away from me.”

“Stay away from you? You want me to stay away from you? You…I’ll stay…I’ll stay away from you, motherfucker!”

“Aw, Jesus...Just go home, will you please?”

Another bouncer, as he should have, walked over and asked me what I was doing outside. This was the proper thing to do, because I was the only customer outside other than the two who’d been tossed, and because I’d not so surreptitiously jumped up and followed the group outside immediately after seeing something going on. Were I him, I’d have been curious too.

“I’m not involved,” I said, holding my hands in the air, palms forward. “I work at (Club Guido) in Chelsea, and I just wanted to see what was goin’ on. You want me to go back inside, I’d be happy to.”

“Nah, it’s cool,” he said. “You’re good.” Either he’d recalled seeing me inside for several hours behaving myself, or he made a spot decision that someone my size wasn’t worth the trouble of an engagement. I’m guessing it was a combination of the two.

Twenty feet down the sidewalk, Johnny Nosebleed kept on with the chatter. “You really don’t know who you’re fucking with, do you? You made a big mistake, motherfucker. A big one. Do you have any…idea…who I know? Do you?”

“What I know,” said one of the bouncers, “is that you don’t know anyone who’s getting you back inside here tonight.”

“You don’t know who I know? You don’t know? You ever heard of Vincent Gigante? Vincent Fucking Gigante, asshole?”

As a bouncer, you have to sigh when these sorts of things come back. You roll your eyes, you take a few deep breaths, and you try your damndest to see the comedic value in the situation.

Vincent Gigante? The Chin? I mean, if you’re planning on playing the “You don’t know who I know” game to the point of absurdity, why stop there? Why not go all the way back to Henry Hill and Jimmy Two Times if you’re taking us down that road? The papers…the papers…

See, what happens with me is that a lot of people ask me where I work. I don’t tell most, but I have told some, and the ones I’ve told who think they know what they’re talking about, club-wise, invariably say the same thing:

“You work there? You write a book like you’re the spokesman for all the bouncers in New York, and that’s where you work? That place hasn’t been relevant in years! It’s not like you’re working at Marquee or Bungalow 8 or someplace that actually matters.”

You know what, though? I propose that if you’re a bouncer in New York, and you’ve never worked at a “club gone bad,” like mine, you’ve never actually been a bouncer at all. See, my job is particularly interesting because I’m not dealing with twenty-five year-old Ivy League investment bankers from Connecticut who think mentioning Vincent Gigante’s name at the door is a credible threat. The people coming into my place are some of the biggest morons on the fucking planet, but at least they’re locals who know the game a little too well to pull shit like that. If a Bridge and Tunnel Guido is out to scare you, he’ll likely do better than Vincent the Chin.

Is a threat not uttered in a Brooklyn accent really a threat at all?

Now, I’m not trying to be disrespectful to anyone who works the door at one of our boutique clubs here in New York. Those jobs can, on occasion, be just as much of a pain in the ass as mine. I thought about tagging the previous sentence with some gratuitous little add-on like, “maybe even more so,” but I’d be full of shit if I did that, because working the door for the shiny people is mostly a walk in the fucking park compared to what bouncers like me have to put up with.

I don’t work at Marquee because I don’t know anyone there, and you only get the premium jobs in New York through knowing someone. I was hired at my place because I’ve known the head bouncer there for over ten years. If he’d been the head bouncer at Marquee when I was first in the market for a bouncing job, he would’ve hired me to work there. Luck of the fucking draw, right?

I didn’t get my door position because I’m a six-foot-five bodybuilder who does modeling on the side, either. I earned it, the hard way, by showing up to work on time every night, by showing I could be trusted with money, and by proving – despite an apparently disappointing dearth of elephantiasis in my extremities – myself adept at throwing people from the Bronx on the ground and choking them. When I’m on the clock, I have to get in there and bang. That’s what I have to do, because that’s the sort of place I work.

The rest of it? The money-to-burn kids from Kansas, Oregon, New Mexico and Connecticut? Smalltime, baby. Strictly smalltime.