Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nightlife: Chaos on Manhattan's Sidewalks

Brad Winchell scrambled unsteadily to his feet, touching the back of his wrist to his mouth to check for blood. There was plenty, most of it coming from his upper lip. He turned to face the bouncers who, moments earlier, had dragged him out the door of a Manhattan nightclub. Jennifer Chang, a friend, stood protectively in front of him, holding his arms.

“Where is he?” he screamed. “Get that motherfucker out here. You fucking assholes have no idea who I am!”

“Shut up, pussy,” said bouncer John Calzonetti. “Go home.”

“Fuck you!” shouted Mr. Winchell. “I’ll fucking kill you!”

“You got a hundred pound girl holding you back,” said the massively built Mr. Calzonetti, laughing. “What the fuck you think you’re gonna do with me?”

The dispute began inside one of the club’s three VIP sections when Mr. Winchell, 29, saw a patron he didn’t know, Christopher Arcell, 26, helping himself to a bottle of Grey Goose vodka bought by Mr. Winchell. After paying over $300 per bottle, Mr. Winchell wasn’t pleased. “I asked him what the fuck he thought he was doing, and he walked away. A couple of minutes later, he came back with three of his friends and one of them punched me in the face. Then the bouncers ran over and threw me out. I hate this place.”

Mr. Arcell’s version, not surprisingly, differed significantly from Mr. Winchell’s. “It was an honest mistake,” he said. “I bought a bottle, too, and I thought his was mine. Maybe I was a little drunk. I don’t know. I went over to apologize and he got racial. Everybody’s here to have a good time. There’s no reason for that.”

Mr. Arcell, who is black and lives in Passaic, NJ, said he’s experienced racism in nightclubs before. “Every time something happens,” he said, “it always goes back to them saying something about what color or race the other guy is. When they know they can’t win a fight, that’s what they do. It’s a shame.”

Although he didn’t see the initial incident, Mr. Calzonetti, the front door bouncer, said he agreed with Mr. Arcell. “These types of guys are all the same,” he said. “They’re all fucking pricks. They come in here and throw money around, and if they’re not gonna get laid, they get all pissed off and get in fights and they’ll say anything to anyone.”

Mr. Winchell would, at first glance, seem an unlikely candidate for drunken, racially charged roughhousing with nightclub bouncers. A Garden City resident and graduate of both Chaminade and Georgetown University, he claims to have made a “small fortune” in investment banking and real estate development. He said he frequents nightclubs for networking purposes.

“It’s where I can unwind and show my clients a good time,” he said. “I like to see and be seen in places like this, and it doesn’t hurt if I can spend some money and have beautiful women around me all night.”

Bouncer Michael Padilla offered a different take on Mr. Winchell’s nightclub experience. “I hate that fucking guy,” he said. “By the time it’s 3 AM, he’s so fucking coked up he can’t keep his jaw still and I want to kill him. Look at that ugly ass motherfucker. He needs to keep three bottles and a bag of coke going all night for anything with a snatch to even look at him. He probably ain’t been laid since 1998.”

Back on the sidewalk, several bouncers stood in a cluster beside the front door, amused by Mr. Winchell’s antics. Ten minutes after being removed from the club, he was still pacing between parked cars and shouting threats at the club’s security staff. After a seemingly endless cascade of comments about his shoes, his intelligence, and his ability to hold a “real job,” Mr. Calzonetti eventually decided he’d heard enough.

“Listen, motherfucker,” said Mr. Calzonetti, pinning Mr. Winchell by the throat to the passenger side of a car. “Get in a fucking cab and go home. I’m sick of this shit.”

“Let go of him!” cried Ms. Chang, who had spent a good portion of Mr. Winchell’s post-fight tirade vomiting against the side of the building. “He didn’t do anything!”

“Shut the fuck up, you fucking idiot,” said Mr. Padilla. “Go home and clean yourself up. You’re somebody’s fucking daughter.”

“I’ll fucking sue all of you!” coughed a disheveled Mr. Winchell, holding a stylish leather shoe in his hand. “You have no idea who you just fucked with. No idea!”

“Go kill yourself,” said Mr. Calzonetti. “Can’t you just die?”