Monday, January 12, 2009

"You're a Doorman, Doorman"

(here is my January story for Barstool...pages 46-50!) 
Many of you have already expressed your dislike in this article (or at least my stance on it, but remember what the magazine is can't diss some of our biggest readers.  Plus, the guys I interviewed were pretty bad for yourself and feel free to leave comments.  

I Know the Owner...

The guys that stand guard at your favorite bars and clubs have a much tougher job than you might expect. It’s not all about checking to see if your shirts are tucked in and whether or not those “tennis shoes” on your feet are considered athletic gear or just part of your trendy ensemble. And they’ve come a hell of a long way from back in the day where the guys at the door used to gain notoriety within their group for how many times they fought each night or how hard they knocked someone out. The bigger the scene at the front door to turn someone away or kick someone out, the better they were considered at doing their job. Just like everything else in life, the job description has changed quite a bit over the years, but Houston is lucky enough to have some of the same door guys around for over a decade.  

According to my good friends at wikipedia, “a bouncer or doorman is an informal term for security guards employed at venues such as bars, nightclubs or concerts to provide security, check legal age, and refuse entry to a venue based on criteria such as intoxication, aggressive behavior, or other standards. Bouncers are often required where crowd size, clientele or alcohol consumption may make arguments or fights commonplace.” But read on and you’ll see that the job encompasses so much more and these guys deserve more than a hearty high-five.

Fifteen years ago if you were to picture the nightlife in Downtown Houston you’d probably see something similar to the 1989 flick Roadhouse (starring good ole Patrick Swayze) with fights breaking out every night in every line and a heap of testosterone floating down Main Street. You’d see guys and girls dressed to the nines with guys sporting slacks, button down shirts and sometimes even sport coats, and you’d see the ladies dressed in nice cocktail dresses.  

Fast-forward to 2008, and you’ll notice a myriad of changes. Guys are wearing torn jeans, affliction t-shirts and Chuck Taylors and girls are wearing whatever society deems as “in-style.” The dress code is just one of the main changes that we’ve seen over time.  

Here’s an inside look at 4 of our favorite guys at the door who pretty much all summed up their job and the revolution from 15 years ago..

The Veteran, Dat Pham- currently at Zeppelin, Belvedere and Shadow Bar
Dat has been in the business and been a staple in the Houston door scene for over a decade. He probably isn’t far off when he says “I’ve probably met more people in this line of work in a decade than most people meet in a lifetime. That’s one of the many perks of this gig.” But this experience has given him a level of respect and recognition that most guys wish they had half of.  

JL: How’d you get into this crazy line of work?
Dat: I used to go out a lot and was very claustrophobic, so I naturally found myself outside with the door guys. It just seemed so natural to be out there.

JL: What’s the funniest shit that’s ever happened to you on the job?
Dat: I hope I do this story justice..I was sitting back doing my job one night and there was a girl in line with a prosthetic arm. I didn’t think much of it until another girl came in line behind her trying to be funny and started fondling her arm. Prosthetic-arm-girl takes a bottle and smashes it over her head but doesn’t stop there. She takes her arm off and starts hitting the other girl upside the head with her limb. The cops come to break up this unusual cat fight and take her one good arm and cuff her to the car. As everyone is laughing hysterically the one that got assaulted with the arm starts waving her arms around asking “can you do this bitch? I didn’t think so.” It was priceless and to this day the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

JL: What’s the most important duty of your job at the door?
Dat: I try to protect the integrity of the club as much as I can. We are the first line of defense. We protect the image of the club by the way we act, look and talk. I love my job. The best satisfaction I get at work is not when people thank me for letting them into the club. It’s when they thank me when they leave and I know they had a good time.  

The Cowboy Veteran, Mike Sosa – currently at Bronx Bar (Galleria and The Village)
Mike and his cowboy boots have been in the business for 15 years. He stumbled into this line of work one night when he broke up a bar fight and the owner took notice. The rest is history.  

JL: What’s the best part about your job?
Mike: When I’m standing at the door talking to the owner just shooting the shit. Then people come up to me pretending they know the owner and saying they are VIP. You’d be surprised how often that happens and I always get a kick out of it because they have no clue the owner is standing right next to me.

JL: Ever gotten in a fight doing your job?
Sosa: (laughing) Yeah, once or twice.  

JL: How do they usually start?
Sosa: Politely asking a drunk girl to leave before she falls on her pretty little head and bleeds all over the club. Then comes the aggressive boyfriend ready to throw blows.

JL: Do you come across a lot of douche bags in your line of work?
Mike: Yeah, it’s the nature of the beast, but it always gives me good stories later.  

JL: How is your job different now than 15 years ago?
Mike: It’s much more psychological now. I use the jedi mind trick rather than throwing people out on their heads and then high fiving all my buddies. Now it’s all about respecting our customers and trying to keep them coming back. Kicking someone out years ago used to be about creating a big scene, now I try to neutralize it discreetly. Times have changed, but I’m also older and more mature with less testosterone running through my veins.  

The Big Picture, Dustin Jones – currently at Escobar and Saint Dane’s
At the time Dustin took the job in this business eight years ago, he just needed a college job to dish him some extra cash. He never thought he would take his job so seriously, but it’s done wonders for him. I’ve yet to run into Dustin at the door at Escobar or his new place, Saint Dane’s, but he’s such a damn nice guy, I don’t even think I’d be offended if he turned me down at the door.

JL: Do you like your job?
Dustin: I love it. I try to provide the best atmosphere with high-energy people and I try to have the best party every night.  

JL: You sound like you take your job at the door more seriously than most..
Dustin: Yeah, we set the tone of the inside of the bar from the outside. Not many jobs can say that. I love finding energetic people and bringing them to my bar. We give them a good experience and hope they come back next weekend – that’s why we’re in the Entertainment Industry. I want everyone to be safe when they leave. I call cabs for people that I probably wouldn’t care about otherwise. It’s all part of my job.  

JL: Does your job stop at the door?
Dustin: Nah. Clubs these days are a lot smaller and have more intimate, custom-crowds than back in the day. Take Mark, the owner of Vintage for example. Even though he’s the owner, I’ve seen him picking up broken glass, giving bottle service, helping at the front door, all that stuff. That’s the way it should be. Any bar with an owner like that is sure to have a hell of a hot spot every night. That’s the way it should be done. Every night.  

The Rookie Joey – currently at 26ten
One of our newest and quickly turned favorite door guys is Joey who started in the industry about 5 years ago at the Social. He’s a man of few words but tells it like it is, which many of us can respect.

JL: Ever gotten in a fight doing your job?
Joey: I’ve been in a fight or two, but my job is mostly to break up fights inside the club, not start them.

JL: What’s the dress code at 26ten?
Joey: Because styles and trends are always changing, so is our dress code. We are pretty adaptable, but mainly no flip flops, shorts or t-shirts. A friendly attitude goes a long way too.  

Our door guys agree that people took care of them and they got more respect back in the day. Now everyone that walks up to the door thinks they’re all VIP’s and the guys at the door owe them something. For all of you reading this, the guys at the door are the real VIP’s, so let’s all make a conscious effort to make their jobs easier. After all, we all want the same have one hell of a party everywhere we go. They can help us in that conquest.  

You ever wonder why you walk in a bar and see a guy in tennis shoes but your boy five minutes ago got turned away wearing the exact same shoes? It’s really not as biased as you think. The guys say it’s all about how you wear your clothes and present yourself. If you come to the door acting like the bar staff owes you and should bow down because you chose to grace them with your presence, more than likely you’ll get sent walking. If you come to the door with a friendly attitude ready to have a good time..your odds will start looking up. Take that advice and run with it.  

If you think about it, every person that enters the bar or club goes through one person – the guy at the door. Not everyone will have the same bartender, but you’ll all get admitted entrance through the same person.  

Joey had the best advice for those of us that have ever had issues at the door: “If you can’t get in, don’t take it personally, it’s our job.”