Beyond the velvet ropes
Rob the Bouncer is a morning person. On his blog there doesn’t seem to be a single entry that isn’t posted after midnight, and most are posted at 4 am.
If Chick Lit is for chicks, and Lad Lit is for lads, then Bouncer Lit is for . . . big lads? Certainly much of it is written for the appreciation, the delectation, of the brotherhood. War stories, tall tales, tips on fighting: the prime texts of Bouncer Lit share that sallow end-of-the-shift feeling captured by London doorman Bill Carson in his 2005 memoir Show No Fear: A Bouncer’s Diary (Athena Press), the feeling of bouncers in the dawn, stale with secondhand smoke and glandular backwash: “John drops Pete and me back at my place. Wife and kids were in bed hours ago, the fridge was stocked before I left that evening, so we chill out with an ice-cold beer and listen to Pink Floyd whilst mulling over the night’s shenanigans.” And in the US, particularly, Bouncer Lit has an instructional bent. Books like Peyton Quinn’s A Bouncer’s Guide to Barroom Brawling and Marc “Animal” MacYoung’s A Professional’s Guide to Ending Violence Quickly (both published by Paladin) give you the grips and the angles, while Mark J. Gadsden’s Memoirs of a Bouncer (Authorhouse) fills you in on the etiquette. “Vulgarity,” writes Gadsden, with the looming primness of a true bouncer, “isn’t a positive behavior pattern.”
The latest and paciest of these books is Rob Fitzgerald’s Clublife: Thugs, Drugs, and Chaos at New York City’s Premier Nightclubs (HarperCollins), which details the author’s three years bouncing in the Red-Bull-and-Grey-Goose-fueled clubs of West Chelsea. Fitzgerald, who built an online following blogging as “Rob the Bouncer” for his Clublife site, is the Jay McInerney of Bouncer Lit. Clublife charts both the rise and fall of a club called Axis (“an amalgam,” he writes in an Author’s Note, “of my experiences and observations in clubs”) and the disenchantment of an apprentice doorman.
The two processes are interdependent: as Axis “goes cold,” losing its celebrity cachet and being obliged thereby to let in more bridge-and-tunnel fake-chinchilla-wearing riff-raff just to keep the lights on (or flashing), Rob the Bouncer is exposed to ever-tawdrier scenes, until he is forced to acknowledge that his club has become a “guido paradise.” “The center of the main room would be teeming with juicehead guidos, with women — vastly outnumbered, most times — floating around the periphery, afraid to venture into the hive. . . .”
The guidos get intoxicated; they want to fight. Or, in Bill Carson’s formula from Show No Fear: “Muppets + drink + drugs = ag.” It gets poor Rob down terribly, moving him to outbursts of passionate misanthropy. Even respect turns sour. “The questions persisted, lobbed by the trolls. Tossed at me nonstop by the no-shame brigade — those desperate little fuckers who’d come into the club to ask me questions about everything from workout tips to real estate to auto repair. To them, we were bouncer-kings.” Helpfully, Clublife has a section called “The Rules”: How to Talk to a Bouncer, Leaving a Club Without Getting Hurt, and so on.
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