No Slashed Tires
“It’s nothing like Road House, there’s no Patrick Swayzes,” says Ted Washington, who divides his time as a bouncer between Winstons in Ocean Beach and at the Casbah in Middletown. Other bouncers have a different take on this particular vocation.
“I used to work at a certain establishment in Lakeside that’s not there anymore,” says Ronny K. “This was back in the late 1980s, so that dates me, but it could get like Road House. The band played behind wire mesh, and there was an arsenal of handguns and rifles under the bar. No one ever slashed my tires, because I parked around the corner and made sure no one was watching or following me. That’s kind of paranoid, but sometimes people do hold grudges when you toss them out.”
This was the case with a 22-year-old bouncer who was killed on February 22, 2003, in a Gaslamp Quarter nightclub, Red Top, that featured burlesque shows. From the police report of the incident: “A male patron had gotten onto a go-go dancing platform and was groping a female dancer. The patron was approached by security and asked to get down. He was told he needed to leave the club. He complied. The patron showed no outward signs of being intoxicated… The two guards walked behind the patron toward the stairs that led to the front door of the club. As the three climbed the stairs, the patron stayed ahead of the guards. At about the fourth or fifth stair up, the patron, who had his hands at his sides, abruptly turned, and with a closed fist struck the guard closest to him in the face. The guard was on the second stair up from the floor. The guard fell straight back and onto the concrete floor. He suffered a skull fracture and died.”
There is also the 2001 case of Michael Savala, who, on Cinco de Mayo, shot and killed two bouncers at the Old Bonita Store restaurant after he and his two drunken friends were 86’ed. The murder charges were reduced to manslaughter because, as reported by the Union-Tribune on March 8, 2003, a “witness testified that one of the bouncers elbowed Savala hard in the face, then slapped him a couple of times, even after two men had Savala by the arms and were dragging him outside. Savala then got a handgun from his Cadillac Escalade and shot bouncers Basilio Beltran and Jesse Vasquez to death.”
In a recent online employment ad, the Marriott Gaslamp Quarter referred to the position of bouncer as “Beverage Ambassador,” with the duty “to keep rooftop bar safe and the patrons happy and in control.” Requirements: “Meet/ exceed customer expectations, excellent people skills” and “able to lift at least 50 pounds.” Other terms for the job are doorman, ID checker, security, enforcer, door staff, floor staff, and door supervisor. In Australia and Canada, the official term is “crowd controller.” They often collect door cover charges and rely on tips for special treatment. While in typical bar or club settings, the bouncer/doorman looks for people who are underage, intoxicated, or appear intent on causing trouble, in trendy, popular “scene” clubs frequented by celebrities or VIPs, bouncers allow or disallow entry based on gender, attire, personality, financial status (that is, slipping the bouncer $20–$100 to gain entry), and in some cases, race and culture, going against the mandate of antidiscrimination laws.
“My uncle came up with a term: executive clientele relocation director,” says Jason Estu, who has worked at bars and clubs all across San Diego and San Francisco. “I even put that on my résumé.”
According to the website crimedoctor.com: “The term bouncer presents an image of a brawler who will break up fights and forcibly eject obnoxious patrons. Bouncers are often portrayed in movies as tough, thug-like scrappers who love to fight…. Many nightclubs foster that image by hiring oversized ex-jocks, wrestlers, or martial artists to handle drunken or out-of-control patrons. Usually these bouncers have little experience and receive no real formal training in criminal or civil law…. These inexperienced bouncers will be forced to rely on their own common sense and instincts to solve a problem.”
“At strip clubs, I was known as the Body Guard, like that movie with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner,” says Ronny K., who did not want to be fully identified. “I kept men from jumping on the stages, going into the dressing room, or even the women’s bathroom — you won’t believe what some of these guys will do after half a dozen drinks. I walked the dancers to and from their cars because guys sometimes hang around outside waiting for them.”
Some notable former bouncers include actors Vincent D’Onofrio, Vin Diesel (his original bouncer pseudonym), and Mr. T., two-time winner of America’s Tough Bouncer competition. Even Al Capone worked as a bouncer in his youth. In the pre–World War I years of the United States, bouncers also had the job of guardians of morality. Ballroom dancing, for instance, and taxi dancing, were considered an activity that could lead to immoral conduct if the dancers’ bodies got too close. Venues required bouncers to remind patrons not to dance closer than nine inches from their partners. A bouncers’ warning was a light tap on the shoulder, at first; then, if needed, they progressed to more draconian methods.
The 300 Club
Jason Estu, Ted Washington, and Ronny K. all began their life in bouncing in the days before bouncers had to register with authorities and carry a “guard card.” In California, Senate Bill 194 requires any bouncer or bar security to be registered with the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. They must also complete a criminal background check and submit their fingerprints to the Department of Justice and the FBI. The San Diego Police Department’s In-House Security Program held its first session for bouncers and doormen on September 14, 2004, with 25 attendees who worked in Pacific Beach establishments. “The pilot program is focusing on that coastal district — a ‘bar hopping’ hotspot lined with popular taverns,” reported the North County Times.