Before the passage of 194, “The only thing that mattered was that you were big, and you could hold your own in a fight,” says Estu, who once belonged to a group of San Diego bouncers who called themselves “The 300 Club” — no one in the club clocked in at fewer than 300 pounds, averaging 350–375. These big guys hung out together, partied together, dated the same women, and supported each others’ goals and dreams. (This is not to be confused with the 300 Club in Antarctica, explained at penguincentral.com as “a mid-winter activity at [the South] Pole so named for the
-300°F temperature shift one experiences when running from a +200°F sauna to the Pole and back when the outside ambient temperature hits -100°F or below. The air is so dry that it’s possible to sit in a sauna that warm without getting scalded, and it’s also possible to make a several-minute walk to the Pole and back without losing fatal amounts of body heat.”) From 2004 to 2005, they could often be found having a Sunday BBQ together on the rooftop of a loft building at Fifth Avenue and Market Street.
The Los Angeles production company Romano Shane Television was interested in creating a reality show about the 300 Club: the series would follow the San Diego bouncers around on and off the job, chronicling the challenges of this kind of life, from fights with a drunk patron to fights with the significant other at home.
It never quite came together. “It was a great concept,” says TV producer Tony Romano from his home in Malibu, “and I think it still is, but there are so many details when dealing with a group of people and getting a test pilot off the ground. TV’s a crapshoot. The stars just didn’t line up at the time.”
Most of the former 300 Club have scattered now — moving to other cities, getting married, and going back to school. Estu and a handful remain in San Diego, doing what they do best.…
“Once a bouncer, always a bouncer,” Estu likes to say. He gives this example: he recently went to see a movie where there was mostly a young audience, except for a couple in their 50s or 60s. This couple asked the group of people in front of them to please be quiet, and “This guy got in their faces, started yelling he was going to sue, swearing at them. Now,” Estu says, “that’s not right, this is an elderly couple, you don’t get in older people’s faces like that, so the bouncer inside me kicked in and I got into this guy’s face. I walked the couple to their car to make sure they were okay and nothing happened.”
The Former IRS Agent and the Repo Man
Ted Washington has bounced from coast to coast in his travels. He worked for one night in a Las Vegas strip club. “Uhn-uh,” he says, shaking a head full of dreadlocks and laughing, “that scene was too crazy for me.”
So how did he wind up at Winstons? Did he apply for the job, did he walk in and say, “Do you need a bouncer/doorman?”
“I came in with some friends as a customer one day,” he explains. “This buddy of mine started flirting with this girl. He tapped her on the ass with his hand — a big mistake. She was with these three guys. The three guys started to pick a fight with my friend. Now, my friend had it coming; he shouldn’t have touched that girl, but three against one isn’t a fair fight. I got involved. I picked up one of the three guys and tossed him out of the bar.”
The doorman working at that time observed Washington’s way of handling the situation and was impressed. “He said I should work there, offered me a job. I said no. It’s not what I wanted. He said, ‘Come try it out, one day a week.’ So I did. And now here I am.”
As for the Casbah, his involvement with the local music and spoken-word scene, and performing in the band Pruitt Igoe, led to work at the music venue.
He admits that things don’t get as rowdy at the Casbah as they do at Winstons. “People are there for the music, so there are not too many fights or problems, unless they have a hardcore punk or metal band on the roster,” and then things might get out of hand. He also says there are fewer fights at Winstons these days. Mondays through Thursdays tend to be problem free, “but on Friday and Saturday nights, something happens. Used to be you could count on a big fight every weekend, but things have mellowed out.” He doesn’t know why — maybe the patrons are getting older, maybe people are drinking less because of the economy.
Perhaps Washington’s previous job with the Internal Revenue Service prepared him for the vocation. IRS agents often deal with difficult people. “I was the guy who came to your house to seize property and assets” when people had a debt to satisfy with the U.S. Government. Washington seems amused by that past job, a life very unlike the bohemian existence he now lives in Ocean Beach. When he’s not at the door of Winstons or the Casbah, Washington spends his time writing poetry, painting, and operating Puna Press. The press mostly publishes Washington’s art and writing but has also issued Edwin Decker’s Barzilla, a local favorite among denizens of the poetry scene.
“Before I bounced, I was a car repo man,” says Ronny K. “Worked for this agency that served court papers on people, followed cheating husbands and wives around, and repo’d cars. Place out of Spring Valley. I did some process-serving but mostly nabbed cars. Sometimes, people would just give you the keys, knowing this was coming; you’d go up to the door, explain it, they’d say, ‘Okay’ and hand over the keys, and that was that, easy commission. Other times, you gotta go back and steal the cars, which would either be easy or tricky, doing this at three, four in the morning. I’ve had people come after me with bats, shoot BB gun pellets at me, send their dogs after me. But no one ever got right in my face.”