A Fistful of Fights
It can be a dangerous way to make a living. “Ninety-seven percent of the time, you’re not doing anything, you’re hanging out, talking to girls, kicking back,” says Estu, “and three percent of the time you live in hell and utter terror.”
When it comes to violence, a bouncer can never know what to expect, especially when alcohol, and maybe drugs, are involved. Or sports. “I was working at the club in the Excelsior Hotel,” Estu says. “It was a football party kickoff night, and the teams from USD and SDSU were there.” Stuff happened, words were exchanged, fists began to fly. “Eighty football players were there,” Estu recalls with amazement, “and all hell broke loose. We did what we could to stop it. I just held on for the ride and hoped I didn’t get hurt. Strangely enough, I didn’t get hit at all,” but the football players tore into one another. “Most people don’t want to fight, and they’ll stop when you break them up,” Estu says, “but these football players are made for this kind of thing, and they weren’t about to stop.”
“I was hired for this wedding, a big wedding,” says Ronny K. “Funny, why does a wedding need security or bouncers? Well, it was a big event and they didn’t want the ‘wrong’ people crashing the thing, and of course people were going to get drunk at the wedding party. It was a white guy from Imperial Beach marrying a Mexican girl from Chula Vista, and they both had ties to different gangs. Crazy. So here you have this wedding party attended by these peeps from two rival gangs and different racial blood, so there was bound to be blood. Not an hour into the party, there was drinking and other stuff, and these guys started going at it. It looked like a rumble on a prison yard, these two giant dudes packed with muscles yelling at each other, tearing their shirts off, showing all these gang tats, and then slamming into each other the way monster trucks do, you know? Holy shit, the sound they made when flesh met flesh and fist met fist, and everyone at the party was cheering them on, rooting for their guy, and then they started to get into it. The women too. It was a huge gang fight. I stood there and waited for the police. There was no way in hell I was getting into that. I didn’t know if there were guns or knives. I remember chunks of flesh on the floor that people had bitten off each other. I don’t know what happened to the bride and groom; they probably, smartly, got out of there.”
Estu says, “I was at a beach bar and I wasn’t even working there, but I got into a fight. A buddy of mine [from rhe 300 Club] was working there. I just went to hang out. These eight rather big Samoan guys showed up. They were looking for a bouncer who wasn’t working that night, they were there over a beef from a year and a half ago. I had to help my buddy on this. Eight Samoan guys and three of us — I was asking for mercy.” The incident did not go well; Estu and the other two got beaten pretty badly. “One guy blindsided me in the head, bam, then another hit me again, bam,” he tells it. He took the beating and lived.
“I’ve been hit in the head with a beer bottle three or four times,” Ronny K. claims. “One dude reached over and grabbed a bottle of Skyy vodka and hit me in the head, and the bottle didn’t break. Still hurt. I took the bottle from him and hit him back, and the bottle still didn’t crack. I’ve had a couple knives pulled out on me and got my hand cut but never been stabbed. Never been shot at either, knock on wood,” and he raps his scarred knuckles on the bar counter. Where did those scars come from? “Fistfight two weeks ago,” he says. “You should see the other dude’s face. He came in looking for his ex-girlfriend or wife or whatever, and she was there with this other guy. He wanted to start shit with the other guy, but he and his ex started going at it, smacking each other around. So I grabbed him and said, ‘You don’t hit women like that,’ and he tried to take me on. A mistake.”
Estu has also had his hand penetrated by a patron’s teeth, deeply. “I tackled him, had his head locked down, and then he bit me.” Estu spent several hours in the hospital, getting rabies shots and stitched up. He still has nerve damage in the hand from that experience.
“There was this construction worker at a bar in El Cajon,” Ronny K. says. “He had his tool belt on. Probably shouldn’t have let him bring it in, but it wasn’t my shift. Come my shift, the guy was shitfaced and looking for trouble. I go to talk to him, and he whipped out a hammer and came after me with that. Then he threw the hammer at my feet and started tossing nails at me too. He was so drunk it was funny, but it could have been different. It wasn’t that funny when you think about the kind of damage he could have done to me or other people.”
Washington hasn’t had such dangerous encounters, just the typical mild fights with drunkards. “The main thing the bar is concerned with is making money,” he says. “They want the drinks to pour and the money to come in. They want people to feel safe and have fun and drink. It’s a business. We’re there to make sure people have a good time; we take out those who want to cause trouble. We don’t let in people who look like they’re going to interfere with the money flow.”