By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
We hereby declare our column every bit as important as the Chicago Tribune's "Dewey Defeats Truman" issue, the stuff Jayson Blair contributed to The New York Times or anything written by Tom Clancy.
OK, we provide fewer explosions. But, dammit, we...um, well, we at least admire those who stand alone against the crowd. Clancy created valiant characters along those lines: Sean Connery defying the Soviet Union; Harrison Ford fending off a deadly cartel. Hell, even Tom DeLay battles courageously against those evil liberals dominating Congress, the White House and talk radio.
So what's left for the Burning Question crew?
How 'bout the door guys at Dallas nightclubs? That's right, those stalwart few standing alone each night as a tide of drunks descends on them.
"They're rude, they cuss us out, and you just have to say 'I'm sorry,'" says Robert DeFranco, front man at Candle Room. Barhoppers clamoring for entrance to local hot spots try everything from flattery to deceit. Most often they claim to know the owner or manager--sometimes bragging about the fictional friendship while said manager stands in plain sight, unrecognized. Other times they push the limits a bit further. "They offer obscene amounts of money," adds Grover Crossland of Obar, "or act like it's Mardi Gras and pull down their tops."
And that's just the men.
"They'll say, 'My boobs are perky tonight,'" says Todd Wright, doorman at Seven.
Yep, that's the equation. One or two guys protected by a velvet rope holding off dozens of anxious inebriates wielding bare breasts, cash and wild stories. And night after night they emerge from the onslaught victorious.
How do America's unsung heroes manage? And why?
"The door guy is the face of the club," Wright explains. "It's our job to make sure the knuckleheads don't get in." By that he means the encounter between doorman and drunk creates an indelible impression (until the alcohol wears off the next morning, of course). And by allowing or denying entry, bouncers shape the experience of everyone inside. "Exclusivity is a function of saying 'no,' and everybody wants to go someplace exclusive," says Matthew, poet laureate of Dallas nightlife and front man for Nikita (Sunday) and Lush (Saturday). "A really good doorman can bring a crowd and sustain a club."
Sure, their actions seem a bit unfair. They step aside for one group and shun another for reasons unclear, so a few people in line become irritated.
"The loudest and rudest don't move up in line," says John DeFranco of Sense. He describes the process as "rigid flexibility," whereby doormen size up behavior, dress and other factors. Groups of women--two to six, usually--pass through quickly. Men gain entrance immediately if they bring along several female friends or brandish some sort of power. "That's why it's rigid flexibility," he continues. "There's protocol and audibles."
So how do people actually cut in line and beat the crowd?
"Time, patience and money," Wright says. "And it doesn't hurt to ask." Truly adept types tip a doorman on the way out, rather than waving cash in his face to gain entrance. "You'll automatically be remembered." Of course, several clubs discourage their front staff from accepting bribes, and some doormen limit handouts on principle. "If I cut a deal, it's once in a blue moon," claims Michael Arredondo of Suede. "Too much of it ruins your reputation."
"My goal is the highest-quality crowd," Matthew adds. "The last thing you want to do is take money from the wrong people. If they don't belong in the club, they don't belong in the club."
That should explain what happened to the $50 we "borrowed" from our editor. And why we never spoke to anyone inside Lush.
For the most part, door guys look for women and men who fit the establishment's profile. That means dress the part, act appropriately and show a bit of respect. "You let anyone in, and it's a bad reputation for the club," says Morris London of Eight Lounge. They despise overly boisterous types--and bachelorette parties--although experienced bouncers learn to fight threats with silence.
"They have to calm a situation down without hitting someone," explains Tim Tremoni, manager of Shade. Besides, London chimes in, "anybody can beat up a drunk. It's no fun."
That's it, pretty much. If you must toss out a bit of payola, do it with finesse. Barring that, rent a few good-looking friends or wait your turn. As Haden, a longtime nightcrawler, says, "It's chicks, power and bucks--that's the order. And if you have power, be grateful."