Night Life


Last week, The Nightfly manned the velvet ropes outside The Mercury Room (1008 Prairie). Having mastered the art of club gatekeeping, the next logical step in this anthropological study of Houston nightlife would be to assume the persona of another essential part of a club crew: the bouncer. Oh, yes, I would spend a night being the muscle, the heft, the brawn that keeps a night of leisurely entertainment from degenerating into a drunken, beer bottle-throwing fracas.

For this endeavor, I once again ventured to NoDo, this time to a club with perhaps the most famous bouncers in the area, Spy (112 Travis). I approached head of security Kenneth Richardson with the idea, in the hopes that I could work their newest Friday-night bikini contest ("Bikini Boot Camp"). I thought I had a build -- let's just say I'm "husky" -- that would allow me to easily slip into the role.

Alas, this dream would go unrealized. At first, Spy management said that having me as a bouncer for even one night would be "too much of a liability." (Later, they gave excuses less sensitive to my ego.) Damn, damn and damn once again! Spy did, however, allow me to watch the boys in action as they defended the ladies from the drunk-n-horny throngs.

The evening began with some all-too-typical downtown perils. Since it was after midnight on a Friday night/Saturday morning, there was nary a parking space to be found. (I keep forgetting to bring my grandmother's handicapped parking placard with me.) After about 20 minutes of circling, I finally found a space, and sure enough, it was right next to a guy with a tale of woe about needing $6 for Greyhound fare back to San Antonio or somewhere. I gave him a dollar and some loose change before making my way to Spy.

When I hit the ropes of the club, Spy's doorman wouldn't let me in. I was wearing sneakers, you see. Didn't this guy recognize me as someone who so recently had been one of his own? Meanwhile, I could hear the voice of Spy honcho Bobby Stark emceeing the bikini contest that was tantalizingly nearby. After five minutes of antsiness, the door guy got some other cat for me to talk to and I was on my merry way.

The contest was in full swing, with a crush of dudes on the small stage where the bikini modeling was taking place. According to Stark, there were four ladies vying for the top prize, but I saw only three: two petite, curvy gals and one tall, chiseled, possibly surgically enhanced darling.

But I was there to watch the bouncers. Honest.

The audience was surprisingly subdued that night, which makes sense considering the security. Clad in identical tight-ass white golf shirt and jeans getups, the bouncers mostly fit Evander Holyfield's general description: big, buff, black and bald. Who the hell would be stupid enough to start something with these guys? I stuck around to see if anyone would get full of the "confidence juice" (translation: alcohol) and dare to dream.

As the evening wore on and patrons clambered up on the stage to dance to the latest Project Pat song, the security team circulated, silently declaring its authority. Since the scene downstairs appeared well under control, I went upstairs, where a couple of bouncers lounged about in their at-ease stances. Under their watchful eyes, a shirtless patron with a black thong inching its way out of his pants was spray-painting impressive illustrations on the chests of intrigued female customers. Yes, it was that kind of evening, folks.

After an hour and a half of watching the bouncers quietly increase the peace with an unfortunate (for the purposes of sensationalistic journalism) lack of head-cracking, it was time to head out to the patio and take in some air. That's where I saw security head Richardson, puffing back Benson & Hedges menthols in his signature I-wish-a-muthafucka-would pose.

Richardson explained what it takes to become a bouncer at any club. Basically, it comes down to common sense. "You treat people the way you wanna be treated," the security vet said. "Then, all of a sudden it'll work out better for you." The golden rule notwithstanding, Richardson recruits many -- surprise! -- weightlifters to fill security positions. (One of the most built guys on the team can powerlift 700 pounds and used to play for the Packers.)

Could The Nightfly cut the mustard as a Spy bouncer? Richardson didn't think so and bluntly said as much. Bouncers, he said, have to present a certain image of power and intimidation. (Apparently, I lack both. Guess I'll have to stick to writing about them.) "I want somebody who can take care of themselves, you know," he said, not softening the blow one damn bit.

Talk soon turned from what it takes to become a bouncer to what it takes to impress the club ladies. Richardson and a cornrowed, slightly less cut bouncer named Matt goaded me on, giving me tips on how to pick up two white gals who had walked out onto the patio. Richardson got the ball rolling by going over to them before I could. Eventually, I followed and managed to squeeze into the conversation. They were Mary and Kate, freshmen marine biology majors at Texas A&M Galveston, in town looking for a good time. As I was chatting up the coeds, Richardson excused himself to extinguish an expletive-filled altercation between two other patrons.

As two o'clock rolled around, I left the club, with Mary and Kate in tow, looking for mischief on this early Saturday morning. Unfortunately, since liquor was nowhere to be found after two, our search for mischief was doomed to ignominy.

But I learned a lot hanging with Spy's big boys -- some good, some bad (especially when it pertained to myself). The most important lesson: These men are not bullies. These men are not muscleheads. They're nothing more than playas! So next time you see one of these brothas tossing a couple of drunk frat boys out on the street, keep in mind that bouncers are, at heart, lovers, not fighters.

Coming soon: What it takes for a schmuck like me to become a slammin' house DJ! (Maybe if I didn't say played-out shit like "slammin'"…)

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey