Friday, October 12, 2007

Never go to a club that will accept you

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2007 at 8:21 PM

One of my favorite blogs is by a New York City club bouncer who goes by the pseudonym Rob the Bouncer. He seems to like the literary-brute schtick of being a hired thug at nightclubs in Chelsea and New York’s Meat Packing District and blogging about the bad behavior that he polices. For several years, the blog has been a great source of glib pseudo-anthropological posts on how “Guidos” dance and why the worst fights always break out in the women’s restrooms. Rob seems to enjoy ridiculing the clientele as much as he likes manhandling the ones earning a quick trip to the sidewalk.

Blogging eventually paid off for him in the form of a book deal, the recently released Clublife (Harper Entertainment). It’s an entertaining read though it shows the difference between blogging and conventions of books. The blog posts have been great bite-sized accounts of bad behavior, the menacing implications of befriending mobsters and the smug machismo of a guy who knows (and likes) that he can win most fights.

Unfortunately, the book is a composite and somewhat fictionalized account of his experiences. To keep your sustained attention for 240 pages, it has a narrative arc, which overburdens the joys of the blog's quick and effortless voyeurism. Instead of starting in the clubs, the book begins with Rob’s girlfriend leaving him. As any New Yorker knows, the worst part of breaking up with someone is finding a way to cover the other half of the rent. For Rob, this is his motivation to start working security as a second job (he’s a furniture delivery man by day). But he also unloads a psychological angle: he’s never going to get to express himself intellectually because he’s spending his nights jostling with goons from the outer buroughs, and worse, bridge and tunnel people. Ohhhh, the humanity.

Rob invents the club Axis to spin some stories about what it’s like being a bouncer in the big city. In no time, he’s pounding guys who try to fend off eviction by sticking a finger in his eye. He’s investigating behavior behind the dumpsters in the club’s alleyway. And he’s covering the rent with hundred-dollar handshakes from lower-level mob bosses who want a little extra attention, even just having a shadow when then go to the men’s room.

As much as Rob says he doesn’t like putting his body on the line so that someone else can make money, he can’t give up the clubs. Part of his attempt to convince himself, the reader or both how bad it is to spend a night in a New York club is detailing the trajectory a multi-million dollar nightclub investment. It opens, celebrities come and drop thousands on reserved tables in VIP rooms. Bouncers at the door are there to keep everyone else out. But then in a couple months the buzz moves to another club, and the decline of civilization begins. The center cannot hold. All of a sudden the club goes from keeping the barbarians at bay with a velvet rope to welcoming them in for $20-$40 a head. The life of the bouncer gets considerably more complicated as the clientele gets less desirable. Rob’s description of this process strives for high tragedy even if it’s a bit obnoxious. But his descriptions of guys who do steroids for reasons of vanity, blow a week’s paycheck on night’s worth of coke and vodka and Red Bulls, and then spit on cocktail waitresses and get tossed on the sidewalk is priceless.

It becomes difficult to understand why anyone would want to be in a club that would actually admit them. I’d recommend staying home and settling for Rob’s account.

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