Man about town Steven Greenberg has passed and I’m going to put my two cents in. I’d put in three but I have a feeling, if he could, he’d scold me for overpaying. Over many years, Steven was a friend, mentor, and a go-to-guy when I needed a big brain and an honest answer. He was always more than pleased to help. A couple of years ago when I was putting together some nightlife community thing, he advised me about the people I was dealing with and why it would fall short of my expectations. He was unrelenting, unforgiving, and spot-on. I was in too deep to go back, but his wisdom had me prepared for the inevitable.
Bouncer-cum door legend King doesn’t like rejecting people at the velvet ropes, but explains why some nights his own sister won’t make the cut, while a dude in a blue whale suit breezes inside.
Point of Origin: The first nightclub I ever worked at was The Building. It was a second job, I was already working during the day as a bartender, and I wanted extra money. A friend of mine was dating a guy much too old for her who was managing the club, and through her I got the job. They actually got married, so I guess he wasn’t too old for her, and she is still my friend, so I probably shouldn’t say shit like that. He’s a good guy. He is one of the guys who runs Waverly Inn. I met with him and he said, “We will give you a job as a bouncer, you have broken up fights before?” and I said, “Yeah, sure.”
It can’t hurt that you’re a big guy. I have always been big, and my father taught me to use it for good — not evil — so I had broken up fights that I had nothing to do with. My first boss told me when I come into work to wear six or seven sweatshirts. I thought he meant because it was going to be cold … but what he meant was that I was actually the small bouncer, even though at the time I was 6’4” and 270 pounds. I was the little guy, so I had to wear the five sweatshirts to look even bigger. Within two weeks, I had broken up more fights without incidents than anyone who worked there all combined because I used my brain. This was back when bouncers could beat you up and not go to jail. I would just tell the guys who were fighting they could walk out of the door with me — like a gentleman — or these other gorillas are just waiting to stomp you. What do you want to do? So they would all walk out with me and I would never tell the other guys what I had said. They were like, “How do you do that? That’s amazing! How do you get them to walk out voluntarily?” They would shake my hand for being thrown out of the club. I said, “It’s just what I do.”
Job Description: Even though at a lot of these places I’m just the doorman, and that is what I like to be, I am also generally a consultant. I give ideas and let other people take credit for them. As long as they pay me, I don’t really care. Now I’m taking a little break, ‘cause I decided I didn’t like the way the business itself was heading. Also I had some other opportunities to do some interesting things. I’m consulting in clubs around the world right now, in Japan, in England. I don’t have to work the door, or tell anyone no. I’m a man who takes rejection horribly, but I give it tremendously.
Notable Rejections: I turned down my own sister [once] ‘cause she was dressed inappropriately. She wasn’t an ugly girl, it was a special party, and I said, “You can’t come in looking like that. It would be an embarrassment to me.” All the security heard and were like, “King turned down his own sister. We better not let our friends show up.”
So who gets in? One night when I was working, a guy came up in a blue whale mascot outfit, and I opened the ropes immediately and gave him a ticket to let him in. The owner was standing behind me and asked why I let him in. I said, “Because he is a guy in a blue whale costume.” “I don’t understand,” he replied. I told him, “The real important person that I let in here tonight for you was some baseball player. When people are at work on Monday, and they are talking about being out over the weekend, do you think more of them will say, ‘I was at a nightclub and so and so from the Yankees was there,’ or more would say, ‘I was out and saw a guy in a blue whale costume drinking at the bar.’ I tend to think more people will talk about the blue whale. Maybe I am wrong. I don’t think so.”
It’s Friday night; are you going out? Friday and Saturday nights are not typically the nights a true New Yorker goes out. Those are still amateur nights. Where the B & T show up. Thursday night is always the best night to go out. It always has been. My favorite night is probably Monday.
What’s something people don’t know about working the door? I’m not here to insult you or make you feel bad. Rejection is bad enough no matter how it comes. I can be the most polite, most well-mannered person rejecting somebody. Somebody is still going to hate me for it ‘cause I’m still telling them no. Nobody likes to be told no. I would say please and thank you, and still stories would come back to me that I cursed them out. I was brought up by an English mother who would wash my mouth out with soap if I used inappropriate words. I rarely do. It’s not my nature.