Last week a jury found Quentin Danvers guilty of murdering Guvernment bouncer Howard Gairy. I never met Gairy, but I was imagining the horror of the bullets piercing his young chest while I was getting ready for my own bouncing shift at another downtown club. This bouncer's-eye-view of Clubland isn't always violent, but it's always absurd.
Bouncers are thuggish halfwits on a power trip. They're Darwinian aberrations, a brutish breed that has avoided evolution. That's what I thought until I became one. Now I marvel at our good-natured composure and the grace with which we have adapted to our environment.
Since moving to Toronto, I've "worked the door" for one and a half years, first in Little Italy and now in the entertainment district. Entertaining it can be, but mostly I'm just a bemused witness to the new unnatural selection.
The following are common commands I hear in my earpiece from the head doorman, who is just paces away.
"Chris, grab those two blonds."
"Copy. Good evening, ladies. Your party is waiting."
"Chris, tell that pack of guys to bring some sand to the beach."
"Copy. Sorry, gents. We're at capacity."
The head doorman's guest list can magically welcome the uninvited or dismiss undesirables who've reserved their place. It has a five-tiered ranking system. As guests walk in, they're rated: hot/rich, OK/rich, good, OK or ugly/refuse next booking.
Unnatural selection favours the pretentious, the vain, the egotistic and the surgically improved - in short, the Chi-Chis.
Chi-Chis are strangers to wit and dignity but know aloofness. They enjoy a symbiotic relationship with Clubland - each feeds the other.
Doormen are trained to spot them through a forest of vacuous, begging faces. It's not difficult. The male Chi-Chi, so alarmingly over-groomed as to appear emasculated, seems modest only compared to the female. She has no discernible personality because her face muscles are paralyzed by Botox.
But she attracts the male with her fine coat, spiked heels and upholstered breasts. If nothing else, the Chi-Chis know their place atop the Clubland food chain. They bypass the herded humans behind ropes with reassuring pomposity.
"Nice to see you again," I say, certain I've never laid eyes on them. He nods. I smile at her lifeless face in case it's trying to smile at me.
"That's so unfair," says a hopelessly dressed hopeful in line. "We've been here for nearly two hours!" She speaks the truth and sinks in my estimation. I think, "Why are you wasting your life queuing for a club noted for its Chi-Chi-ness?" She belongs to the only breed more grotesque than the Chi-Chi - the Chi-Chi wannabe.
Why is Clubland so unfair?
Clubbers demand it. I can't count the number of times a dizzy woman or a misogynist has moaned about the lack of "talent." Owners and punters alike criticize doormen for disobeying the laws of unnatural selection.
"Why did you let in so many ugly guys?" they ask.
"Sorry," I say, and then marvel that I'm apologizing for not being sufficiently judgmental.
Once, I tried a different tactic.
Two middle-aged guys in the club approached me with snaky gold necklaces winking from beneath black leather jackets. "Hey, boss," said Less Fat in a thick 905 accent. "It's like a sausage factory in here, ya know what I'm sayin'? There's not enough broads."
Shaved Chest grinned, but Less Fat wanted an answer. I looked around the room slowly and nodded agreement. "You're right. Get the hell out!"
What followed was a scary, wide-eyed silence. Then it dawned on Shaved Chest that I was joking, and his laughter eventually spread to Less Fat. "You're a pretty fucking funny guy, boss," said Less Fat, leaving.
But it's not all fun.
I can't sleep the nights men say they will kill me, and almost every weekend a scene will make me nervous.
All the bouncers I know in Toronto are polite, even under stress. Doubtless there are a few pitbulls working the door. Sometimes they are needed.
But most experienced doormen are especially polite when a fight seems imminent, because they know the loser goes to hospital, if he's lucky, and the winner to jail.
Aggressors regularly call us faggots, niggers and bitches. Response: "Please don't spoil a good night, sir. Let me get you a cab." Why? Last year several doormen were shot in Toronto, a couple of them fatally.
Christopher Livingstone is a pseudonym.