I never really had the intention of working as a doorman (or bouncer). It just seemed to be one of those things that fell into my lap. An old workmate who used to work as a doorman asked me if I would work a one off gig, at the Highwayman, in Threapwood, near Cheadle. At the time I was short of cash, so I agreed to do it. I didn’t have a doorman badge, or licence, but for just one night what harm could it possibly do?
Well that one night, became two nights, then two weeks, two months, and eventually spanned over six years! During those six or so years I’ve witnessed all kinds of unbelievable things like: Women drop their knickers and piss in the street at random. People having sex in toilets, alleyways, and cars. People have literally been beaten and kicked within an inch of their lives. Drug abuse on an epic scale. People puke every colour of the rainbow. I’ve been attacked with knives, hypodermic syringes, bottles, been threatened with guns! …and no, I don’t think I’m tough at all. I survived. So I must have done something right.
Th’Wayman as we used to call it was only open on Friday and Saturday nights. They were totally different. Friday was always classic rock night, and it was rammed with people! Classic rock fans used to travel from all over the country. Coachloads who’d camp out in a field overnight, just to headbang, and play the air guitar. …and a few pints of beer I daresay. But all good stuff. Despite the negative image or reputation that rockers and bikers appear to have, there was never any sort of trouble on a Friday night. They had a really good classic rock D.J. who’d play all the favorites: Led Zep, Guns N’ Roses, Rage Against the Machine, ACDC, Black Sabbath, Saxon, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Def Leppard – to name but a few. In my opinion they had damn good taste in music! 😀 They always finished the night off with Journey’s “Seperate Ways” and finaly “Don’t Stop Believin'”. It was sort of a tradition. They were bloody good nights!
Saturday nights were a different affair. A much younger crowd. Mostly people from the nearby village of Cheadle. Every village has an idiot. This place had quite a few. Just adolescence young men and women, who couldn’t take their ale. They weren’t all bad. It just attracted a few local knob heads, but that goes with the territory when you work the doors. The music was the complete opposite of a Friday night. A local lad called Wayne was the D.J. when I fist started working there. The playlist was very different. It was like all the dance, or rave music, or trance music – that kind of thing. It was my first encounter with recreational drugs. I didn’t take them. It was detecting and preventing the use of them in the club.
I worked for guy called Jeff Harrison. He was nick named “Silver Bullet” on account that he had grey hair, and was a bullet (a legitimate tough guy, come street-fighter). So that’s where the name came from. One evening one of Jeff’s daughters called Laura, who sometimes worked the doors showed me how she did a toilet inspection. She would wipe her bare hand over a toilet cistern, and if there was any white powder on the palm of her hands that was proof of someone doing lines of cocaine. She would spray WD40 over the toilet cisterns before every shift, to either stop or deter this. So, I did get a good on the job training.
The place had been recently brought out by a guy named Lee Justin, but Jeff was the guy who paid me and gave me orders. That’s one thing about me, I don’t bite the hand that feeds me! Lee Justin looked like a cross between Peter Stringfellow and David Bowie, and I don’t mean that as an insult. I think most people who know him who agree that’s a good description. I think Lee was a bit delusional. It was like he actually thought he was somebody like Peter Stringfellow. Mind you he did book some of the Sunday Sport tarts for a “gentlemen’s evening” …but I think it was just so he could lord it up and perv over them for his own gratification. That was one evening that I didn’t work. At the time I was in a relationship, and I don’t think it would have gone over very well.
Eventually the club closed down. It was in the middle of nowhere. Out in the sticks. Friday’s classic rock night kept going strong, but Saturdays started to suffer. It was probably due to the fact of it’s location. The nearby bars and clubs in Cheadle had obtained late licences until 2 am. So, the locals no longer needed to travel for a late night on the booze. The place had become dated. It needed a revamp, and I don’t think Lee Justin had the finances for this. The bars and clubs in The Potteries and Newcastle-under-Lyme had a more modern decor, cheap two-for-one drinks promotions, a no entry free policy, and I just don’t think the guy, or maybe the place had the resources to compete with kind of competition. It’s a shame really because there’s a lot of memories in that place.
It was educational in the respect that from a martial arts/ self defence point of view, gears had now shifted. This was a different environment to that of a dojo, a tatami mat, or even the octagon. It was a different dimension. A different reality.
For example: If a fight broke out on the balcony. That’s not a dojo, or an octagon, or a ring. There isn’t room to execute judo throws, or long range techniques. Things have to change. Gears have to shift. I did have a few fights in there, but it was never on Friday rock night. It was the some of the village idiots who snorted coke and couldn’t take their ale. Alpha male wannabees – let’s say. They weren’t all bad. It was just a few dickheads who could spoil the evening. One of the local doormen, known as Benny used to refer to them as “the dregs of society”.
I remember the first evening when I was tested. I’d been there a few weeks and Jeff was giving one of the local idiots a bollocking for something. Suddenly, from out of nowhere they were fighting each other. Really going at it. I was standing right behind this idiot, and grabbed his arms from behind, and put him into a catch wrestling hold called a chicken wing. We took him to the entrance where Jeff took great pleasure of informing him that he wasn’t so tough now. He was ejected from the building and given a lifetime ban. Weeks later, we were over ruled and he was allowed back in for more shenanigans.
Sometimes you’d catch some local knob head vandalizing the toilets, for no reason at all. So, they would be ejected from the building and given a life long ban. Then a few weeks later the bar manager, Dave Basset would over-rule you (and the rest of the door staff). I hated this. It really pissed me off. What’s the point of having door staff to maintain order and then taking their authority and credibility away? No point you being there in the first place, is there? It’s no wonder the place fell into a decline.
The Saturday night crowd was eventually getting smaller and smaller. Lee Justin resorted to some drastic measures. He wanted to push Jeff out (who was the middleman, who provided the door staff). I think his strategy was to somehow end his business arrangement with Jeff and cut out the middleman. They parted ways, and I carried on working there, but not for much longer. The place was a sinking ship. Lee Justin closed off the upstairs because the Saturday night crowd had shrunken to an all time low. There was no more advertising being done. He cut the door staff. Some weekends he would call me, just before I’d get ready to drive to work, and tell me that he’s cut the staff, and that I wouldn’t be working that evening. This really pissed me off, because Jeff had always employed us on the basis of “last in – first out” and there were door staff who’d been there only a matter of months who worked each and every week. Benny was now head doorman, and there’s one thing I’ll say about people from Cheadle, and that’s they look after their own. I was from The Potteries, an outsider. So, in my opinion it was being ran a little bit too prejudiced.
At one point Lee Justin and Dave Basset had a naughty little scam going on. I don’t know if they were doing this out of desperation, but they started fixing the expensive brands of beer pumps up to barrels of cheap shit. They thought nobody would notice, because most of the clientele was half-cut when they arrived at the door. So, someone could be ordering Stella Artois at the bar, but being served something like Carling or Skol at the full price. I knew it was happening because a couple of Jeff’s daughters worked behind the bar. Lee thought that Jeff was old and stupid, but Jeff wasn’t. Jeff had infiltrated the entire place, door staff, cloakroom staff, and bar staff too. It was a bit naughty in my opinion, ripping people off like that on their beer. It’s highly illegal, and immoral. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. I don’t think they did themselves, or the place itself any favors in the long run.
There was one doorman called Phil. He became a close friend to Lee Justin. They were a pair of perverts. They both fancied themselves as ladies men – so to speak. Because Phil had worked there for years, and was a close ally of Justin’s he thought he had special privileges, and also thought he was untouchable. One night it kicked off, and I had to resort to dangling somebody over the balcony. A fight had broken out between two groups of youths, and I found myself outnumbered. So, I used one of their clan as a hostage by hanging him over the balcony, and threatening to drop him if they didn’t back the fu@k off. Eventually the head doorman Benny appeared as back up, but he was as drunk as a skunk, and he didn’t exactly rush to come to my aid. When these guys were ejected I noticed something that made my blood boil with anger. Phil was sat up a corner, with a pint of beer in one hand, and with his tongue down some girls throat. I was furious. I had words with Jeff on the car park, and made it clear that on no uncertain terms just exactly what I thought of Phil as a doorman. My opinion? He was (and still is) a long, tall streak of frozen snakes piss. If I was ever to find myself in that situation again, I’d be doing serious damage to Phil’s body. I didn’t care how long he’d worked the doors, or how much respect he had. I respect ME!!! You see, doormen need to have each others backs, and that was no longer happening.
While I was there, the door staff had a little perk. The barmaids would provide us with free drinks, all evening. I always opted for Red Bull. I wanted to be alert. Switched on and focused. Benny would always have a a pint of beer or two, but after Jeff was gone he’d have more than just one or two. He’d be plastered, and his eye’s looked like two piss-holes in the snow. I could no longer rely on these individuals for backup. Some nights he’s be as pissed as a twat. It was becoming very amateurish, and I no longer wanted to be a part of that.
One weekend, I was visited by an old training partner, Big Kev, who used to work the doors in The Potteries and Newcastle-under-Lyme. He asked me if I wanted to do a shift at a bar called The Albion. I said yes, and from that point on – I never looked back.