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Welcome to The Jungle

Behind the scenes with the bouncers at a club nearer than you think

By Sanna Makkonen

COVERED IN other people's sweat, I drop onto the black couch against the wall and lift my arms up, palms out, to receive ... my shift drink. Corona. Very cold, God bless. My latex gloves bunch up in my back pocket, and I unplug my headset. Tonight is the first night my fellow bouncers--er, security staff--have openly welcomed me to the after-hours gossip fest.

"Ben, what happened with your G drop?"

"Puked and left, yo."

We catch up on the action we missed or didn't understand over the headsets.

"Can you believe that idiot offered me a bump?"

"And who were yoooou chatting up behind the speakers?"

No one's personal life is sacred, and no joke or story is too off-color. I have learned what a G drop is (someone who's coming down off GHB), such useful phrases as "cuffing his carrot" and more jokes about bestiality than I care to admit. Tonight we learn that Ed has the pants of his last date in the trunk of his car, but he won't tell us why.

My fellow bouncers are wonderful, funny and highly mysterious people. No one knows Barry's real last name. Rumor has it George was a drug runner in Afghanistan in the '70s. Kevin is a wannabe actor with bad impulse control and poorly waxed eyebrows. Kate is a martial arts expert who crochets to kill time at boring stations. No one knows how old JP is, but he doesn't drink and has a Venezuelan passport. I'm here because my boxing coach hooked me up when I got laid off, and after it had been established that I could take a blow to the head, I generally flew under the gossip radar--until I made out with the gay porn star on New Year's Eve while on "talent detail." They had a field day with that one and rightly so.

Our club is mostly gay, which makes being a female security guard even more of a curiosity. When I ask guys to zip up, they still bother to look a little abashed. Mother guilt, I suppose. I get just as many bitchy hair tips as kind ones, as well as lots of advice on where to get the best fetish footwear in a men's size 11, who makes the longest pants, the strongest fishnets and smudge-proof eyeliner. However, I just as frequently get the "How much you bench? Huh? How much?" But mostly, our customers really appreciate the fact that we make it safe and cozy for them to get their freak on from 10pm until 7am any Friday or Saturday night they desire.

And get their freak on they do. These boys know how to party ... mostly. We have nicknames for our regulars, like Richard Burton, Handjive (an old raver light twirling guy who hasn't figured out it isn't 1992 anymore), Poopster (don't ask) and the Evil Twins. Plenty of party fouls occur, and we're there to keep the peace, clean up the mess and then get the mess into a taxi.

I used to grimace at the sight of emergency-room nurses throwing one back at Jack's bar, 7am on a weekday. It seemed so desperate and slightly scary. Boozing it up at dawn, even for a born and raised northerner, is a little beyond, you know? And yet here I slouch, dawn slinking down the piss-soaked alley, seagulls keening from the lampposts, clutching my beer for dear life. I am among them now. I have joined the teeming hordes that make bars that open at 6am profitable. A night worker, a bouncer. And there ain't nothing wrong with a nice cold beer after a hard 10 hours of work. Nothing.

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From the February 5-11, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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