I sometimes imagine Bouncers (aka doormen), your modern day St Peters, were born with their arms folded. Lifted, or forced out of the womb, with their body formed for action; it’s as though they are hiding their bulb-like knuckles under a bushel of bicep.
Having said that, I think Bouncers get a bad press which is borne out of misbehaviour but is rooted in a paradoxical image problem; on the one hand they need to project menace, or your average front loaded, done a few bench presses in my day, have-a-go-for-the-missus zero, is going to think above his station. But on the other, it all gets a bit tiring for them to do that all the time, and if you look close enough, they are often up for the laugh to brighten up what can be a really boring, low paid, unsociable hours, form of employment.
Jonathan Edwards sums up this image perfectly in his poem, Bouncers. You have their dark side, but they are out in the cold, “Undertakers’ coats buttoned to their throats,/they applaud their own performance to keep warm.” And they have to be all eyes, looking beyond what’s put in front of them in the queue, “They have the miraculous visions of a prophet/over the shoulder of whoever they’re talking to.” But then it’s the “drive home at three or four and wake at noon/with no hangover.”
There is a great deal more regulation of Bouncer behaviour these days; no more baseball bats behind the door or knuckle dusters in the pocket. At the same time, the rise in pub and club prices of alcohol and their low cost at supermarkets, means that many punters are already well gone at point of entry, which makes it a very difficult call. And it is not just the men that provide problems as the rise in the number of female bouncers indicates; one remarked, “I can check the girls’ toilets if a girl is passed out/alcohol poisioned/screwing someone in there, as well as being the only member of staff that can escort out women while touching anything other than their forearms. That’s a huge advantage, as chick fights can get really really nasty, but my male co-workers are kind of limited in the way they can break it up.” So, while the stereotype remains, and the low pay remains, it’s a different world in club and publand these days, and it seems our Bouncers are reflecting that change.
Jonathan Edwards’s first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren) won the Costa Poetry Award and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice Award, and was shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. It is available here: http://www.serenbooks.com/productdisplay/my-family-and-other-superheroes Jonathan’s poems have won prizes in the Cardiff International Poetry Competition, the Ledbury Festival International Poetry Competition and the Basil Bunting Award, and appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review and The North. He works as a teacher in south Wales.
Undertakers’ coats buttoned to their throats,
they applaud their own performance to keep warm.
Like teenage girls they shift from foot to foot,
cheeks rouged by neon signs: The Velvet Room.
Misers’ hands buried in their pockets,
the guest list’s folded up next to their wallets.
They have the miraculous visions of a prophet
over the shoulder of whoever they’re talking to.
They’ll drive home at three or four and wake at noon
with no hangover, wrap their fists around
the kettle, make tea for their tiny girlfriends.
But for now, it’s ‘Pal, there’s no trainers allowed,’
as this child, leaving the theatre, points at them:
‘Mummy, look at the unhappy men.
Bouncers is taken from Jonathan’s Costa winning My Family and Other Superheroes, published by Seren.