We meet them, argue with them, try to reason with them, and occasionally see someone try to get them to fight- but how much thought do we really give to a club’s doorman, or ‘bouncer’? These guys (and ladies) have one of the hardest jobs there is, namely, sorting through every type of person from the street, dealing with impossible situations but with a smile and a nod. Who are bouncers, and where did they come from? That’s the subject for today’s blog post - looking at where the idea of a doorman or “bouncer” came from, and some thoughts about this demanding and overlooked job. A quick note: I (your humble blogger) am certainly not a bouncer, nor have I spoken at any length to one. I’m not an expert by any means.
The term “bouncer” first appeared in an 1875 novel by Horatio Alger Jr. called The Young Outlaw, where in a passage a waiter is told to “bounce” a boy who hasn’t paid for his meal. He’s thrown from the business premises, a sequence that swiftly became incredibly popular in films and popular culture. By this time, hiring a doorman was commonplace, and in fact there are references to having someone guard the door going back to ancient Greece! One famous female bouncer in Baltimore in the 30s was named Mickey Steele. Legend has it she first politely enquired where a doomed customer was from, only to remove him from the premises and hurl him in that general direction. However, despite what you may see in the movies, such hurling is happily no longer an option for the bouncer’s of today. There’s a great deal of training where doormen and women learn how to deal with patrons while avoiding excessive force (or often any force), leading to a culture of professionalism and respect. Still, these men and ladies) likely have one of the most stressful, difficult jobs around, and a tradition of garnering little to no respect for the critical purpose they serve.