A Life’s Work: Killjoy

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I didn’t attend a strip club until a month before my twenty-sixth birthday. (I’m not counting the time I wandered into an innocuous-seeming pub in London and saw a surgically disadvantaged forty year old introduce her cervix to an indifferent quango of drunkards.) My first intentional pursuit of lapdancing led me to a club in New Jersey. I was pleasantly surprised when a Drea DeMatteo clone collared me for three consecutive dances at twenty bucks a pop. But I couldn’t get aroused. I could only grip the seat in front of me with white-knuckled hands, terrified by the knowledge that the bouncer spotting me going for one innocent nipple tweak could result in me eating through a straw until my twenty-seventh birthday. But apparently, some overeager customers need more than the promise of broken limbs to keep their hands off the dancers — they need a visual deterrent. At the Hott 22 club in Union, New Jersey, that deterrent is J.R., the guy who enforces the club’s “no touching” rule. We spoke from a safe distance. — Grant Stoddard

Do you have ten minutes to talk?
Yeah, could you give me one minute? I’m in the supermarket buying muffins right now. [pause] Okay, sorry, Boss.

Can you give me your job description?
Basically, my main thing is, I sit by the lapdance room.

And you enforce the rules there?
Yeah. The guy has to keep his hands behind his head, or he’s gotta hold onto the chair. Absolutely, positively no touching of any body part. If that happens, I walk in there and say, “My man, Boss — whatever — you can’t touch the girls.” If he’s apologetic, I’ll let it slide. But if he’s a jerk, I’ll throw him out the fuckin’ door.


What’s a felony and what’s a misdemeanor in the club?
If he’s just touching a leg, I give him a warning. If he grabs her breasts, her crotch — anything like that, he’s gone. He’s not even getting a warning. The dance is over, you’re paying, I’m throwing you out the door.

What are your other duties?
Well, I gotta make sure no underage guys with braces are drinking. I also gotta watch the main stage. There, you can’t touch either. You can tip the girl a dollar between her boobs, stick it in her garter belt, or you can hand it to her. If you grab a boob, you’re done. And I have a little saying at work: “Crack kills.” If the girl turns around and a guy sticks his finger somewhere, he’s a dead man.

What about deadbeats?
I just help the girls. If a guy isn’t paying them, I try to get them their money. You know, they’re working hard. If a guy’s not tipping, I’ll say, "You know what, if you don’t want to tip, get the hell up and go sit somewhere else. This girl’s taking the time to dance for you and you can’t give her a dollar or two? What’s your fuckin’ problem?"

Does that happen a lot?

Can you develop a sixth sense, so to speak?
I’ve been a bouncer since I was eighteen; I’m twenty-five now. I’m not the biggest guy in the club, but I always know when something’s going to happen. It’s weird. I can tell when a guy’s going to smack a girl’s ass when she walks away.

Do you see that every night?
Every night you’re going to have a guy who wants to touch, every night. That guy who just keeps his hands up, ready to grab. It’s like a three year old: Mommy turns her back, and he’s gonna try to steal a cookie from the cookie jar. I’m twenty-five, you’re forty-something. I’m like, “Why do you make me come in there? What the fuck is the matter with you?”

Some people just can’t take a hint.
Absolutely. They get so drunk they think they own the club.

Do you ever have to, you know, straighten ’em out?
[laughs] That’s my favorite part of the night. We can’t do anything unless the guy does something first. I hate that. It’s like your father told you, “If he hits you, hit ’em back.”

Do you try to be firm but fair?
I try to stay away from punches to the face.

What do you do?
If a guy wants to make a first move, I’ll let him make the first move. You’re going to pay for it, but make it. I say, “All right, let’s go. I’ll talk to you outside.” When I get him outside, I say, "You’ve got to leave the club for the night, but you can come back tomorrow. You know? You made a boo-boo." If he makes a move, it’s on. I’ll do a wrist grab takedown, trip him, get him on the ground. Or give him a couple shots to the gut, couple shots to the ribs. Anybody says anything, we got a camera right by the front door.

I can’t believe people would push their luck with you.
Dude, it’s ’cause they’re drunk. They got the beer muscles on ’em. Some of there guys, they walk in at four o’clock in the afternoon, they won’t leave until one-thirty in the morning. They drink a case of beer. The more they drink, the more they want to fight. I’m like, "You couldn’t take me sober; you want to fight me when you’re twenty-four beers deep?" About three months ago, I had a guy pull on my goatee. Awwwww! That was a fuckin’ smack in the face.

How would you describe your relationship with the dancers?
They’re like my sisters. I’m probably the only bouncer who takes as many girls to their cars as I can. I make sure the parking lot’s clear, no guys are around. I’m in school right now for psychotherapy, so I get all the girls’ problems about everything, and I keep everything just between us. I’m not gonna go say, “Oh my God, so and so told me that this happened.” I’m not like that. Some of the older girls I call “Mommy,” y’know, second-mother-type shit. I’d say that nine out of ten girls look at me as more than just a bouncer. If they want to ask me about their outfit, I’ll tell them, “You know, I don’t think this outfit’s working for you tonight, try this.” I’ll tell them, “You know, that hairstyle’s not working, try this.”

Do bouncers ever cross that line?
No, we’re not allowed to do that. Bouncers are not allowed to socialize with any of the dancers or bartenders.

Even outside the club?
You can’t date the girls. You’re not supposed to socialize either. But sometimes you’re at a bar, and whoops, you happen to run into each other, you know what I’m saying?

Surely you must be tempted on the job.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. My first month at work, I thought I was going to get fired. I was like, “Oh shit! I’m working at a place where I see free tits and ass, are you friggin’ kidding me?” But after a couple weeks, it got old. They’re still beautiful, but I look at them like my sisters. Do you look at your sister like that?

Uh, no.
Don’t get me wrong. A new girl comes in, you gotta check her out. That’s fuckin’ natural. How’s the body, how’s she move, are the boobs real or fake? But after a while, you get to know them; you say, “I’m JR, if you got any questions, come see me; if a guy fucks with you, come see me.” And then you’re not just this jerk-off bouncer sitting in the corner.

How does one rise to the top of your profession?
Being the psych major that I am, I know that to be good bouncer, you never want to fight. A good bouncer does not have to do anything. You talk down a situation, you make sure the girl gets taken care of. When no one’s outta line, it’s a good day. No news is good news. At least, that’s the way I look at it.  

©2003 Grant Stoddard and