Tuesday, April 04, 2006

confessions of a strip club barman

Shift: Monday night
Tips: $37

“A police officer attached themselves to each one of Grumpy’s limbs. He was in a mutual neck hold with the bouncer, letting out a gurgle as the tangle of bodies eventually slumped to the dark, sticky floor.”

I worked Sunday night and it was so dead I almost fell asleep at the bar. There’s nothing worse than a quiet bar. It seems to stretch time out in front of you into a never-ending ribbon. But it was a Sunday night so what can you really expect?

That was last night. Tonight was Monday night and there was a good turn out of the strip club regulars.

There was the young guys all dressed up hoping to impress a stripper – they’ve got it all down, the right clothes, right hair, right watch, then they order a XXXX bitter, find a dark corner and try to stare the girls into wanting them.

Then you’ve got the obligatory businessmen. Expensive suit, with the tie loosened around their neck and the top button of their crisp clean business shirt undone. It seems that the simple act of undoing that button and loosening the tie relaxes their whole appearance and makes them come across as a little seedy and dishevelled regardless of the $1000 suit they’ve got on.

I was standing at the bar people watching when a large older man anchored himself at my bar. I’m all alone in the bar which is the way I like it, but when there’s trouble you’ve got no back up when things get a little hairy. And things always get a little hairy in a strip club.

This guy is solid, 45+yrs old and rough. His mate is about 30+yrs old and I can see slight red scars on his face where he’s been opened up in fights over the years. These guys are another type of regular. They’re old school Fortitude Valley. Throwbacks from the rough and dark old days of the valley – before the yuppies and cool cats started to move in and convert old warehouses into loft apartments, and coffee houses and hip night spots.

I notice that the big old guy (let’s call him Mick) is wearing a singlet and as I’m wondering how he got in with it on, the manager comes over to tell Mick that there’s been a mistake, he will have to leave and his entry charge will be refunded unless he can get another shirt. Now Mick’s got his back to the wall and I can tell he’s going to dig himself in for a long drawn out confrontation.

The manager comes back with the $20 note for his entry fee, Mick grabs it off him and slaps it down on the bar, says he’s not moving. The poor manager is half Mick’s size and there’s no way he’s going to physically move the big fella so he trots off to find security.

The security guy defuses the situation perfectly. He walks straight up to Mick and asks if he wants to buy a shirt so he can stay. Mick agrees and everyone’s happy.
Sometimes the most effective way to diffuse a situation is by making sure everyone get’s what they want – Mick wanted to stay in the bar, we wanted him to meet the dress regulations. Everyone wins.

So while I soak these two characters in Jack Daniels and coke, the girls get to work on them. I’m always amazed at how good these girls are at parting guys from their hard earned money. Everyone has their own strategies but they’re all effective.

Mick seems to be behaving himself, but when they both come back from a lap dance I can see that his mate (let’s call him Grumpy) is not doing too well.
I find out from casual conversation with them that they’re both drug dealers in and around the valley area and have the wad of cash and tattoos to prove it. They remind me of Bryan Brown from “two hands”. Grumpy is coming off a sleepless five day bender and he seems to close his eyes for an extra second or so every time he blinks - I can tell he’s savouring every second of shut eye he can get. Mick has expanded his offerings to include cars and loan sharking. A real entrepreneur.

It amazes me how these types love to boast about their illegal activities. They can’t wait to tell you that they’re a big shot in the underworld. A real Australian scar face or chopper.

It’s about that time that the manager takes me aside and tells me to cut Grumpy off from the bar because he’s getting too messy. Great.

As I turn back to the terrible twosome Grumpy slaps the bar and demands 4 shots. So I break into the responsible service of alcohol script: “you’re showing signs of intoxication so by law I can’t serve you any more drinks until you have a few glasses of water.”
If you ever get this from a barman you won’t be getting another drink regardless of how many waters you get. It’s best to just leave or go sit quietly somewhere else.

So I replace his drink with water and take a step back so I’m out of reach in the bar and wait for the usual stream of abuse. Grumpy doesn’t disappoint. Apparently he’s a very patient and nice guy, but sometimes he would like nothing more than to jump the bar and smash barman’s heads in. fair enough, but I’ve had worse.

When the water goes all over the floor I signal to the manager who tells me that Grumpy is about to leave. I ask if he wants any help, knowing that there would be very little that I could actually do. Then the only bouncer in the place starts the physical ejection with Grumpy and they begin to dance around the club holding each other by the neck and knocking over stools and tables as they spin and turn, each one trying to gain the upper hand.

It’s about then that four police storm the club and attach themselves to an arm or leg. Grumpy goes down but he’s far from subdued. As they twist and writhe on the filthy floor the pepper spray comes out but Grumpy is smart enough o settle down before it needs to be used. The four police pin him to the ground while they cuff him.

When this started to happen Mick made himself scarce - I didn’t think the big guy could move like that – he found a spot out of sight in the club and hid until it was all over. When the police found him and asked if he wanted to go with them he gave up Grumpy so fast it would have made his head spin “never seen him before in my life, I’m fine here, thank you”. I had to laugh.

I think that whole ugly scene scared the crap out of him, either that or he was holding and didn’t want to get searched – best to avoid that sort of trouble.

He became a permanent fixture at the end of the bar for the rest of the night, tipped me for every drink, had water every now and then in order to avoid the same fate as Grumpy and smiled while the girls bled him dry until closing.

Stay tunes for the next exciting episode.

Link to previous



Mate, a bloody good one! Really enjoy these ‘Day in the Life of Markoos’ stories. One of these days you’ll be putting them in to a book or TV script …

Sassan Sanei said...

Fascinating reading! Thanks for posting that.

mark robert allen said...

i'm sure there's going to be many many more of these to follow. the valley is an interesting place to say the least.

mushroom said...

I lived in the valley for a number of years before and during the change over from dero to yuppy. Interesting stuff.

mark robert allen said...

ahhh... so you knwo exactly what i'm talking about here.