Monday, July 31, 2017

The Doorman's Diary 7.29.17

Tonight's sax and flute player was a highly-paid sales exec with a large local company until he took early retirement a few years ago and returned to music. "The company owned my body and soul in exchange for a great salary," the former captain of industry tells me. "Of course, when I retired, my huge salary disappeared did my wife--guess she loved money more than me."

He's recouped, remarried and blows his tenor with the soul of experience and the blues of a survivor. He is effing good! From where I stand at the door, I cannot see the horn players so I can blot out the image of the well-manicured retired business exec playing like the stereotype of the hard-scrabbled, cool jazz cat living in a central-city, cold-water flat. For me, he's a good slap in the head reminding me that the jazz club is the grand equalizer and magnet pulling in all, including a guy that plays phenomenally and has flown in business class more miles than I'll ever be in the air.

The ex-biz-guy tenor is stretching his reeds on a Sonny Rollins tune as the club fills with summer warmth and he and the quintet paint memories of a jazz-hip night for all. A fair-hair Irishman from Dublin is quietly conversing with the mysterious pair of Puerto Rican locals who are rumored to host after-hour parties for artists, poets, theater actors, and musicians where they serve abundant helpings of bacalaito, alcapurria, and pionono. One wonders if the Irishman will luck into the wee-side of tomorrow party.

It's getting within an hour of closing and the jazz club becomes the catch-all for stray cats, the disenfranchised, and the bar-hopping drunks, who I try to deflect into waiting cabs. 

I admit to not being good at consistently recognizing the inebriated. Case in point: A 30-something guy presents himself at the door but doesn't want to pay the cover, saying he just wants to get one drink and see if his credit card and ID are here. He takes a couple more steps in and looks around and says: "I've never been in here before." As I grab his arm to gently steer him to the door, he says: "This looks like a great place, I'll have to come back." I try to hand him my professional business card that has the jazz club name, address, and my title, "The Doorman," but he pushes it back saying, "I have a hard time holding onto things, so I'll probably lose it... but thanks."  

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Doorman's Diary 7.28.17

As The Doorman at the jazz club I am seen differently by different people. To some, I am the welcome at the door. Others see me as a pan-handling filter collecting the door charge. And for many I am no different than an animated manikin to be overlooked and ignored.

A couple enter the club while the piano player is deep into his solo during a Dexter Gordon song. The woman whizzes past me as I attempt to greet her and collect the cover charge. I lapse into my best C-3PO and stop her male counterpart and tell him in an overpolite but precise manner that his lady friend is an unauthorized intruder until I receive her cover. With the same respect he shows an ATM, he produces the cash and joins her at the bar where he gives her a full-tongue, monitor-lizard kiss. 

They continue with their backseat-of-daddy's-car-parked-in-a-dark-parkway writhing and slobbering antics as the club continues to fill. Jazz patrons gingerly walk a wide arc around them. I didn't know whether I need to shine my 5-battery Maglite 17-inch police flashlight in their faces and bark "TIME TO MOVE ON" or what... Meanwhile a large man tries to avoid their passion aura and bumps into a small ornate table near me sending a couple of drinks, a candy dish, a candle, and neat pile of cocktail napkins the waitress pulls from when seating guests flying into our reception-area bench seat.

While I'm busy cleaning up the mess, the near-coupling couple slips out of the club leaving unfinished drinks and her red faux-leather handbag on the bar. Clearly, they are in a rush to get to the alley out back or a dark parkway or a sleazy motel room with its coin-fed vibrating bed.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Doorman's Diary 7.22.17

For a Saturday night, we're starting out slow and easy. We're expecting to Tina-Turner-Proud-Mary it into a full-club frenzy, but right now the goal is to reach the pivot, and beyond. The pivot point is when the number of jazz patrons in the club matches the number of staff and musicians. Here is where my experience and trained understanding of human behavior as a professional doorman come into play.

A group of young customers appear at the door so I say: "Great, get in here quick...we just opened the door and since you're the first ones here you get in free. Grab stools at the bar or a couple of tables on the floor, because the place will fill up quick. And one of you definitely needs to try our Tropical Jazz Zombie cocktail -- it's one of our signature drinks!" With a sense of urgency, making them feel like special insiders, and suggesting that one of them be brave enough to try something different, we've got a mini-crowd of six seated in view of the entrance so when others arrive they don't feel like they're entering a dead club. Now I just need to answer the stare of my bartender when he is asked to make a Tropical Jazz Zombie cocktail.
The jazz club is filling and the band is deep into their version of Dexter Gordon's 1962 zinger "Cheese Cake." The crowd is in sync with the tenor's retro mood as he swings through the tune. An older man with a gray fedora tilts his head back, eyes closed, and smiles broadly. The waitress deftly tucks a fresh whisky old fashioned into the relaxed grip of his hand resting on the table and gently squeezes his fingers tight around the tub glass, completing the transaction without resting him from his music stupor.

The music glides the crowd through the delightful moody night. Well into the second set, an East Indian couple appear at the door. The man is wearing a full-length plain maroon gown and she is dressed in a traditional saree. As striking as their appearance is they easily melt into the crowd -- jazz is the ultimate melting pot and at the jazz club no one is judged.