"The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living." -- Cicero --
When I first got in the nightclub business, I was a bouncer at a Tejano bar. It was pretty wild and woolly. (As luck would have it, at 5'8" and not quite 170, I was by far the smallest bouncer, so I was always the one some drunk Texican would get froggy with, but that's another story. :-) Besides, I was still in the Active Reserves of the Corps, so I considered it all just Good Training)
Anyway, the manager was this, this, no other word serves as well as, maniac. He carried a Browning Hi-Power. (9mm automatic, to any of you non-gun lovers that are still reading) His idea of the proper way to carry it was one round up the spout, safety off, and on *half-cock*!!!!
Well, every Sunday night was Drink & Drown. (They were still legal then. No longer) Five bucks to get in, all the well whiskey, wine and beer you could suck down from eight until midnight.
The club held about three hundred people, and every single fucking Sunday night a brawl would commence with about two hundred of them. You could just about set a clock to it- the festivities would get underway two minutes either side of 12:15, when all the happy campers finished chugging their last free drinks.
Typically, some dude would get mad when he saw an ex-GF dancing with some other dude, and start some crap, shoving and shouting, a wild haymaker or two, yatta-yatta-yatta. We'd charge in, with overwhelming force, (there were about three of us, plus two managers, two off-duty cops, about half the bartenders (i.e.the male ones,) and the barbacks), break everything up, and toss the malefactors out of the club.
Since most guys don't really know how to fight, most especially when they're wasted, in most cases, no real harm was done. Simple, eh?
No. That place had an unbelievably regular customer base, and Tejanos tend to got out partying in groups of friends and relations. It wasn't uncommon to be breaking up a quarrel between Dad and son-in-law. Just about everybody knew everybody else, (yes, to include the biblical sense), and a lot of the patrons were loosely aligned in coalitions.
So you'd be running this guy outta the bar with his elbow up between his shoulder blades, in control, dog's in his heaven and all's right with the world, have him halfway to the front door, when all of the sudden some drunk boyfriend of his sister's best friend from junior high would come flying out of the woodwork to try and take you down. Then his friends would pile on, people that didn't like the pile-oners would pile on them, and all the sudden you have a world class fracas going down - to include regulars that we were friendly with, doing their besotted best to help us.
Of course, in nearly all the cases, we couldn't have told the players even if we had a program, so that lent itself to, what would, under other circumstances, have been comic relief, both the Good Guys and Bad fighting each other, etc. ("Goddammit, Rusty, that's my arm you're yanking on. Lemme go, you dumbfuck!")
So, whattya do when there's a riot goin' on in Cell Block #9? Like all riot police, you break out the chemical weapons. This one bouncer Rusty was the Mace-usin-est mo-fo on the planet.
If/When the brawl would reach critical mass, say 10-12 folks, Rusty would wade in with his Mace, spraying loddy-doddy-everbody. Of course, that was not his aim, but his aim was usually hindered by all the Crown and Michelob he'd drank. He would usually manage to get most of it on the primary perps. That would usually get things broken up purty quick, as it gave all the macho men an excuse to disengage with honor intact, perhaps bloody, but unbowed. We'd toss out whoever we could figure out was a quarreler and not a queller, then run to the bathroom to wash off the Mace.
The Macing of the Place pretty well served to clean out the rest of the club, too, as it wasn't that big, so just about everyone packed up and left when the gentle aroma of the gas circulated through the club. The show was over, anyway, and everybody'd gotten to enjoy Sunday Night at the Fights. We didn't care that much, as we didn't sell much whiskey between midnight and closing anyway, so as the number of patrons dropped down from the hundreds to fifty or so, most of the staff could officially get off-duty, get on the outside of some whiskey ourselves, and get down to the serious bidniss of figuring out who was gonna zoom who that night.
Life was purty interesting at that place. One of the owners was a little bitty guy known all over Houston as Fast Eddy. He was one of the guys that started the Crystal Pistol, one of the first and most legendary topless bars in Houston. Anyway, he knew lotsa shady Characters, and several nights a week these characters would show up after-hours, and there'd be a dozen or more dancers, bookies, pimps, dealers, etc., sitting around the bar, along with the staff and whomever we'd harvested from the customer crop to join in the party.
One of these characters was a bookie named Frank, who owned a topless club called the 5757. I used to go there on my night off, as I was sweet on this one dancer of his named Sherri. An absolute showpony, intelligent, funny, sexy, sweet as can be. She was a marvelous dancer, with a boodle of athletic moves, like doing back flips on the stage.
I took her out a few times, but never could seem to break through her shell. She had a drug problem, coke, I think. She eventually quit working at the 5757, and I lost touch with her.
In the course of my life then, I somehow, for some undoubtedly moronic reason, had mentioned that I went to the 5757 to my mom. I don't recall why on earth I would or should have, but I did.
A year or so later I was living in Florida, talking to her on the phone, when she asked me about the place, didn't you used to hang out there? Yea, I did. Well, there's this big story on the front page of the Sunday paper about that place. Really? UmmHmm, it was raided, the police describe it as a notorious den of drugs and prostitution, and claim to have broken up a gambling ring that operated out of there. Well, gee, Mom, I didn't see any of that.
They say it was a topless place. Didja see any of that? Well, uhhh, uhh, mostly I went just on Tuesday afternoons, 'cause they have a free steak buffet, and the staff there, they're good customers at my bar, so it's sorta like PR, and uhhh...
UmmHmm, she says.
I'm afraid she knows me all too well.
But I digress, as I am wont to do. Back to the story.
One night, there was this guy that gave us hell. He wasn't much to look at, just a raggedy wetback looking guy, not much English. I forget why we were tossing him out, but he was giving three of us fits, as we generally tried not to use excessive force, wrestling guys instead of punching, etc. He was strong like a bull. We finally get him out the front door, but a few minutes later he tries to come back into the club. He's standing there trying to tell me why he needs to come back in, to get a friend or something, not really doing much else, when Rusty gets frustrated and just whips out the Mace and gives him a good three second burst right smack dab in the kisser, enough to take down *anybody*.
He was completely unaffected. The guy just stands there, wipes it off his face and onto his shirt, and says something like, "You shouldn't a done that."
Then he proceeds to try and kill Rusty. I jump on him and try to pull him off, while the cavalry comes in person of Don the Hi-Power Maniac and a coupla barbacks. The guy is chokin' Rusty to death, I'm trying to pry his hands free so I can get him is a wristlock or something, to absolutely no avail. The other guys join me, with little more success. So Don pulls out his loaded, unlocked, half-cocked Hi-Power and starts beating the guy over the head with it. It glances off his skull and hits me on the elbow.
My arm goes about half-numb, and the Mace rubbing off the guy has already been killin' me, and the light bulb goes off in my head about the safety concerns involved with pistol-whipping somebody with Don's gun. Time to disengage. So I say fuckit, you want him, you got him, let go of the guy, roll out of the dogpile, and head for the restroom, cussing Don the entire way.
They finally managed to get the guy outta there, I'm sure not in very good shape. When I see them later, Don, Rusty and the other guys involved are all splattered with blood, not theirs. We're sitting around about an hour after the bar closed, drinking and rehashing the day's events, when I start ragging Don about carrying his weapon as he did.
Actually, I called him a fucking idiot. He is pulling it out of his shoulder holster to show me something in an attempt to defend himself, when he stops and says, "Goddamit, look what that motherfucker did to my pistol!" He turned it around to show me. The rear sight was broken. He had actually busted it on that guys head.
That guy was probably the toughest guy I ever ran into in the course of my bouncing career.
A few months later, Sherri was at a party at someone's house. Don was there, and ended up passing out on the couch. Several other people crashed there, to include Sherri. He sat his pistol down on the coffee table as he fell asleep.
He awoke early that morning to the sound of a gunshot coming from the bathroom. Sherri, feeling bad, no doubt crashing from who knows what sort of high, had shot herself in the stomach with that Browning. She died in his arms while they waited for the ambulance.
I sometimes wonder why might have happened if I had ever gotten through her shell. I never knew what flavor of demon she wrestled with in her life, that made her resort so heavily to drugs - she wouldn't talk about it.
Chalk it up as another episode in what has been an interesting, if not always enjoyable, life. It bothers me that a woman that sweet was so tortured, and that by now, she's not even much of a memory, just another Forgotten One.
So far as the world is concerned, she left no more of a hole than your hand does when you pull it out of a bucket of water. No child, not any family that she ever mentioned, no lover to mourn her passing or put a flower on her grave, maybe just a few lonely guys that used to like to watch her dance.
Well, here's to ya, Sherri lass. I hope you found the peace that eluded you in this life. Wish I'd have been better at being your friend.
Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Studio One "The Red Badge of Courage " (1947) - For Memorial Day.
15 hours ago