Back in the day, I was a tender of bars. I’d been doing it on and off for a couple of years when I wound up at a particularly oogy dive. I’ll call it “The 4th Concerto” to protect the not-so-innocent. This place was a cesspool in all senses of the word—no phone (owner hadn’t paid the Bill), no beer distributor (owner hadn’t paid the Bill, which left us buying beer at the grocery store to stock the coolers), no heat or hot water (owner hadn’t paid the Bill), and an inch of ice-cold standing water behind the bar due to a broken drain pipe from the sinks. The only thing that redeemed this job was that my best friend and roommate was also my co-bartender. She could make just about any crap situation better.
One of the classier forms of entertainment offered at “The 4th Concerto?” Strippers, of course! Not just the pasty-twirling type, either! Oh, goodness no! We had “male exotic dancers,” too. Three, in fact (if you don’t count the psychopath who came in one night wearing a banana g-string and scared all the customers into the bathroom). One was a tall, aloof, oh-so-cool Nordic type. I’ll call him Ringo. Johnny Ringo. The second was an amazingly handsome Asian man who doubled as a martial arts expert. I'll dub him Lee. Bryce Lee. Yes, Bryce—come on, how obvious do I need to be? And the third mythic “dancer?”
An impossibly built, long, smooth, lean black man I’ll call Brian. If we switched two letters in his name, it’d be “brain.” But those letters will forever remain unreversed. Believe me.
It was a typical night at the ol’ Concerto. Cold, wet, loud, with a rowdy crowd of women working themselves up for the strippers. As something of a safety measure, we had women accompanied by their boyfriends or husbands in the very back to reduce clashes between our male strippers and our male customers. In addition to our usual gaggle of customers, we had a very special group of guests—a friend, whom I shall call Petra, had brought her older mother in to celebrate her 65th birthday with some “exotic dancing.” Her mother spoke almost no English. Let’s say she was from Azerbaijan. She wasn't, but let's say she was. Not a lot of male strippers in Azerbaijan, so she was in for a surprisingly good time.
It took only a short time for disaster, in the form of a particularly coke-and-steroid intoxicated Brian, to strike. Rather than grinding it for the girls up near the stage, Brian decided to head to the absolute back of the club and press his junk right into the face of a very married, very accompanied-by-her-husband woman. The husband asked Brian to back off, and the fight was on. It was like watching a 6'5" badger with fists.
It made a Tiger Shark feeding frenzy look positively kind.
Understand this man had no chance against Brian. Even if Brian weren’t 6 inches taller and a good 70 lbs of testosterone-laden muscle heavier, he was also full of enough coke to chew a hole in God’s Holy Septum.
I began to shout for my “male” (I use that term SO loosely) coworkers to charge in and save the customer. To no avail. So I grabbed my keys, locked up my cash register, and flew over the bar with my co-bartender/roommate/best friend to break things up. With no shoes on (try tending bar for 8+ hours in spiked heels ), the first casualty was my feet—broken glass from the brawl. The second casualty?
Petra’s 65 year old mother’s face. They may not have male strippers in Azerbaijan, but taking a table to the face has pretty much the same effect everywhere.
Blood flew, and not just from our poor Azerbaijani woman. Our wife-defending husband was, by the time we arrived, on the floor, curled up, and in danger of being beaten to death. I looked around—every male in the place had backed off ten paces and was watching warily (or eagerly, depending upon how kind you want to be). I looked to the other dancers, but neither was willing to get in Brian’s way—Johnny Ringo because he knew he’d get dead, and Bryce Lee because he didn’t want to kill anyone. My roomie and I took a deep breath and jumped in, placing ourselves between the flying fists of coke and the victim. Brian threw me a smile that involved ALL the teeth, then cocked his fist to take me out next.
And then came the holy hand of Wayne, saving the day.
I’m not changing Wayne’s name. He probably saved my life that night, and credit where credit is due, you know?
Wayne, who was a good 10 inches shorter than Brian, grabbed Brian’s wrist and shook his head. He said, in a surprisingly quiet voice, “Dude, you know I love you, but I’ll kill your ass if you hit her.”
Turns out Brian and Wayne were lifting buddies. Also turns out Wayne and I had been pals in high school, though I hadn’t seen him in four years. Fortuitous, huh?
Brian stalked off, somewhat deflated, while Wayne smiled at me and said, “Boy, you’re still too stupid for your own good, aren’t you?” My co-bartender/roommate and I coddled Petra’s mom, cleaned up the mess, and encouraged Mr. Pulpy-Husband to leave. I bought Wayne a beer, and we spent some time getting reacquainted while the bar crowd staggered to find its rhythm again. Wayne wandered off to shoot some pool, and all was as well as could be expected in my world.
For a minute.
It was only a few minutes later that my roomie came dashing toward the bar, shouting that Brian had our earlier victim out on the sidewalk and was killing him. I shouted for her to call the cops (from the pay phone--no bar phone, remember?), and I dashed outside with no clear idea of what I was going to do, other than not let someone die if I could help it. I burst out the front door to find a crowd of men in a circle around the killing action. None making any move to break things up, many of them CHEERING. Yeah, I still remember your stupid faces. Brian had the man by the hair and was slamming his head against the curb. I did the only thing I could think of doing.
I launched myself at Brian’s back, grabbed him under the arms, and threw myself backwards. I was a skinny girl back then, but there was enough of me to drag him away. We wound up in a pile on the sidewalk, me on my ass and Brian on me. I remember very clearly thinking, “Okay, now what?” But, of course, there was no “now what.” I was going to die.
Please remember that Brian was a stripper. He was oiled, and wearing only a g-string. Oh, and sparklies in his hair. How’s that mental picture for you? I have some Tums here if you need.
Just as Brian, a deep, rumbling growl growing in his chest, managed to slip-slide out of my grasp and whirl around for the kill, Wayne appeared again. Like an angel, he scooped me up and scooted me behind him. Brian, choosing to not tangle with his lifting buddy, stormed inside. Screaming at the Concerto’s owner, he cried that I was all sorts of awful things and demanded I be dead or fired by the next Wednesday, else he’d be shaking his well-oiled booty somewhere else, thank you VERY much!
Interesting stories almost make crap jobs in crap places working for crap people worth it.
Oh, for the record? I was almost fired that night--for pissing off a dancer and, more importantly, committing the sin of telling my partner to call the police. Guess saving someone's life just isn't a good enough excuse when there are Bills to pay.