In my youth, when I was sneaking into clubs at 16 / 17, hoping i didn’t get asked by the guys on the door for some ID, my mates and I all knew them as bouncers. It was only later in life when I came to work for a Private Security firm in Kent, that I learned the title assigned to those who managed the door was leaning more towards the professional term of ‘Door Supervisor‘. Sounds more professional doesn’t it.
Anyone who has ever been to a club or worked in one knows the simple fact, if you mix a lot of people in an environment where alcohol flows, there is a higher chance of trouble breaking out. Even the most placid of people, can turn into something completely different, once the booze starts flowing…
So, we all recognise them as Bouncers (also known as a doorman or door supervisors) but they are officially a type of security guard, employed at venues such as pubs, clubs and events to keep things in order, check legal age, refuse entry for intoxication, monitor and evict those who display aggressive behavior etc.
Over the last 20 years, the role of the bouncer has changed to keep pace with the times. 20 Years ago, it was purely alcohol fueled problems but nowadays, we have the added complexities of drugs and even terrorism. Sadly, we live in a slightly troubled world and whilst it would be nice for everyone to get on, the hippy love scene of the 60’s has long gone and we are left in a somewhat volatile and intolerant society, but has it always been that way…
Let’s step back in time and consider the ancient bouncer role
The significance of the doorman as the person allowing (or barring) entry is found in a number of Mesopotamian myths, including that of Nergal overcoming the seven doormen guarding the gates to the Underworld.
In the Old Testament, the Levitical Temple is described as having a number of ‘gatekeepers’— whose role was ” to protect the temple from theft” and control “illegal entry into sacred areas” or in other words, to maintain order, functions they share with the modern concept of the bouncer, though the described temple servants also serve as holy persons and administrators themselves …. No, we don’t have any plans to give our security staff bibles and make them holy :-) but it is interesting to see that in ancient times, larger people who displayed great strength and skills were used as protectors.
The Romans had a doorkeeper, otherwise known as a ‘Ostiarius’ whose role was to guard the door and if necessary, eject unwanted people from the house he guarded.
Plautus, in his play Bacchides (written approximately 194–184 BC), mentions a “large and powerful” doorman / bouncer as a threat to get an unwelcome visitor to leave.
Tertullian, an early Christian author living mainly in the 1st century AD, while reporting on the casual oppression of Christians in Carthage, noted that bouncers were counted as part of a semi-legal underworld, amongst other ‘shady’ characters such as gamblers and pimps.
Late 19th and early 20th century, the US saloon-owners and brothel madams needed to hire bouncers to remove troublemakers and protect the saloon girls and prostitutes. Much like today, the trouble often spilled over due to alcohol fueled arguments which broke out. The word “bouncer” was first popularized in a novel called The Young Outlaw, which was first published in 1875. In Chapter XIV, entitled “Bounced”, a boy is thrown out of a restaurant because he has no money to pay for his dinner.
An 1883 newspaper article stated that “‘The Bouncer’ is merely the English ‘chucker out’. When liberty verges on license and gaiety on wanton delirium, the Bouncer selects the gayest of the gay, and—bounces him!” if only they knew, how that meaning would be so different nowadays …
Doorman in the 19th Century