When it comes to security, the most important thing is to protect the club when everything goes to hell.
Sometimes hell and a Las Vegas nightclub can share the same zip code, of course it can also be nirvana, it just depends on the night. Hank Carver has presided over both time and again during his career as an...ahem...security professional.
In this fast-paced, humorous memoir, Carver reveals an insider's account of the city's lunatics, celebrities, hustlers, and painted ladies. Along the way, he delivers keen business insights on what it takes to operate a club, his way.
He also reveals what happens when situations cannot be defused. Sooner or later, you're going to have to put your hands on someone.
Filled with stories that will make you laugh and cringe at the same time, House of Cards shows that even in a city that sets no limits, you can only go so far.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
Read an Excerpt
House of Cards
Five Full Contact Years as a Las Vegas Nightclub Bouncer
By Hank Carver
Abbott PressCopyright © 2015 Hank Carver
All rights reserved.
Las Vegas is a land of milk and honey for some. For others it is a city that brings only heartache and despair. Nowhere else does there exist a place where fortunes are so rapidly won and lost. Sometimes there's more than just money riding on that roll of the dice, the turn of a card, or that last carom of a ball.
People come here in droves and most of them want the same thing — action. They want authenticity, a Las Vegas trip to remember, a radical departure from their normal existence. Some get much more than they bargained for. For the souls who choose to live here? Their stories are as unique as the people themselves. Vegas is and always will be the place people come to get hitched, get drunk, and get fleeced. The industry here is service. The inhabitants of this city are here to serve the people who come here for those very reasons. The entire city and its economy are based around what occurs on a seven-mile-long patch of asphalt, the Las Vegas Strip.
The Strip is where milk meets honey. It is a playground for the rich and famous as well as the not so rich or famous. It is a place where anything can happen. A place where dreams come true and nightmares are realized. It is a place where the only color seen is green. It's the birthplace of the New American Dream.
The New American Dream lives here because nowhere else can you make the kind of money that is made for doing what would be a menial job anywhere else. Dealers with no skill other than gaming make livings that the failing middle class would envy. In the nightclub industry, obscene amounts of money are made. At the right club, the bartenders and waitresses make a six-figure income working just a three- or four-night week. Their bussers drive BMWs. Even the bouncers can flirt with an executive salary if they're on top of their game.
The life is glamorous, complete with all the trappings. It provides money, power, and a certain cache that can only be had by working a rope in the world's adult playground. In a city where cool is king and hot on Monday is lukewarm by Wednesday, the landscape changes constantly, just like the Las Vegas skyline. It is an environment where anything goes, where anything can be had, and the only limit is how far you want to take things. It is both beautiful and toxic. For all the glitter provided by the club life, there is an equal measure of pain it can exact. This is that story.
Before we get started, you should know a few things. First off, this is written by a bouncer. I'm telling you these stories because, otherwise, you'd never get to hear them. Bouncers don't write books. Fewer still take it to the level I have. That being said, some stories are presented very well, some maybe not so much. I'm not that fucking funny guy who writes those witty books you pass around during the holidays and ask your friends if they read the passage about the time he worked as an elf and shit. I don't have his contacts, and Vegas isn't exactly a hotbed of literary talent, so this book is largely unedited.
These are my words, my experiences. I wrote the original draft from a journal I kept while I was living the stories. As you can tell from the cover, I was drunk, high, and reckless through that time, and this edition will embrace those ideas. If you were in my life at the time and didn't make the book, please accept my apologies. After reading it, you'll probably be glad you didn't. That being said, I have a lot of material that didn't make the book due to size considerations and some of the shit my guys f lat-out vetoed — it was that bad. Maybe someone will pick this up and turn it into a fully finished masterpiece, and then I can bring out everything in a new and improved edition. But it's probably not that kind of work.
If you did make the book, we were likely in the trenches together and our lives rubbed up against each other in a meaningful way. Or you could have been included through collateral damage. If I hurt your feelings in here, well, I probably already did anyway. At least now you'll get the whole story.
Second, I'm writing this book under an assumed name. The rest of the names have been changed to protect the terminally stupid and the innocent folks we involved in our crass, wild, and often dangerous behavior. If you know me and you don't want to look at me in a different way, put the book down now. If you don't want to hear about adultery, drugs, violence, prostitution, extortion, suicide, and how I was involved in these activities, put the book down now. If you don't want the intimate and sometimes misogynistic details on my sex life, put the book down now. If you don't want to hear about all the base ways people act in Las Vegas, put the book down now. You have been warned. If you want to hear about all that shit, then by all means, read on.
The stories that follow have been culled from five years of living and working as a security guard in one of the most exclusive clubs in Vegas. During that time, my crew and I handled some of the biggest players, stars, and egos in the world. In the business of security, it's your job to clean up the poop. Most bouncers are untrained, uncouth meatheads, and the wages they are paid ensure they'll stay that way. No one on my squad was like that. They all had personality quirks that made them unique, but no one was stupid. This is a workaday account of what happened when a group of hard-drinking, loose-living alpha males took control of securing a multi-million-dollar operation. It's been said that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. It did, until now.CHAPTER 2
I always wanted to live in Las Vegas. For me, it seemed like a place where anything could happen, a place where a young man looking for his fortune might be able to find one. It also seemed like the last wild place left. In 2001, my girlfriend Shannon and I made the decision to move there together. I was finishing film school in Florida and Shannon was up for the adventure. Las Vegas was to be a steppingstone on our way to California. Shannon had always wanted to live in Hermosa Beach, and Hollywood is the destination for anyone who wants to work in the film business. When it came down that Shannon's job in the private financial group of a local bank was being downsized and she would be given a sizeable severance package, the decision was made easy. Add to that fact that a friend of Shannon's was looking for a little adventure herself and wanted to room with us, thereby lessening the financial burden for all. The stars seemed to align.
Shannon was a great girl — loving, supportive, and beautiful. Our stories were the same in many ways, starting with both of us being the only children of single parents who struggled. She was left with her mother, who was by all accounts a bona fide crazy person. Her mother once tried to commit suicide by jumping off the roof of her single-story house. She ended up with only a sprained ankle. I grew up with my father, a hardworking and honest man who had once been a police officer. When I was born, my father gave up the job and moved to Florida with my mother, only to watch her split soon afterward.
Shannon and I were great together. So much could go unspoken and we understood each other. My peregrine ways provided a challenge for her and helped to open up her rigid world view. In turn, she kept me focused and provided a stable home environment. But she wasn't without her quirks. Behind her ice-blue eyes and blond hair there sat a stubborn streak and a serious self-esteem shortage. Shannon needed constant attention, and her stubbornness would allow for nothing less. I could appreciate this in her, as this proved to be beneficial in keeping me away from the roguish and generally negative avenues that people with a lack of direction usually fall into, a lane with which I was all too familiar. I kept her company; she kept me straight. We were in love and were ready to make a go of it. Shannon was pretty much the only reason I made it through film school.
I graduated in the fall of 2001 and we made the decision to move after the New Year. Shannon's job duties would require her to work through the holidays in order to streamline and coordinate the transfer of all her clients' accounts. This left me a few months with nothing to do until the move. The prior two years spent with me not working had left us with some credit card debt and I decided I'd better get a job, at least in the interim. I had a friend, Stan, who worked security at a local nightclub in Orlando. Stan and I had known each other since elementary school. We'd grown to be good friends after our high school years. We'd partied together quite a bit during those years and our friendship was cemented by shared experience. I called Stan and he put in a word for me. Based on Stan's recommendation, I was hired immediately.
As one would imagine, nightclub security isn't science. As such, being a "bouncer" doesn't put you in a position to command high wages; in fact, you can count on being the lowest paid guy or gal in the club. Make no mistake — your employer views you as a liability and a possible source of litigation. Working in a room full of drunk and/or high people, you cannot avoid problems, and that is why you are there. If you're lucky, you'll ascend to the rank of security supervisor and make a few dollars more per hour. For most nightclubs, all you need is a pulse. To be considered gifted at the job, it means you have some brains, a big heart, and an equal measure of balls. If this is you, you'll be head and shoulders above the norm. Luckily, I fell into this category.
Security is a sort of pack-mentality brotherhood. You don't just sign up for the job, get hired, and get accepted — you're on the fringes until you prove yourself worthy of inclusion. While I'll stop short of calling it combat, it can certainly take on some elements associated with this experience. You work in a noisy, sometimes dirty environment where your job is to come into contact with people who can be agitated, hostile, and otherwise uncooperative. Your job is also to make sure these people are acting in accordance with the policies set in place by the club to govern the safety of the patrons.
Sometimes people are great and they're just having too much of a good time. These folks usually respond to a verbal command and a firm pat on the back. Other times you have to "bounce." This is all that the name implies. Handling yourself correctly in a physical altercation is the quickest way to prove you belong in the brotherhood. The biggest, most important thing in security is getting someone's back. Don't get me wrong — defusing situations should be the number one goal of every bouncer. But any security guard worth his or her salt knows you cannot and will not be able to defuse every single situation. Sooner or later, you're going to have to get down. Unlike combat, though, nobody dies. Usually nobody dies.
I was able to start off near the inner circle. I was fortunate enough to have the benefit of knowing Stan, who was one of the supervisors at the nightclub. Stan vouched for me. They trusted Stan. This smoothed my acceptance into the security hierarchy, because the more experienced bouncers helped me out and gave me their tricks of the trade. It always helps when those in the know believe that they can trust you. That was all I needed, and as a result, I learned the ropes quickly. I was only on the main floor a short time when I was approached by Shawn, the nightclub manager who oversaw the security department.
Shawn had years of experience in clubs and had opened venues all over the world; as a result, he carried heavy clout in the business. Shawn asked me if I knew anything about IDs. I didn't, really, except for a number of attempts at making or procuring fake identification while I was still underage. Shawn gave me the situation straight: our main door guy was moving, and he needed a new face to ID the line. Most of the guys worthy of that spot didn't want it, as it required them to stand out front, tethered to the line. Likewise, the supervisors valued their freedom to roam and get in on the action.
While it wasn't a move to a supervisor position, and it didn't necessarily get me any more money, it meant an opportunity to learn a valuable skill in the nightclub world, something that might be of use down the road. The ability to identify a fake ID and keep minors from gaining admittance was the first line of defense for a nightclub's liquor license. I told Shawn I was a quick study and was willing to do whatever he wanted on that front. Shawn had faith that I'd assimilate this task and he made the move. I was the main man on the door in just under three months of getting the job.
I worked the door and familiarized myself with the different IDs, as well as the varying tactics used by degenerates in training to subvert the system. These varied widely, from using the older brother/sister's expired ID to the downright fake made on a printer at home. One of my favorites was the stolen imposter, when an underager would take an ID from someone who was clearly a decade or two over legal drinking age and try to pass it off as their own. All you could do was laugh and ask them the questions.
Me: "What's your birthday?"
Underager: "Ten-seventeen, seventy-two."
Underager: "Yes. Ten-seventeen, seventy-two."
Me: "So you're forty-two?"
[Never mind that the crow's-feet on the ID picture have miraculously disappeared.]
Underager: Blank stare.
Me: "What's your sign?"
Underager: "I'm a Pisces."
[Most underagers don't bother to learn their fake sign and will give you their real one.]
Me: "You sure? You want to try again?"
(The game's usually up right here, as the truth seldom needs a second chance, but once in awhile, they get it right or say they don't follow astrology.)
Me: "Okay, last question — you don't mind if I show this to those guys over there in uniform, do you? Just so we can both feel better about tonight."
Underager: Blank stare, fidgeting, and a nervous look in the direction of the cops, followed by a timid shake of the head or sometimes a meek "no" squeaking out.
(A lot of nightclubs have cops on property.)
Our club policy was to confiscate the fake. We'd log it in, and after an appropriate amount of time, we'd turn them in to local law enforcement. In the case of the imposters, it was always much worse. Imagine having to tell your mom or dad they had to go down to the nightclub you'd tried to get into, so you could get shitfaced, and claim their ID. Needless to say, we didn't get many parents down at the club. Their ID simply vanished in a haze of bullshit and shame.
The months rolled by until the time came to leave for Las Vegas. As the move and my last day at the club neared, Shawn made it known that he had friends in Las Vegas and that he'd be more than happy to put a word in for me. In fact, he'd spent time working at a property on the Strip, where, given my experience, I'd be a natural fit. This was great news, of course. A cross-country move was daunting enough, but moving without jobs or even prospects added a level of trepidation that Shannon and I did our best to push to the back of our minds. Now, with a single phone call, Shawn would be able to get me set up with a spot at a Strip property. Even if this was starting off at the bottom of the bouncer pecking order, I was certain I'd be able to distinguish myself in fairly short order, just as I'd done in Orlando. I was confident I could do this, even without the benefit of knowing any of the supervisors.
When the day finally came for our cross-country adventure, we packed our belongings and set off in a giant U-Haul with my father behind the wheel. Being a homegrown Southern boy, it was to be the only time I'd been west of Louisiana. Shannon and I were ready to make our way, with only each other to rely on. It was the scariest and most exciting time of my life. Little did I know I'd be saying that for the next five years.
We arrived in Las Vegas after a little less than a week on the road. I rode with my dad in the moving truck while Shannon and her friend followed behind in Jennifer's car. This no doubt kept the proximity effect of traveling from being an issue, and everyone was in a great mood when the valley unfolded in front of as we came in on the 95. In typical fashion, Shannon had done a great deal of preparation for the trip — she'd studied maps, read everything she could on Las Vegas, and even went so far as to join a Vegas chat group. Through her group, she'd learned what parts of town were generally desirable and which were less so. The Summerlin area on the west side of Las Vegas was widely considered the crown jewel of the city, while the east side was decidedly less desirable, as it was populated by a lower income demographic.
Excerpted from House of Cards by Hank Carver. Copyright © 2015 Hank Carver. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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