Zen and the Art of Bouncing



Doc Holiday wrote the book on club security. Really.

By Elisabeth Gibbons

Canadian-born Ivan Holiday Arsenault, nicknamed “Doc,” is not just another bouncer working the door. Bouncing is in his blood. Both his father and his grandfather were bouncers. He has been working the door for over 20 years in a total of 53 nightclubs and bars in Canada, England, Switzerland, and the United States. His years as a bouncer have given him a medical record consisting of two bullet holes, four puncture wounds, 11 broken bones, eight concussions, and one poisoning.

Currently based in Florida, he’s served in the Canadian Armed Forces. and is an ex-professional boxer, a licensed bodyguard with the state of Florida, a computer programmer, and an expert marksman. He also has his master’s degree in ancient philosophy and a Ph.D. in psychology.

His brains and vast experience in nightclub security led Doc to write The Bouncer’s Bible: The Art and Science of Working the Door. Doc puts it best in the first chapter: “The Bouncer’s Bible is the gospel according to Doc Holiday . . . Like the Holy Bible, The Bouncer’s Bible is salvation’s brother, it’s everything you need to know to survive in this business, the Encyclopedia of Working the Door.” A video, named after the book, followed. His website, bouncersbible.com, is one of the only websites out there for bouncers and nightclub professionals who are concerned about their security.

Doc took time out to talk to Club Systems about his life as a bouncer, what’s really going through a bouncer’s mind, and what all you suckers are doing wrong.

How did you come to write your book, Bouncer’s Bible? And how is your video different from the book?

I used to carry napkins around, and I would jot down notes about bouncing experiences. Eventually I had piles of napkins. A good friend of mine asked when I was going to write a book, and so I just started writing. I’ve sold about 2,000 copies. The book is like an autobiographical training manual. It’s like the art of Zen: I tell them a little story and then I teach them something. I wrote the book for bouncers, because they have a short attention span. It fires all the way through, and keeps their attention. It’s done my way, and through my words. I didn’t sugar coat it.

My video is the only video on nightclub security in the world. It’s more extensive. Bouncer’s Bible Video, covers training, different scenarios, club drugs, hiring – the whole nine yards. If a bouncer wants to know about the trade, get the video. It’s good for nightclub owners to show their bouncers. If you’re a nightclub owner, it’ll protect you if you’ve given them the training.

What does being a bouncer mean to you?

A bouncer is what he is. He is a man hired to remove unruly patrons from a place selling alcohol. Bouncing in a club is like working on a boat that has holes in it. The end of the night is like the other side of the river. Just keep bailing out the water until you get to the other side.

Being a bouncer is like being married to a prostitute; it’s a thankless job. You love her, and you think you’re getting the best ass in town for free, but really you’re paying double for it. Bouncing is the same thing. The wounds that I’ve gotten because of bouncing, I think why am I doing this? I am an educated man; I could do anything I want. I do it because I love it. It gets in your blood and you stay with it.

What are bouncers faced with in bars and clubs today?

There are more guns, more weapons at bars now. Young people make it tough in clubs. Clubs are a lot larger than they used to be, and I find that there is a lot more delinquency now in the clubs themselves. Between the weapons and the minors – minors will shut you down quicker than anything will. If you know the Alcohol Beverage Commission, you can usually get away with a $5000 fine, or they’ll give you warning. But more than that, and they’ll pull your liquor license, and it’s very hard to get it back, (if you can get it back), and it just shuts the club down.

Fake IDs have gotten just incredible. It’s come to the point where they can fake the holograms. You’ve got 40,000 web sites selling fake IDs! Technology has made our jobs that much tougher.

What do you find is the most common problem with nightclub security?

The problem with nightclubs is the hiring of derelicts that just don’t care to turn around and do the job. They’re hiring guys that are too young. They hire a 22-year-old guy, still wet behind the ears, who wouldn’t know a bouncer if he fell over him in the dark. And there’s also no formal training for these people.

There’s three reasons why these young guys look for jobs as bouncers: to chase women, fight, or for a position of authority and the power trip. In my book, a guy who chases the girls I call a “Casanova.” They’re no good because they usually don’t like to get in any trouble, so when a fight breaks out you can’t find them. Then you have the “power trippers,” and they’re just there for a position of authority. They never had anyone look up to them. Usually they’re smaller guys, and their friend got them the job. Managers will hire their cousin, and say, “This is my cousin, Bubba, and I want him to work for you.” And I say, “Bubba is short and fat. He weighs 400 pounds and he’s 5’1”. He can’t do anything.” I need bouncers, not some fat guy who gets out of breath going to the refrigerator for a drink.

What would qualify someone to be a bouncer?

A bouncer needs to have an equal balance of mental and physical ability – that is key. When I go to hire a bouncer, I want to find a person who hates to fight and likes people. He’s strong enough to defend himself if he has to. He’s strong, but not aggressive. Aggression is the worst thing you can have when you are a bouncer. The physical part of bouncing these days is only 25% of the game. It’s more important to hire someone who has brains, has an education, and who is socially acceptable. He has to be able to turn around and use what I call “verbal jujitsu” – he can talk his way out of fight, and doesn’t get angry when someone calls him a dickhead.

The smartest thing to come out of a bouncer’s mouth in 100 years is, “Please, if you don’t stop, I’m calling the police.” It’s the smartest thing you can say. In areas like Florida where I live; Florida is a haven for criminals. In my bar, 90% of the patrons have felonies. The biggest thing you can say to people is that you’re calling the cops; once you do that they’re out of there.

What would be the best advice you could give to a club manager about his security?

The biggest problem with security today is the owners. They’re cheap ass bastards who don’t want to pay anything. If the guy is making $35 a night, why would he put his butt on the line for your club? The person you hire for $6.50 is the guy that should be flipping burgers at McDonald’s. You’re only going to get derelicts to work for that kind of money; no decent person will work for that kind of money unless he’s starving to death. If [owners] paid 10 or 12 or 15 dollars an hour, you’ll get a better-trained man.

Who should he hire first?

A cooler is vastly important. A cooler is the head of security. He has to have a good solid 15 years of experience, and solid references in nightclub security. You should also do background check, a check for a criminal record; it is so important. You should actually perform criminal checks on all bouncers, and if they have any kind of violent records you shouldn’t hire them. If some guy is charged with four counts of assault, this guy is obviously has a problem working with people. When a club owner is hiring a cooler, he needs someone a little older, an educated man who speaks well and carries himself well.

Another mistake club owners make today is hiring off-duty police officers. A police officer is trained under a different protocol. Police officers are used to giving orders, and expecting you to follow them, but bouncers need to handle things socially. I love cops when they’re in their position. When I need them, I call them, but don’t come into my club to work. Put your money towards a good cooler and let them hire the right bouncers.

Anything can happen when you’re bouncing in a nightclub. How do you deal with incidents, like a girl you think may be in trouble, a fight, or drugs?

A good cooler can handle that. A cooler builds a machine. First, he gets good front door men, a couple of experienced guys who know how to spot IDs and are good with people. Then, get a couple of hammers that are hard-boiled bouncers. These guys follow orders to a “T,” and are like linebackers in a football game. Finally, you have a second in command to your cooler, a smart person who doesn’t have to be that big; You need a good machine where the men do their jobs, so the cooler is freed up to walk around and do his job: finding the drug deals and putting his men in the necessary areas.

If you can take out one key person in a group fight, you can throw the whole thing off. That’s the position of a cooler: to see these things develop and unfold, and to put a stop to them. A cooler’s job is also to protect the bar owner’s best interest, which includes watching the staff as well, like waitresses charging more for drinks. I watch my men too. I overlook everything: bartenders, patrons, waitresses, other bouncers.

What about drugs?

You can’t prevent them from coming in. You just can’t do it. What you have to do is get the drug dealers out of the club. Just remove the ringleader, and you’ve put a damper on things. It’s impossible to keep drugs out. They can’t keep drugs out of prisons, so how can you keep them out of clubs? Hell, half the bouncers are selling anyway, and the club owners sometimes. To really find out what’s going on in the club, ask the DJ. The DJ knows everything. I usually talk to the DJ, and squeeze him for info. All you can do is watch your floor, and honestly, I’d rather see someone on ecstasy than dropping roofies in a girl’s drink.

I don’t care if you do your drugs, just don’t do it where I can see it. If you do it in your house and come to my club, that’s your business. You bring it in the club then I’m going to throw you out. I also don’t believe in pat-downs. I don’t like someone putting their hands on my person. It’s against the law. You get [your bouncers] a wand to check for metal and other than that let them through. I’ve bounced all over, and I never pat down anyone. You can’t stop the drugs, but you can keep it under control if you have the right bouncers.

Copyright 2002 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2002 TESTA Communications