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A Night at the Door With Three Hollywood Bouncers

The eyes and ears of three very different bars tell us about their normal—and not-so-normal—nights on the job.

Hollywood is definitely a place, but it’s also an idea. Eve Babitz, one of Los Angeles’ more poetic (and self-aware) bards, calls the place “a tornado of fabrication.” Sure, there’s the sign all tacked up into the hills, and there it is on Google Maps, and someone says “Meet me for a drink in Hollywood,” but what America reveres as the celluloid ideal of “Hollywood” is pretty much non-existent. Especially along Hollywood Boulevard.

Between big boxes and traffic lights, Popeyes and the Egyptian Theater, there’s a seedy stretch of pavement studded with celebrities’ brass stars that feels at once gaudy and modern—as if it hasn’t been updated since 1984. An old bookshop that smells like cat pee and cheesy tourist shops share sidewalk with one of the city’s hottest cocktail joints and a string of exclusive, star-studded clubs.

The gatekeepers of this realm have an odd job. They deal with droves of tourists craning necks and taking photos of their literal turf (“Look honey, it’s Burt Reynolds.”) They rub up against L.A.’s enduring homeless crisis. And they deal with rowdy, drug-fortified patrons seeking Saturday night thrills in the heart of the city. Each of these bouncers must fluently negotiate the boundary between public and private—they all insist that patience is key—and each has his own offbeat story about how he got into the game. From the Houston Brothers’ beloved head of security to the bouncer at an old rock-and-roll bar to the bodyguard at a table side magic joint, these are the bouncers of Hollywood Boulevard. 

Hollywood Bouncers

Christopher Padilla

Age: 51
Workplace: No Vacancy, King King, Dirty Laundry, Madame Siam, Black Rabbit Rose and Pour Vous

How long have you been doing this?
“About 20 years. All in Hollywood. When I started 20 years ago at Concorde, the biggest club in Hollywood at the time, bottle service had just hit. I was the guy clearing the street, making $10 an hour. I eventually met the head of security at Concorde and we became best friends. He brought me in-house and from there I continued to work my way up, started working the doors not even a year after. [Concorde] became Shag and then it became Wonderland. I worked for all three. After those all shut down, I ended up scrambling for work. I went to Key Club on Sunset Strip, working the back door. [A friend] called me up and said ‘I have a job,’ so I got my crew—I have all my cousins, all my family working for me—he said ‘It’s at a place called Jane’s House.’ I had never heard of it. When I showed up it was No Vacancy. From there I met Mark and Johnnie and they were remodeling. I don’t want to say they fell in love with me, but they said, ‘You’re my guy.’ So since day one, six years ago, I’ve been their head of security.”

How is this place different?
“I’ve worked clubs and mosh pits. This lounge, this speakeasy thing is a whole different ball game. It’s what we call easy money. But we’ve got to work. You have to be on the ball and be very observant. I watch as people come down the driveway. I’m like ‘those guys are drunk’ or ‘if they’re acting like that coming down the driveway, how are they going to act inside?’ Fridays and Saturdays are crazy. You’ve got 400 people inside and 200 out front trying to get in.”

What makes you good at this job?
“It’s just the way I carry myself. The way I talk to people. At June, we’ll be at six years open. My guys have gotten into one altercation. One. We had to take a guy down. These are more speakeasy type places—not bars or clubs, so it’s just learning how to talk to people. It’s the way I was trained, it’s how I trained my guys.”

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen?
“My buddy Ron who I worked with at Concorde—he was the floater, walking around inside—I was outside. I’m out front and I hear over the radio ‘I’ve got one coming out, one coming out.’ Ron gets this young guy, chucks him out, says ‘Get out of here, you dirty son of a bitch.’ He walks back in and 20 minutes later comes back out and tells me [what happened]. [Bouncers] have this instinct where you know when someone’s up to no good—by the way they look, the way they carry themselves, if they’re alone. Anyway, this guy was alone. He was weaving in the crowd. Ron followed him. He went into the bathroom. My buddy waited outside. When he walked out, the guy walked up to the bar. Ron couldn’t see him, but when he moved, he saw that the guy had his penis out. He was walking by girls and rubbing on them. That’s creepy. Ron was a bodybuilder and the guy went flying.”

When you’re out in the world, do you have a hard time turning off the bouncer in you?
“Always. I don’t go out often, I work five or six nights a week. When I go out, I find myself watching people. I want to make sure everybody’s safe. I have the police officer mentality where if I’m in a restaurant, I never put my back to the door.”

Do you have a favorite post-shift snack?
“I go home, I walk my dog. It’s usually about 2:30, 3 in the morning. I come back. He eats. I eat a bowl of cereal. I go from Raisin Bran Crunch to the new Cheerios Oat Crunch thing. I do a mix with Wheaties, they’re kind of boring, but if you throw some Wheaties Crunch in there…The fiber is good for me. Keeps me right.”

Hollywood Bouncers

Will Gillin

Age: 36
Workplace: Burgundy Room

How long have you worked here?
“Almost three-and-a-half years.”

How did you end up working as a bouncer?
“I’ve done security before. I used to work with escorts. It was my first job out here. I’d drive them around and make sure everything went alright. I was born out here, grew up in Philadelphia. Been out in Hollywood for 15 years.”

What makes Burgundy Room different?
“It’s the oldest bar in Hollywood. It’s a community bar. It’s one of the last ones. Us and the Frolic Room. We’re kind of off-Boulevard though. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll and punk bar.”

What makes you good at this job?
“Conflict resolution. I can solve problems without getting violent. That’s my skill. That’s what served me in all my jobs. I’ve never laid a hand on anyone. I’ve never had to. And that’s kind of rare. I’m kind of a small guy. I’m not what you understand or imagine a bouncer to be. But I can talk people down and guide them in a better direction.”

How did you learn that?
“Just dealing with humanity. I used to work at the Starbucks down at Sunset and Gower. That was a dangerous spot. I used to close that out, so I learned how to talk to people in certain way. Snap them out of their rage.”

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen at the door?
“It’s Hollywood. Just generally Hollywood goings-on. All the homeless. All the conflicts that arise from people being drunk. You see the problems coming down the street. It gets kind of wild out here.”

Do you have a post-shift drink?
“I like whiskey. Jameson. Any whiskey really.”

Hollywood Bouncers

Eric Rodriguez

Age: 24
Workplace: Black Rabbit Rose

How long have you been doing this?
About a month. I was over at Madame Siam for a few months before this.

How did you become a bouncer?
I had just graduated with a criminology and criminal justice degree in Arizona, but I didn’t want to be a police officer with all the turmoil going on in the world. I was an offensive guard [for the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks] and broke my back. I graduated and I was depressed my career was over. They put me on prescription pills for a while, and when I graduated I moved back home. I couldn’t protect a quarterback anymore, so I thought I could protect some other way, maybe as a bodyguard.

How do you get into becoming a bodyguard?
When I was working the door a guy approached me about it, so I did a job as bodyguard for DJ Mustard at the Hollywood Bowl recently. I also work at a security company called Salient Operations Group. We do the Supreme store here on Fairfax and when they have private events I’ll work with them. Last week I did one at Dan Bilzerian’s house for his Ignite Cannabis party. Cardi B was performing. YG and Tyga, too. It was pretty wild.

What makes you good at this job?
I have a keen eye. You have to look for a drunk people coming down the street, think how they’re going to act. I just have eyes.

How is this place different?
Not only is it a bar, it’s a Thai food restaurant that has table-side magic, so we get the older crowd. You get a mixture of people so you have to differentiate between bar hoppers and the people who came to be there.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at the door?
A lot of drug addicts. A lot of weirdos. Wannabe gangsters. It’s Hollywood Boulevard. You see people on drugs screaming at the wall. People not looking where they’re walking and almost causing car accidents.

What’s your favorite post-shift drink?
I drive an hour home to Palmdale. Sometimes I go straight to the gym, especially after what happened to my back. Working out is big for decompressing.

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