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A Night at the Door With Three Paris Bouncers

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

Paris Bouncers

Paris may be known for its pastries, markets and Haussmannian architecture, but when golden hour passes, the City of Light keeps going, watched over by les physios. While one might colloquially translate physio (short for physionomist) to “bouncer,” a more literal translation is “a person with a good memory for faces.” This is especially apt for Parisian nightlife’s gatekeepers who are experts at examining—and remembering—everyone who shows up at their doors.

For the latest installment of “A Night at the Door,” we started our night in the Marais, Paris’s equivalent of SoHo by day and, by night, home to Little Red Door, the very chic, yet impossibly friendly cocktail bar. While presiding over his line along a narrow, cobblestone street, doorman Laurent Comte offers tea and conversation—and an alternate plan if there’s no chance of getting in.

It’s a quick metro ride to the 9th arrondissement where Parisian club life has been rooted for generations. Emanating from quartier Pigalle and spreading south, the 9ème has been the epicenter of illicit Parisian nightlife since the days of cabarets like the Folies Bergère and Moulin Rouge. Fifteen minutes south of the latter’s electric red windmill, Mayo Magescas guards the door at Le Palace. The legendary theatre-turned-discothèque was Paris’s answer to Studio 54 in the ’70’s and ’80’s, and was frequented by the likes of Grace Jones, Christian Louboutin and Prince.

The night wraps up (or the morning begins) at La Mano, an inconspicuous club where Loom Darameh welcomes a mix of regulars, actors and fashionable gadabouts who have queued to dance to a lineup of DJs and live artists until last call at 5 a.m.

What emerged over the course of the evening was a certain Tao of the Parisian physio: Be kind and forget VIP. It’s all about a vibe. As much as their role is to maintain security, it’s also to make quick yet informed decisions, sifting between club kids and tourists, balancing multiple Fashion Weeks and political demonstrations—all in multiple languages and all while looking as stylish as you’d expect.

Paris Bouncers

Laurent Comte

Age: 48
Workplace: Little Red Door (3ème)

How long have you been working here?
“Two years. But I’ve worked in bars since I was 17.”

What do you like about working at Little Red Door?
“I like that we work as a team here. There isn’t a separation between the door and inside the bar. The door is the first moment of service for the customers and a lot of the time people don’t think I’m the doorman because I don’t dress or act like a typical one. I talk to them, if it’s cold outside I give them tea. I try to make sure no one waits more than 30 minutes, so when the line is getting too long, I find them a plan B and tell them to come back another night.”

What makes you say no to people when they show up at your door?
“When they’re overly drunk. That’s why as the doorman, you stay at the edge of the door. You can see how people are walking when they come toward you. It’s like, 15 meters away you walk like you’re drunk, and 10 meters away you try to walk straight. I can always tell. But even when I say no, I try to say it without disappointing people. I give them another option so they can still have a fun night.”

Have you ever had to kick anyone out?
“We have more funny stories than bad here. In the last two years, I’ve kicked out two, actually three, people and only had one time with a guy at the door when I had to use my hands. I try to be nice, but firm, and find a diplomatic way to say no or ask someone to leave. You don’t want to hurt the ego of a person. Alcohol makes people even more sensitive so as soon as you’re nice, people respond in a better way.”

What makes this place special?
“It’s the vibe. It’s an international, local bar.”

What’s the biggest challenge of working here?
“In French, patience. Patience. And patience. I have guys who talk to me for like 35 minutes trying to get in. I get offered bribes sometimes and I hate that. We have another guy that works the nights when I’m off and I tell him to never accept bribes, because, you know, I’ll know.”

How many languages to you have to have?
“English and French. There’s always a mix of people but sometimes you get big groups of the same. The other week we had just a ton of Norwegians. A while ago it was Swedes. We had a bunch of people from Uzbekistan one time—they were crazy.”

Do you have a favorite nightcap?
“I like rye and ginger or a Penicillin or a lager. It depends what mood I’m in. Or I’ll find a pub and get a real Guinness.”

Paris Bouncers

Maylis (Mayo) Magescas

Age: 34
Workplace: Le Palace (9éme)

How long have you been working here?
“Five months.”

What makes this place special?
“Le Palace was famous in the ’70’s and ’80’s. First it was a theater and a club and then in the ’80’s, they closed the theater and it was just a club with the VIP section downstairs. Today it’s back to a theater and a club. There are so many customers who used to party at Le Palace in the ’80’s and come back. It’s fun to show them what it’s like now.”

Have you ever had to kick anyone out?
“Of course. Half of the stories I can’t tell you. A lot of it is people being really drunk, or getting naked. One time we had four or five guys come in through the emergency door in the back. They went immediately into the bathroom and so we just waited outside. When they walked out, one of them was my friend! But, of course, we still kicked him out. Then I walked back in after having a cigarette and he’s back again!”

What’s the biggest challenge of working here?
“Every night it’s a challenge. The most important thing at Le Palace is to have a good mix of people—young, old, middle, really stylish, classic. It makes for a good party. But that means I have to say no a lot. We have a cap of 450 people in the club and I end up saying no to about that same number on weekends. Sometimes there are people who look good but you just don’t feel it and you have to say ‘No, not tonight. Come back another time.’”

What have you learned working at the club?
“I have learned to control my emotions. It’s really a challenge. Once I asked a palm reader how do I control my emotions and she said, ‘You can’t,’ you have to deal with it. But with this job, I’ve really learned not to respond to drunk or negative people and be zen about it.”

What do you think is different about working at the door in Paris?
“I think Paris and especially the night in Paris is like another world. Paris is a small country within a country. There’s a lot of crazy stuff. And Parisians, you know, we’re not always patient. It’s always intense.

“In the last few months with the gilets jaunes, it’s been really frustrating. We’re in a touristy area right off of a big boulevard and all the ATMs are boarded up every Saturday. Fridays are fine but Saturday is a mess, even without the protests.”

What’s your favorite post-work drink?
“I love IPA beer or rum and ginger. It’s my favorite post and it’s my favorite drink anytime.”

Paris Bouncers

Loom Darameh

Age: 37
Workplace: La Mano (9ème)

How long have you been working here?
“Four years.”

What do you like about working at the club.
“The night, the people and the music. But definitely the people. People are different at night. You can be someone else different at night.”

What makes La Mano special?
“The mix of people. That’s the thing about La Mano. We have many famous people come in and everyone mixes together and no one cares who you are. There’s no VIP section. If you have a bottle, you’re putting it on the bar not a table. At night, people want to be equal. If you come to show off, go to another club.”

Anyone famous you were especially excited to meet?
“Mick Jagger, Natalie Portman, Benicio del Toro. Benicio, that was cool.”

Did you ever have to say no to anyone famous?
“Yes, but only French actors. Either because they were drunk or because they just look like normal people so you couldn’t tell who they were.”

What’s the biggest challenge of working here?
“Making sure the crowd is right for the night. So many people want to get in and it’s very important to get people who will dance to the type of music that’s playing that particular night. I know each type of people coming to La Mano for a specific kind of party. I can tell everything at the front door. It’s not just security, it’s psychology. You have to have good energy, so even if you have great style, if you don’t have good energy you’re not getting in. But I don’t just say no. It’s a no with an explanation.”

What’s the most bizarre thing people have done to try to get in?
“So many things. Once a group tried to get in the door by saying they’re a cousin of Loom…that’s me. So I kept up the joke said ‘Oh yeah, which side of the family are you on? Le père ou la mère?’ And they were like, ‘Oh, yeah the mother’s side.’ Once I told them who I was they knew they weren’t getting in.” 

Have you ever had to kick anyone out?
“Yes, many, many times. For many, many reasons. For me, I care most about taking care of the security of the women inside. Women bring the light to the party and the night, so in a club like La Mano if women are not feeling okay—whether it’s by men or women—the party is not going to go well.”

What’s your favorite post-shift drink?
“Water. I like Cognac and Champagne, but after work I want to calm down, drink water and rest.”

What do you think is different about working as a bouncer in Paris?
“In Paris, it’s about being both a bouncer and an artistic director. It’s more about the soul, not the money or the publicity. The vibe is more important than bottle service or a table. If you bring the soul, you bring the money.”

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