Nights on the door

The best mask I have is what I look like , a lot of people can’t guess what I do for a living and are very surprised when I tell them I am a full-time Martial Arts Coach; they are even more surprised that I worked the doors of Tynemouth and Whitley Bay for over 13 years.

When I started working the doors I was about 10 ½ stone so everyone wanted to fight me lol
I fell into door work by accident because I was training and teaching. I was asked to work in Tynemouth by a fellow martial artist called Phil Toby, a monster of a grappler and a seasoned fighter.

Before starting working the door I had worked some venues that had parties, but even when I was not working whenever I was at a party people would say “ John will sort it out if there is trouble” So I had done a lot of voluntary work stopping fights at weddings, birthday parties and nights out. I was out drinking one Sunday night and had just getting my first pint of Guinness when Phil came into the pub and said would I start working that night as the other doorman hadn’t turned up, So one minute I was having a night out the next minute I was standing on the door; it was all a bit surreal.

At first I found it hard to speak to people and I just followed Phil’s lead, because back then there was not SIA or door badge scheme (It did come in later and I was one of the very first people in the country to be on the course), you just had to follow what the older hands did and learnt on the job so to speak. Tynemouth in the early 90’s was a rough place with the weekend being split into 3 nights.

Friday Night was the group night out, when groups of men and groups of women came out drinking and stuck to the same route week in week out year in year out.

Saturday Night was couples night when couples would go out and sit and not talk to each other and the highlight of their night was when they saw someone they knew, then they would spring into life and have a great time. Saturday night was when I would get into trouble with men (and sometimes women) because I am a very observant person. I noticed small detail changes because they could save my life working the door. Unfortunately I would sometimes point out to the women that her hair looks lovely (since she had it cut /coloured or revamped) she would be all glowing and loved the attention until she pointed out her Partner/ husband never noticed, at this point I am normally getting a dagger style look off her partner and some under the breath name calling . When the said couple went into the pub Micky Caul (one of the other doormen, now a blackbelt and a great friend) would then tell me that I was going to get us both filled in one of these nights , but I couldn’t help myself. Another thing I would do was try and say hello to everyone that came in, some people would always return compliment were others would not say a word but week after week I would try and make them say hello or any type of acknowledgement; Micky would ask why I bothered as he ignored most people lol, my response would always be “one day I will crack them and make them say hello!”
Sunday Night in the early 90’s and through to the millennium was the crazy night, full to the brim of lovely people and some not so lovely people. We would see everything from Sunday morning football teams that had been drinking since the match finished, drug dealers, armed robbers (complete with bullet proof vest underneath their tracksuit top) all the way to hardened drinkers that loved to fight at the drop of a hat. A Lot of doormen would not work at Tynemouth on a Sunday night back in the day but I got dropped into the sea and had to learn to swim with the sharks. Every night on the door was different, it was never without incident and it was an amazing learning curve in the art of street fighting and there was always loads of ‘free practice’.

Getting people to leave the pub was the hardest Job in the world, no-one wants the night to end, or are keen to go outside when it is lovely inside so a lot of times they dug their heels in and stayed to the bitter end. Myself and Micky would take turns each to go around to get people to drink up and make their way outside, If we had a particular set of people or person that would just ignore us we would the go back around to get them to firstly listen and then leave; but sometimes we would have to resort to underhanded tactics. When Big Brother first came out, the live eviction would be on a Friday night so if people were hanging around the bar and not leaving we would deliberately tell them who got kicked out lol this went down great with the looks of disgust and the rapide departure of those that didn’t want to hear who had left the house. When I first started the door I would not have left if I had asked me to leave with my voice sounding midway between mickey mouse and a 13 year old boy, but after a while you start to use your adrenal voice which commands a presence and is fully backed up with a posture; I came a long way from a stuttering boy that was uncomfortable talking.

One Saturday night for some reason I ended up working on my own at the salutation Inn (I worked between here and Berties Bar) but for some reason no door staff had turned up for Berties so I said I would look in and if there was any bother I would come along, so the night had been without incident and at last orders there was only about a 6 people in the Sal so I nipped along to Berties to call time and tell people to drink up. I went back to the Sal to clear up but out of nowhere the 6 people started fighting it was two against four so I jumped in to try and separate the fight group I got them outside by going back and forth applying a hold
(mostly choke, as I do like a good choke) and cleared the pub and locked the doors then had to run back down to Berties to be greeted by a full pub and no-one had moved when Jimmy saw me I had no tie on I was covered in blood (not mine) and I then had to clear out my second bar of the night, the only problem with Berties Is sometimes had more people in after hours than it did during hours if you know what I mean. Jennifer and Jimmy Cooper were amazing to work for along with their daughters Kelly, Danielle and Jennifer, and we had an amazing door team of myself, Syd, Albert and my brother Marty; It was always one of the busiest pubs with an amazing atmosphere and their lock-ins were a thing of legends! With Jennifer holding court and shouting at Jimmy and the craic was great and we got paid to work there.

Bank holiday Mondays working in Berties would only mean one thing: Karaoke (mostly full contact Karaoke) we would have a great day but sometimes too much drink and really bad singing starts fights and this particular night was no exception. A fight started over the Karaoke literally on the small stage that was set up in the corner of the bar, I ran in closely followed by Syd and I dragged one of the sparring partners out of the and rendered him unconscious and left him on the pavement and between myself and syd we cleared the bar of the two groups that were fighting and the pavement outside looked like a warzone with people lying all over and in various states of disrepair. Just then another doorman Phil ran around the corner to see if we needed any help and he burst out laughing when he asked “what do you call this?” looking at the bodies lying on the floor I said “ a natural end to a bank holiday!”

Another great story started on a Boxing day (ironically) myself and Syd were working at Berties and we realised we were the only door staff working in the whole of Tynemouth; and Newcastle were playing Liverpool on Sky sports. We were just settling into our shift when the manager of the pub opposite came running over the road as fast as he could towards our door “ You have to come, the whole pub is fighting and I can’t stop them!” Syd being forever the opportunist said we would help for a fee, a fee was negotiated and both myself and Syd ran over the road and dived into the bar only to be greeted by a scene right out of a western movie; the whole bar was fighting (we should have asked for more money) so we then started to throw out the sparring partners. When it all calmed down we took the money and with our fistfull of dollars went back over the road to Berties and carried on shift, proving to ourselves that pubs need door staff.

I could go on to tell you of fighting monks and priests or the night myself and Micky got shot at, or a thousand other highs and lows on the door but perhaps I will leave it for a book….
Until then big love from the AFC.

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