“It’s a very strange position to be in sometimes,” says Adam Tomei, the guy who screens clientele from the reservation lists (“guest list” is so over) at Bolthouse Productions’ highly coveted, über-stellar club nights. “But I somehow seem to have a gift for this.” The Brooklyn-born actor has been manning the ropes at Bolthouse’s revolving boîtes (last year, the hot hubs were XES, Concorde and Chi; currently, it’s all about Wednesdays at LAX and Saturdays at Privilege) for a year and a half now, and in addition to helping make celebs at the door comfy, his main duty is to select “a good mix of people” from the anxious clusters at the door, an alchemic formula that includes “a higher ratio of girls” (of course) and a diverse assortment that seems to be composed of rockin’ indie types, tabloid cover tarts and mainstreamers with money. It ain’t an easy job, but somebody’s gotta do it, and despite the ire he gets from those denied entrance, Tomei always keeps his cool — shockingly, sans the ’tude you’d expect. “There’s a real sense of entitlement,” says Tomei of the Hollywood door scene. “You try not to be an asshole, but you don’t want to be a pushover either.”
Before getting into security work for nightclubs and bars, Justice (no last name, it’s “just Justice”) was an adolescent substance-abuse counselor. And while that might seem an odd precursor to manning the nightly parade of inebriated Echo Park–sters at his post in front of the Short Stop, he says his training comes in handy. “There’s actually a lot of similarities between the two jobs,” he says, citing “patience” and “presence” as the two most important traits needed for both. He’s done security work for bigger clubs, including the Century Club and House of Blues, but the familylike vibe at the Stop, with its unpretentious mix of locals and unswanky Hollywood heads, has kept him here for more than three years now. Still, it’s not always a perfect or pleasant environment outside. “I’ve had everything from bottles to high heels thrown at my head,” says the tough yet tender doorkeeper, though he notes that he’s had fewer problems than he did at the big Hollywood clubs. “I’ve made real friends working here, and I really like most of the people who come here.” The feeling is mutual.
With 20 years of coddling VIPs, hard-assing too-cool-to-pay-a-cover scenesters and managing everything from crowd control to the cash box at Hollywood’s most rockin’ nightclubs, Stephanie Mata, who currently works the Viper Room and Key Club, knows all when it comes to the dynamics of the door. The store owner (she’s got a by-appointment-only shop below her Melrose apartment called the Never Open Store)/mother/door diva supreme has manned the entrances of some legendary joints over the years, including metal haven the Cathouse, the retro-à-gogo 1970 and the Pretty Ugly Club, to name a few. And though the locales have changed, the stuff coming out of people’s mouths definitely has not. “The worst possible thing you can say at the door, and people always do, is ‘I know so-and-so . . . ’ or ‘I’m friends with so-and-so.?’ If I hear that, I usually let ’em have it.” Mata says, even if it is a friend, “no one gets in for free all the time at my door,” and she has no qualms about asking pals to kick down when necessary. After all, “clubs are there to make money,” she says. Toting her ever-present clipboard, Mata is one of the few women you’ll actually see out in the trenches (as opposed to inside the club, sheltered in a booth or behind a table), and her straightforward, no-bullshit approach commands respect, often striking fear into the hearts of even the burliest male club-hoppers. Still, even those who’ve endured her wrath seem to respect her sharp-witted and vivacious demeanor, traits that have surely helped her stay in the biz for so long. “All I have is my personality,” she says. “But I come from the school of ‘the customer is always wrong,’ so I’m really not cut out for a traditional job. I’ll probably end up the world’s only 100-year-old door girl.”
Flashy halter tops and ultra-mini denim skirts may be the fashion formula females use to get to the front of the velvet rope at most Hollywood nightclubs, but those getups will have quite the opposite effect at Boardner’s most popular night, Bar Sinister. Indeed, the dress code at this Saturday-night fiend-er is decidedly darker, and it’s up to door mistress Courtney Belford to enforce it with an iron whip. Well, not literally. “I’m not mean about it, but I just inform people that this club has a specific dress code. We don’t allow jeans, tennis shoes or office attire,” she says of the club’s fashion no-nos. Though Belford herself isn’t exactly a “goth chick,” she’s always at the door in something black, and fancies fishnets and vintage. A personal stylist by day, Belford, who has been manning the door for just under five months at Sinister (along with help from the club’s ever–present security guards), used to work at swankier (skankier?) hot spots like the Lounge (now called the Lobby) and Chi, scenes that were obviously like day to Sinister’s night. “The crowd here gets really involved in their outfits and costumes, and they’re extremely loyal and sweet,” she says, belying the image most have of ghoulish types being menacing. “These people aren’t jumping from one club to another, which gives me an opportunity to really get to know them. I’ve met some great people here.”
“Heya Torrance! How are you, honey?!” a curly-headed blonde in a miniskirt and cowboy boots shrieks as she moves toward the Burgundy Room’s popular doorman for a lengthy hug. “Hey baby,” he says, at the same time, scrutinizing the passports and IDs of maybe the most motley procession of customers — from tattooed to touristy — you’re gonna see on Cahuenga Boulevard these days. Throughout the night, nearly every person who walks into the bar has a similarly warm greeting for him. Cahuenga has changed a lot since Torrance Jackson first became the Burgundy’s “host” (as he calls himself) seven years ago, and while he does worry that the area might be in danger of becoming too commercial for many, that won’t happen as long as he’s part of it. Indeed, Torrance is in many ways the soul of this street. A teacher by day and a singer by night (he can often be seen performing with Soda and His Million Piece Band around town and is currently working on his second solo release with local musician and promoter Ricky Vodka), T.J.’s got a charisma that has made fans out of even Hollywood’s hipper-than-thou barhoppers. Still, the guy gets tough when he has to. “I have a screening process for people I think might be trouble,” he explains, throwing out a few slags and rags to a couple regulars who whisk by. “If they can’t take a little trash talk at the door, they ain’t gonna be able to take a few drinks inside.”
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.