Bouncin' in Little Rock 

Working bar security is no non-stop party, but it ain't for meatheads, either.

If you've been to more than a few bars, you've seen him on a stool in the corner, circulating in his black T-shirt, or ferreting out fake IDs at the door: the bouncer, that unsung and little-appreciated hero of public libation.

Bars and nightclubs are where people go to cut loose, but there's a limit to a good time. Cross that line — let things turn argumentative or edge toward violent — and you can expect to get the attention of maybe the biggest (but surely the most sober) guy there.

John Freshour has worked security at several Little Rock bars and clubs the past four years, including Juanita's, Stickyz and Rev Room. Like a lot of those who wind up working bar security, Freshour picked it up as a part-time gig while in grad school. (Freshour shies away from the term "bouncer" because of the bad connotations of the word, which he said implies "a 6'4", 400-pound meathead who is going to hurt you." Freshour is 6'1" and 240.) Now an archivist for the Arkansas State Library ("As far as I can tell, I'm the only security guy in town with a master's degree," he said), he still works security at night and on weekends.

Freshour said he learned most of what he needed to know just by doing the job and listening to the more seasoned guys. He recalls an old prof in grad school who had a Hungarian proverb that fits: The work will teach you how to do it.

"Bouncing is like that," Freshour said. "I've always worked in all-ages clubs, and you'll recognize when a kid is having that thought that they're going to try and get away with drinking underage. ... You can see a fight coming. You can see the signs of: Oh, this guy is going to be a problem later on."

After working the job for awhile, he learned the other tips he needed to know to keep him safe, as in: In a fight, put your back up against an object so you don't get jumped from behind. He said none of the bouncers he knows will use a urinal in a men's bathroom, just because of how vulnerable you are with your face to the wall and hands occupied elsewhere. He only puts on his "security" shirt when he gets inside the bar. Depending on the place, it can be a fairly dangerous job.

"I've been very close to stabbings," he said. "I've been there when there were shootings. ... I've seen guns pulled, I've had people threaten to shoot me, I've had people threaten to wait for me after work and jump me in the parking lot. There's a certain amount of risk."

All that said, Freshour has only been involved in a few physical altercations over the years, including an incident in which a drunk sucker-punched him in the head in a parking lot after he saw Freshour talking to the drunk's girlfriend (Freshour said he was telling her to get the guy off the street before the cops took him in for public intox). While he takes a lot of precautions, Freshour said that most of the bouncer's job is just talking people out of the urge to take things in a violent direction. He said that's one of the only things the 1989 movie "Roadhouse" — Patrick Swayze's mullets-and-kickboxing epic about a bouncer cleaning up a rough and tumble Missouri nightclub — got right.

"Patrick Swayze's character talked about trying to talk people out of a bar and 'don't hit 'em until I tell you to,' " Freshour said. "That's pretty accurate. Bouncers, they kind of put problems out and take care of the bar's interests, so going in there bullheaded and picking fights just isn't going to work."


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