With his broad shoulders and impressive muscles, Stephen George has an intimidating physique that you wouldn’t want to come in contact with during a fight. In conversation, however, he’s less Terminator and more teddy bear.
At 19, Steve, as he prefers to be called, developed a passion for bodybuilding and later worked briefly as a trainer in a gym, supplementing his income by being a part-time bouncer at watering holes on Church Street and Brigade Road. Now, at 29, having been a full-time bouncer for seven years, he manages a team of bouncers — his “boys”, as he calls them — providing the service to clubs in the area.
“To be a good bouncer, you have to have a good physique, speak good English, and have a good attitude,” he says. Being a bouncer also takes some smooth talking to defuse tension, says Steve, who adds that physical contact is absolutely the last resort when conflict arises. “We work as ‘coolers’ rather than bouncers,” he says with a grin.
It isn’t all hunky-dory being in the entertainment business, according to Steve. Bouncers are paid peanuts, he says: “As a professional, earning Rs. 600-700 a day about thrice a week is just not enough.” Club managements often don’t realise what being a bouncer involves and don’t give bouncers the respect they deserve, seeing them as little more than “security guards”.
“These days it’s an unhealthy business,” says Steve, who laments that newcomers are willing to work for Rs. 200 to Rs. 300, making it difficult for those with more experience in the field to survive. Now, he works as a public relations officer and aims to be a personal bodyguard, as the pay is much higher, particularly if you’re licensed to use firearms.
For a man of Steve’s size, I’m curious to know what an average meal is like. “I look for full meals,” he says, blushing furiously, confessing that he consumes five or six eggs a day and can eat about 20 chapatis at a go. “Let’s just say I’m not the kind to go in for a sandwich.”