Outside, a seemingly endless parade of barely legal girls take turns gyrating to a playlist of top 40 and cock rock. Inside the men's room, though, Gary the bathroom attendant (he prefers the term "valet") offers a calm from the storm. Standing at the ready with a squirt of hand soap and a fresh paper towel, Gary is the proprietor of a veritable miniature bottega, cheerfully greeting regulars with a gravelly "My man!" when they enter and a "Thanks brotha!" if they tip on the way out. We decided to awkwardly interview Gary, despite the steady stream of guys trying to take a piss (and a very scary bouncer who threatened to pursue legal action if we repeated anything specific). This is Gary's story.
Metro Times: How long have you been doing the bathroom valet thing?
Gary: I started out with another gentleman at another club. Then I moved over here. I've done other clubs, but never for a significant amount of time. I've been here for three years.
MT: How'd you get into the bathroom valet thing in the first place?
Gary: When I first started, it was just additional income. Once I got over here, I got established, and I just kept going.
MT: You've got quite the set-up here. Mints, gum, candy, snacks, Kleenex, cigarettes, cologne ...
Gary: I try to cover all the bases. I might put in another order for cologne. I usually have five or six bottles. I stick with the ones I know that the customers want. I've got stain stick just in case someone spills something on their shirt. The most popular thing is probably gum, though.
MT: Have you ever gotten any weird requests, like drugs?
Gary: Yeah. People say, "Hey, you're supposed to be the guy, the bathroom guy's supposed to know everything!" I'm like, "I'm sorry! I'm old. I don't know about that stuff." I don't socialize out there. My business is in here. I might go out there and get a water or something, but then I come right back. My deal is inside here, so this where I stay.
MT: It seems like a pretty good gig. Everyone seems really happy to see you. You get to just hang out and watch TV.
Gary: It has its ups and downs, like any other gig. I get to meet a lot of interesting people. This here is a big commitment, though. I'm here three or four days a week, but those days are long. I come in at noon and then we go into the night, until 2 a.m. That's a long day, you know.
MT: The first time I had ever encountered a bathroom attendant I was totally confused. Do you get that a lot?
Gary: Not as much now, but when I first got into it a lot of guys were like, "I've never seen this before." They don't have to tip me. Around here, most of the people do. I'm just here to provide something — like chapstick. I've been to places before, where I'm like, "Man, I wish I had chapstick." Bingo, here's your chapstick. Or aspirin, or something.
MT: Are strip club bathroom attendants pretty typical around the country?
Gary: I haven't experienced it for myself. I'd like to. I'd like to go say, "Hey! I do this up in Detroit!"
MT: Yeah, and talk shop. It's kind of a solitary profession in that way, right?
Gary: Well, it's kind of a competitive thing. I want my set-up to be a step above the next guy's, you know.
MT: So with the cologne, do you just sell it by the shot?
Gary: Yeah, you can just kind of grab it, boom-boom-boom, whatever. I charge a buck or two. There's no specific price on it. It's donation-based. Use it, just tip me. That's what I'm here for.
MT: So have you ever witnessed any particularly crazy episodes?
Gary: You know, it's hard to believe that in the three years I've been in here, I've only seen one fight. I've never really had any issues. You get guys who will run their mouth — you just talk to them, try to soothe them, and push them out. Their business is out there, not in here. I just go with the flow. It's a pretty simple gig. You treat people with respect, converse a little bit, and in a couple minutes, they're gone.