Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Art of Hustle

Image from "The Hustler" (1961)
Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped; turned upside down.  And I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there, I'll tell you how I became the prince of a town called...  wait a minute.  That's the Fresh Prince's story.

This is one of MY stories:

When I first moved to Los Angeles, one of my friends introduced me to The Edison.  I instantly fell in love with its vintage style and decor.  I wanted to pay it forward and share this local gem with my friend Justus and, his roommate at the time, Matt.

The evening started out with Matt unable to decide which belt to wear with his brown shoes: the brown belt or the browner belt.  I told him that it wasn't a fashion show and most likely no one would criticize him for his choice of brown belt.  Once the brown belt crisis was averted, we made our way to dinner and then on to The Edison.

We arrived at The Edison around 11:30 pm and there was a very, very long line to get in.  The line was so long, it was actually split into two parts.  One half of the line was in the alley where the front door of The Edison was neatly tucked away.  The other half of the line was on 2nd Street.

The three of us politely filed into the end of the line on 2nd Street.  I asked the bouncer that was in charge of the 2nd Street line how long the wait would be to get in.  He estimated that it would be about an hour and a half before we got in, if at all.  This was unacceptable.  If I've learned anything from my trips to Las Vegas, it was that a high ratio of girls to guys would get you priority consideration for entry.  Three guys would mean certain rejection.

I began polling the groups of girls that were around us if they would join our group and increase our, and their, chances of getting in sooner.  Not to my surprise, all of the girls said no.  Nobody wanted to step out of line, figuratively and literally, and take a chance at getting in without the 1.5 hour wait.  What was there to lose?  The door man says "no" and you go back to the end of the line, right where you came from.

A group of 4 girls behind us overheard what I was proposing and volunteered to join our group.  Now we were in business.  With 4 girls and Matt's browner belt, there was no stopping us.

I asked the bouncer for his name because names always go a long way when you're hustling.

"Dave." was his reply.

"Well, Dave, is it ok if I step out of line and try my luck at the front door?" I asked.

"Sure." he replied.

"Would it be ok if I tell them that you sent me?" I politely inquired.

"You know what?" laughed Dave. "I'm so low on the totem pole, I don't even think it would make a difference if you dropped my name, so go ahead."

I thanked Dave and began leading my entourage to the front door of The Edison.  As I was walking, a group of girls poured out of a taxi in front of me.  In an effort to further increase our girl to guy ratio, I politely asked them if they would like to join our group to avoid the long line.

"We're already on the list." sneered a girl who could barely walk in her high heels.

Clearly, she was new at this because being on "the list" means nothing in this town.  Everyone is on the list.  Even if you're not on it.

I didn't blink twice and continued to walk towards the front door.  I confidently walked straight up to the door man and said "I have 7 people in my group."

Immediately, a power-tripping bouncer rushed up and asked, "Who sent you here?!"

"Dave did." I replied calmly.

"Dave said you could come up here?!" barked the low self-esteemed bouncer with the current position of power.

"Yes," I asserted.  "Dave told us to come up here."

The bouncer, who was probably bullied in high school, immediately began calling for Dave over the radio, with his hand to his ear-piece as if he was Secret Service.  Of course, Dave wasn't answering.  He was low on the totem pole, but he wasn't stupid.

The door man with the clipboard gently raised a hand to calm the ego-tripping bouncer.  "If you give me a few minutes, I can take your group," said the door man.  After hearing this, the pitbull bouncer immediately turned into a chihuahua bouncer and quickly retreated back into his corner.

"Who's in your group?" asked the door man.

"The two gentleman behind me, this girl, these two girls, NOT that girl, and this girl here."  I announced.  The "not that girl" was the girl from the taxi who supposedly was on "the list" but was trying to squeeze into my group while having rudely rejected my offer from just a few moments ago.

"Who is this guy, Justus?!" exclaimed Matt, in reference to me.  "He's just picking girls out of the crowd and deciding who can go in!"

Justus smiled and shrugged playfully.

The door man checked our I.D.s and we descended the stairway into The Edison.  Total elapsed time: maybe 5 minutes.

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, I turned to one of the girls and asked: "How about buying a round of drinks for my friends and myself for getting you out of the hour and a half wait?"

"Sure!" she replied.  "What would you boys like?"

I think this is when Matt's head exploded.  According to Justus, Matt raved about this experience for about a week after, having never experienced a night like this before in his life.

For me, it was just another night. (Cue "Party Rock Anthem")  Ev'ryday I'm hustlin'. *shuffle shuffle shuffle*

The moral of this story?  If you act like you own the place, people will think you own the place.  If you act like an accomplished artist, people will think you're an accomplished artist.  Use it wisely to jump-start your career, but make sure you have the walk to back up the talk.

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