The slap heard round the world

“We need security right away,” said the twenty something woman that I had never seen before. Technically speaking I was the manager on duty, but I was standing behind the bar at the sweaty little live music nightclub, not because I was clueless and wanted to stand in the way, like many nightclub managers do, but because I was also working as the bartender. As luck would also have it, I was also part of the “security” team.

I followed her over to a man sitting at a table holding his face. There was a big red mark on his left cheek.

“What happened?” I asked.

“That guy slapped me,” he said pointing at the bar.

“Why did he do that?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

I walked over to the guy sitting at the bar sipping a light beer. He had short hair, looked to be in good shape, and was dressed business casual. “Clean cut” is the phrase often used, and he was every inch of it. Which was strange because that nightclub primarily catered to long haired rocker types in mostly black leather jackets.

Over the three decades that I have been in the bar business one thing that I have learned to be true is that the people who look like trouble usually aren’t, and the people who don’t, usually are. It’s never the face tatted guy who fights, it’s the guy in the tie. Don’t ask me why, because in the bar business it’s always the what.

“Why did you slap that guy?” I asked Mr. light beer.

Maybe sometimes it is the why.

“He deserved it.”

Well, that answered that.

Fun fact: You can’t go around slapping people. Even if you think they deserve it.

It’s called assault AND battery; two crimes in one. Assault is often defined as such if an individual feels threatened and believes they are in imminent danger of personal harm. Battery is the personal harm itself. Or at least that is how it was explained to me by that nightclub’s lawyer sometime later.

What was also later explained to me was that as a public access business we were duty bound to provide a safe place for the enjoyment of others. And when an incident like that happens, whether witnessed or otherwise, we had to fill out what was called an incident report, detailing the facts. We were also required to make sure it didn’t happen again, or continue to happen, to the best of our abilities. A police report for physical violence or damage was always suggested.

Which is why when I watched Will Smith slap Chris Rock at the Academy Awards, I was particularly stunned.

First, I have never seen a man get slapped so hard that it turns his head sideways but doesn’t leave a mark. Not in my 25 years in martial arts nor in my 10 years as a bouncer/bartender/manager.  And two: I really haven’t seen a man so visibly assault and batter someone and then be allowed to return to his seat unmolested. Let’s put aside that he was allowed to saunter onstage (is there no security there?) without being stopped, but he was also allowed to saunter offstage.

The incident at that nightclub spawned not only a criminal complaint against the slapper, but a lawsuit against the club. A lawsuit that dragged on for two years, and ultimately cost about $20,000 to win. The insurance covered the physical injury, but it was the idea of negligence that took forever to unpack. Had we done enough?

We had, because we had documented the incident and interviewed both parties. We had also called the police, and participated in the hearing, and ultimately in the prosecution. Furthermore, we had not allowed the perpetrator to further perpetrate.

Imagine if a restaurant allowed one patron at one table to slap another patron at another and then just allowed them to sit at their respective tables without ever even talking to them. Sure, I only saw what was on TV, supposedly Will Smith was asked to leave, but he didnt. In fact he went back onstage later to accept an award.

I don’t know about any of you. But I find my disbelief unsuspended. Because if a small time nightclub with a local lawyer knows all of that, then a roomful of Hollywood hotshots (including presumably many lawyers) would also know that. And if they didn’t, their insurance adjusters certainly would.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

-Actor’s act. Just saying.

-“You’re lucky the guy who did the slapping didn’t also sue you,” remarked the lawyer from that former nightclub.

-Somebody, somewhere, somehow, might just think you deserve a slapping. Just think about that for a second.

-“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” once wrote Isaac Asimov.

-“Look after yourself, and each other,” said Jerry Springer, ironically, after every show.