AN ODE TO THE DOOR GIRL
Text by Anna Harmon
What are the qualities of a door girl? From the outside looking in, they seem to have been chosen for a certain allure, a Lolita likeness, an ability to be mean girls to the line of people that throbs outside the club/bar/venue’s doors. In reality, door girls are rarely hired on Craigslist.
They are offered the role because of their presences, their personalities, their looks or lines that lure in men like moths to a bug zapper; their abilites to multitask while wearing whatever they want and dealing with drunks ranging from harmless to pants-less.
In Chinatown, the era of the door girl may have passed. On occasion, one can be spotted outside eleven44 or inside Downbeat Lounge charging $5 for a show. While the role can be seen as the marker of a liminal phase—“we’re just passing through”—the door girl holds the keys to a good night inside or a cranky night on the street. Knowing a door girl gives you a warm glow; getting bitch face from one sends some into fits. She is the sphinx of the night scene, but also a marker of how society can treat women—as the decoration outside, passing judgments while you pass on by.
But don’t forget: She calls the shots. Take Angel Giesen and Kesha Teranishi (“Kesha Mika Teranishi if I’ve done something bad,” she says). These two door girls of the aughts, now roving distant pastures (Angel lives in Portland; Kesha was traveling through the Scottish Highlands when we spoke), demonstrated the best of the role, when it’s for the best of the venues and people. They reflect fondly on the nights of punk shows at Coffee Talk, the roiling birth of SOHO, and the energy of rowdy, talented bands. Both organically became door girls through a passion for the music scene, for helping friends, for bossing everyone around just enough. Then things changed, people changed, they moved on. But they both make the job sound rad more often than not. The music, the chaos, the sharpies and shenanigans. They make it clear that it’s not merely society that defines a door girl, but the venue, the feel of the crowd, the band inside, and how they see themselves.
And that is the riddle of the door girl.
Chatting with these two, Kesha was charming and brief; Angel was bubbly and witty. Below, get a taste of the duo and their overlapping time as door girls.
Venues, between the two:
Mercury Bar, The Loft, thirtyninehotel, Nextdoor, Club Pauahi, SOHO, Ong King, Kemoo Farms, Detox, The Waterfront at Aloha Tower, Coffee Talk, Anna Banana’s, 1739, and “a bunch of others.”
Favorite shows remembered:
Bonnie Prince Billy, Man Man, Larry and His Flask, Shopping List, 86List, The Malcognitas, At Sea, Go Jimmy Go. Again, “there are too many,” says Angel.
How did you get involved?
Kesha: I used to be a photographer before I started doing door. One day Josh [Hancock] and Otto were shorthanded, and I helped out the door girl and wasn’t half bad at it, and it kinda just stuck. It is one of my favorite things to do. I wish I still did it actually. Just being able to go to all the shows and see everyone is the best part.
Angel: I started going to shows and events at Pink Cadillac when I was about 14 or 15. Between the right place, the right time, and knowing the right people, I started sitting in for Kesha at Coffee Talk’s shows and Pink Cadillac shows. I seemed to be able to help out at shows regardless of type of music or location. I think just wanting to help out showed my integrity, and I grew a reputation of being trustworthy.
What are the traits of a good door girl?
Kesha: Good memory, quick reader, friendly but not too friendly.
Angel: You should be able to count money and know the correct date for over-21 year olds. Always have a sharpie. Bringing your own cash box, change, and some kind of stamp. I used to carry a bank of about $300 in small bills and quarters, extra stamps, and ear plugs. It’s bad form to get change from the bar. Also, remember you can be the key to someone finding a new favorite local band or make new friends. I was told once that this sad, new-to-the-island boy who didn't know anyone was wandering around looking for something. Then all of a sudden, a Korean Goth girl with pink hair and big boots [me] says, “Hey! You look like you would be into the punk rock show happening upstairs. You should check it out.” And thus a lifetime of friendships were born.
Would you say door girls are objectified?
Kesha: Yes and no.
Angel: Well, we are women, right? I think it’s put out there. If you are gonna be a door girl, you have power. Use it. Be alluring, but also be funny and friendly. Be strong. Don't let anyone belittle you because you are a door girl, or a woman. Defend yourself, use your voice. If it can’t be resolved with just a good stern talk about their unwanted attention or bad public behavior, ban them from the club, even if it’s for the night. They get the hint.
How does dressing the part factor in?
Angel: Depending on the type of event, you should probably portray the type of crowd inside. Example: The door guy at Nashville [Waikiki] should not be in a three-piece suit, and the door girl at the EDM show is not gonna be dressed like a ... well with that crowd it could be anything. I think that you should be strong, stand up for yourself, wear what you want to wear, but be able to rock it and feel in control. I worked at foam parties, but not once was I tempted to throw on a bikini. For the most part I think I looked approachable. All smiles and happy meows.
Best experience? Worst?
Angel (worst): There once was a Coffee Talk show I went to/worked at with Kesha, and a skinhead-repping kid and another local punk kid in a hotdog suit got into it. Broke a window. From then on, we had to pay $300 up front to use them as a venue. And we did end up breaking the window a second time.
Kesha (best): The time I went on tour with Black Square and Pimpbot to the Big Island. It was random and fun overall to be at a show that you’re so used to in a different place and see how different people react to it. It went well and the crowd was pretty rowdy. I like rowdy crowds; they make my night go by faster.
Any advice for a future door girl?
Kesha: Don’t take shit. Make sure you know how to give back change on the ready. Work as quickly and efficiently as possible, but smile. Always remember that not all people who are trying to be friends with you are really trying to be friends. But still treat them nicely.
How would you describe the job, in one word?