If you've been to the Grog Shop in the past 11 years, you've seen John Douglas. Often sporting a sleeveless T-shirt, backwards ball cap and grizzled goatee, Douglas holds court as security detail at the storied eastside music venue.
The Grog Shop has gotten out ahead of a lot of big names. "We had Bruno Mars before he had a stylist," Douglas says. "He was a really nice kid." (He remembers the pop superstar trying to sneak some cigarettes inside the venue and having to direct him behind the curtain. "Here, I'll join ya," he told him.)
Douglas cites a 9 Shocks Terror and Subhumans concert as the first night of his employment. "My boss at the time, she grabbed me and, 'Just get on the stage and keep them off!' And I found I had some aptitude for it. Everybody still talks about that show. The 9 Shocks fans set off a smoke bomb, which set off our fire alarm five seconds into the set. The band is playing, the lights are out, the sprinklers are going, and I'm pulling Steve in and out of the damn audience and I'm still blocking the audience, then they emptied the whole club, and somehow we were able to continue. People are a lot easier to deal with 11 years later.
"I just take these shows one at a time," he says.
He and his co-captain Terry work together to keep the peace; they bring an attitude of calm and community to shows. "We like to be bored," Douglas says. "I don't enjoy tossing people. We just want things to go as they are." And, indeed, he maintains a friendly vibe with Grog regulars and the bands who roll through town on the reg. When asked what sort of music he digs, he avers that there's not much out there that he's interested in.
"Anybody I want to hear is dead," Douglas says, citing Cash, Haggard, Jennings. He gets to throw out the fact that he caught those concerts to young kids showing up at the Grog. "I have to get something for being old!
"I honestly don't listen to anything now," he says. "The radio in my car don't work, and I kinda like the silence."
In between runs of shows at the Grog, the silence is indeed welcome. Douglas hangs out at his place in the Heights, laying low with his dog, a ferocious hunter and a loving friend. "She never really had a name. I say 'Come on,' and she comes," he says. "I couldn't imagine life without dogs."
Beyond that, Douglas, whose past includes an array of laborious blue-collar gigs, takes life one show at a time. He adopts a meditative, Zen-like approach to this work, all couched in a self-effacing Cleveland grace.