Inside the world of the campus bar bouncer

Brian Merlos

Taking fakes

The University’s geographical demographic fluctuates drastically every few months.

In September, there was a high proportion of students who hailed from New York. Now, everyone is from Pennsylvania, said Rob Bell, a doorman and bartender for the 8 Ball Saloon, the bar in the basement of the Blind Pig.

At the entrances of Scorekeepers, The Brown Jug and Conor O’Neills, doormen like Bell are in the best position to perceive trends and developments in Ann Arbor’s underground false identification circuit.

Bell said every couple months a new style of fake ID springs up and replaces the former most ubiquitous make. “For a while, we had a big string of Pennsylvania ones that weren’t even the right colors – they said ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’ on seals just stomped on there,” Bell said.

Bell, a burly, barrel-chested man who works at the grittiest basement bar in town, said 75 percent of the 8 Ball’s patrons are regulars. The issue of counterfeit or borrowed identification comes up most when minors try to get into an 18-and-over show at the Blind Pig as 21 years old, he said.

Two winters ago, a kid presented Bell his fake New York ID, which Bell bent to test its authenticity-it immediately snapped in half. The minor’s friend then gave Bell his New York ID, which also broke into two pieces upon testing. “They seemed defeated,” Bell said. “I said, ‘Is this the same one your friend just gave me?’ and the guy was like, ‘Yeah.’ “

The minors then tried their real ID’s, but Bell said that the concertgoers, after waiting for two hours in freezing weather to get into a sold-out show, only had one shot to get through the door.

“This is a place where you really don’t try a fake ID out,” Bell said. “People for the most part don’t think they can pull a fake ID and get away with it.”

In other bars in town, though, students quickly learn to flash their fakes. Scorekeepers doorman Max Sanders said he might encounter 75 to 100 fake IDs a night, but unlike the 8 Ball Saloon and most other local bars, it’s the bar’s policy to return the cards to their owners.

Sanders said the worst fake in circulation right now is a Massachusetts one that is styled after the state’s old driver’s license. He said he also catches a lot of Texas imitations. Hint to fake ID manufacturers: On the back of a real Texas driver’s license, the “i” in “directive” isn’t dotted.

Because of the commonness of their fakes, a lot of Boston and Dallas “locals” have been spending their Thursday nights pouting at home after being turned away at the doors of Scorekeepers.

“It always goes in three stages,” Sanders said. ” ‘Are you kidding me? It’s real’, ‘This has never happened before’ and then acceptance.”

Vincent Badalamenti, manager of The Arena, said it’s not uncommon for minors to throw a screaming tantrum when their IDs are confiscated.

The two biggest tip-offs that an ID isn’t legitimate, Badalamenti said, is when it’s expired and when the photo suggests the owner must have recently had some plastic surgery work done. But borrowed IDs from states like Arizona, which doesn’t make its IDs expire as often as other states, are the most difficult to evaluate.

Badalamenti said minors will often offer him money to buy back their fakes. Sanders said Scorekeepers patrons will often hand him a twenty with their shoddy New York ID. But trying to grease the wheels with Andrew Jackson only serves to expose a minor’s lack of confidence in a fake that might have made it through otherwise.

Of course, acting confident won’t fool a doorman who has taken your fake. Bell, from the 8 Ball Saloon, said that when he told a girl she could call the police if she wanted to get her phony Canadian identification back, she actually did – and landed herself a more than $1,500 fine.

“She called the police on herself,” he said.

It seems like the only thing to do after having a counterfeit confiscated is to shrug, bear it and start looking into changing your false citizenship to another state. How about Wyoming?

Jessica Vosgerchian

Student housing, Monastic living

Catherine Street’s most virtuous residents

On Catherine Street in the heart of the student ghetto, there are two houses side by side that seem strangely well kept up. The lawn is still green, there are some flowers still blooming in an actual garden and it looks like someone even rakes once in a while.

The inside is just as immaculate. Clean dishes sit in a rack next to a sink – despite the absence of a dishwasher. There’s nothing out of place and there’s no trace of dust on any of the furniture.

And sometimes, in the mornings and in the evenings, the neighbors can hear prayers and singing coming from the basement.

The houses are home to the main office for Ann Arbor’s chapter of University Christian Outreach, an ecumenical organization that hosts prayer meetings and bible studies, does campus mission work and supports a few student houses around campus where residents live together to try to support each other in living according to Christian ideals. This isn’t a student house, though.

“It’s a lot cleaner, for one,” laughed John Hughes, 23, who graduated from the University this year.

The house is home to Hughes, along 10 other men who are looking embracing a more devout lifestyle with the religious brotherhood Servants of the Word, the organization that owns the houses and that supports most UCO events. They get up together for breakfast at 7 a.m. followed by prayer, eat dinner together and wash the dishes together, and some even share bedrooms. If they stay in training for eight years, they’ll officially be part of the brotherhood – committed to communal living and celibacy for life. Four of the men already have already completed the training. There are just over 40 brothers in the world.

“Sure, it seems like a sacrifice,” said Brian Laba, 28, who graduated from the University in 2000. He’s in his sixth year of training. “Some of my friends were surprised. Some of them said ‘I really admire your sacrifice.’ But it’s not, really.”

“I mean, it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. But you look at some of the guys who’ve been living this way for 25 years and, well, it’s not a bad way to live. It’s inspiring to see the joy that they have,” Hughes said.

In the basement, once you walk past shelves filled with food bought on their modest (official name?) budget, and by the washing machine and through a makeshift gym packed with aging exercise equipment, there’s a carpeted room that’s sparsely decorated with a wooden cross in the front and a guitar and some boxes in the corner.

The men come here – or to the similar room in the other house with a piano in it – to pray and sing together at least twice a day, every day of the week but Sunday, when they go to their own respective churches of different denominations.

“It’s kind of like monastic life in downtown Ann Arbor,” said Hughes, who hasn’t decided whether he’d like to pursue the brotherhood.

By design, there’s no dishwasher in the kitchen. At night, after dinner, when the residents do the dishes together, it’s less a chore than an exercise in bonding – and maybe music.

Owing to the diversity of the residents – there’s someone from France, Lebanon, Mexico the Philippines where Servants of the Word also has houses set up – the men sing a variety of music while they do the dishes.

But 70s folk legend John Denver, who sang “Take Me Home, Country Roads” has proved an unlikely standby.

“If they don’t know John Denver – ” Laba said, “They learn it,” Hughes said. “It’s part of the training.”

Anne Vandermey

OSU at Ashley’s

The bi-annual hostile takeover of the U’s best bar

Whenever anyone from the University plans to travel to Columbus for the Michigan-Ohio State game, there are always those grave, anecdotal scenarios about Ohio State enthusiasts attacking Michigan fans on sight. Take the e-mail last November from Dean of Students Sue Eklund and Alumni Association President Steve Grafton, which suggested that fans headed south drive a car with “non-Michigan plates, if possible” and, once there, to “keep your Michigan gear to a minimum, or wait until you are inside the stadium to display it.”

Cut to that weekend at home in Ann Arbor two years ago. Brian Carlson, a bartender at Ashley’s Restaurant & Pub on State Street, said that on the Friday before every home game against Ohio State, the proportion of out-of-town fans at the bar rises as high as 80 to 90 percent. But that night was a new low – the Ohio State cheerleaders were there, and they were doing what they do best.

“They were leading the entire bar in a cheer,” Carlson said. With the huge number of fans from Columbus there, he said, there are never enough Michigan fans to drown them out.

As an additional sign of their reverence for Michigan football tradition, Carlson said he recalls patrons from OSU throwing ketchup. One table splattered it inside menus.

No word on if the fans dared to wear scarlet and grey.

“Maybe it’s because Ashley’s is a really unique bar,” he said of the OSU fans’ affinity for the signature pub. “I don’t know.” Whatever the case, he said, Michigan fans haven’t done much to combat it.

“It would be nice to see Michigan fans come in Friday,” he said. “Or, win or lose, to come in after the game Saturday.”

Then again, that might not be the best idea. Maybe it’s time Eklund sends the campus another nervous letter about how to deal when Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor.

Jeffrey Bloomer

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