How to Get Past a Velvet Rope

by Allison Davis

The uber chi-chi club is one of the most Darwinian showcases in the city. It’s complete survival of the fittest in there, and the Alphas are those who accept that success is based on one of three things: 1) money you’re willing to spend, 2) looks, 3) sincerely not giving a fuck about money, looks, status, or what people think about the fact that you have none of these things — in which case you’re probably at the local dive already anyway. From the outside, the club is a sweaty, drunken meat-market of pumping bass and vodka-Redbulls, but all that disappears once you’re inside and sitting on P. Diddy’s lap, drinking Ciroc and cracking up, like, “OMG SEAN! You are so CRAZY!”

Now, I realize and agree that the very concept of waiting for a club so you can spend $15 on weak drinks is some corny bullshit (or, worse, trying to get some doorman with a God complex and a clipboard to recognize how cool you are and let you in to do so), but you’ll probably do it at least twice in your life, and I promise the below list will come in handy. Also, those songs that make you think, “Ew, what are kids listening to these days?” sound AMAZING when 1,000 people are dancing to them and screaming the words, and you’ll almost always come away with stories to tell over Sunday brunch.

But first, you have to get in. Here’s a few tips to skip the line and get past the velvet rope like a pro:

Eye of the Tiger: YOU ARE GETTING INTO THIS CLUB AND YOU ARE NOT WAITING IN LINE LIKE A SUCKER TO DO SO. That’s it. Period. This is your mantra. You must think that you are sincerely better than people who DO wait in line. (I mean, you don’t really think you’re better than anyone else, because whatever bitch, you’re not, BUT FOR THE PURPOSE OF GETTING BEHIND THAT ROPE YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT YOU ARE.) You did not come here to lose.

Keep your eyes open: Every once in a while, a Mentos commercial opportunity quietly rollerblades by, and if you blink you might miss it. For instance, a decade ago I spent the day with my boyfriend and his friends drinking and rolling around Los Angeles. At some point during the day they all acquired Lucha Libre wrestling masks, and when it came time to go out we put them on, stomped to the front of the line, and convinced the doorman that we were the hired entertainment for the evening (“What, you think we LIKE wearing these things? Let us in, we’re late!”). Worked like a charm. Sidenote: that’s the last thing I remember from that night.

Dress appropriately: You can be “I don’t care what people think, I just gotta be me, and me’s gotta be comfy” all you want, but that attitude’s not getting you into anywhere. Dressing in a ho’s uniform, however, will. This means heels, and booty booty booty booty rockin’ everywhere jeans, and a lo-cut top, or short skirt/dress. Flats and frump will get you smirked at by the guy with the guestlist. Dress like you look good, smell good, and are fresh. to. death.

Check the ratio: The more ladies in your crew the better. Ideally you’re not rolling with any guys at all, and if you MUST have guys, keep a 2-to-1 ratio. Any more than that and you’re either waiting in line or buying a bottle (unless you have Lucha Libre wrestling masks, of course). If you have a gaggle of ladies, good for you, push the prettiest/most charming ones to the front to do the talking. Don’t get sensitive around this one. I don’t make the rules, you guys. You want what’s fair or you want what works? OK THEN. Let’s keep moving.

You say it’s your birthday!: This doesn’t always work, but when it does, you’re in there like swimwear. There’s a few steps involved to this one. First, you have to start out like it’s your birthday. This is not a second or third resort. Bounce up to the front of the line like Bob Barker asked you to come on down and Plinko is your SHIT. Exuberantly exclaim that it’s your birthday! (your friends should back you up on this) and smile like you just drank a fifth of kool-aid. Tossing in that you’re just visiting for the night and want to see if LA/NY/Miami/Vegas clubs are all they’re cracked up to be helps too. Second, make sure the door person is not also the person checking I.D.s. (actually, do this one first). Third, if you get denied, get all types of OMFG-you-ruined-my-birthday-forever-and-Christmas-and-Ramadan-all-at-the-same-time-sad on him. Cry on cue if you can.

Start talking: …and don’t shut the fuck up until you’re on the other side and talking to the bartender. I actually learned this little ditty from my AP Biology teacher. When it came to taking the exam, which was nearly completely essay-based, she advised brain-vomiting everything that had anything remotely to do with the question and to not even worry about the proper answer — let them pick out what they want to hear and hope you say something right. Same goes for the rope. Just chatty Cathy anything that has anything to do with the club, the music, how your day is going, the shoes he’s wearing, the last time you were here, that one time in space camp, how cool the promo flyer is…whatever, just do not shut your trap. He’ll either become endeared and let you in out of pity, or get so sick of your mouth that he lets you in just to get a second to think.

Cheat: The Hairpin and its affiliates do not condone cheating — not at the club, on math tests, or on your spouse. But we’re in the late-night jungle here, and sometimes you gotta use your wits. While you’re gabbing away, let your eyes flick down and see if you can grab a name from the list that hasn’t been crossed off yet. Ideally this should be done early, but if you’ve already blown your cover you can act like you’re this person’s +1 and s/he’s expecting you. WARNING: There is the risk that that person is someone very important and well known by the door person, and in that case you’re an asshole. This sort of happened to me once at a Black Panther Anniversary party. I was legit on the list (but they couldn’t find me at first), and people DO often call me Angela instead of Allison. When I pointed this out to the door person, she cut her eyes and said, “Or we’re actually expecting Angela Davis” a.k.a. Black Panther Party Icon and guess what had two thumbs and was an asshole?

Get on the horn: Call your best friend’s roommate to get the number for that one guy she used to hook up with whose brother used to promote a party with a guy who owns the spot you’re at. Text any and everybody who has anything to do with the club; one of them will probably be in the middle of a reality show marathon and holler back with some names. Don’t forget you owe them one, though, even if the names don’t really work. Contacts are nightlife currency. Use this one wisely, as you can only do it a couple of times before you get a starfucker rep and deleted from contacts. Once you got some info…

Drop names like they’re covered in butter: Any and every name that has anything to do with the club, the night, the DJs, the promoters, the architect, the bottle service girls, whatever. If you don’t know any of these people, see how far “Mike” “John” and “Kristin” will get you. Someone by those names is bound to have worked there in the past three years.

Respect the door person: Sometimes this person takes their station way too seriously, but mostly they’re just doing their job. If you’re patient, charming, and not a spoiled brat about the whole thing, things will probably go your way. Even if they seriously do suck, be nice anyway. Just because.

If all this fails, fuck this place. It’s really not worth waiting in line for an hour looking hopeful and cold. Chances are, it has roving purse/jacket thieves, scumbags with a pocketful of roofies, and a bunch of people just trying to get into the VIP once they’re already in the club anyway. The truth is you’ll have fun with your homies wherever you go, so find a place with a jukebox and have some actual fun that lets you keep your dignity (and delete the message your friend who DID get in sent you about how Cee-Lo was there and giving out free piggy-back rides all night).

Good luck! Have fun! It’s your birthday!

Previously: How to Survive at a Club.

Allison Davis is a writer and TV producer in San Francisco.