The Secret Life of Toronto’s Toughest Bouncer

barry donaldson

Toronto’s toughest bouncer, Barry Donaldson

Ironic as it may seem, one of the most overlooked parts of a night out on the town is also one of the most visible: the people that work at your favourite bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

People see and interact with us, but they don’t know us. And that leads to some awkward (and sometimes pretty horrible) interactions. We are your bartenders, your cooks, your table runners, your servers and your doormen. We are the dreamers and hustlers who serve your drinks, cook your food, clear your table and make sure everyone has a safe night.  

We are people, not just “positions” and we all have a story to tell. And one gentleman I’ve had the pleasure of working with is literally doing just that. Meet Barry. A brawny 6’5, football playing, nightlife veteran, who’s the director of security for John Doe Group (EFS, The Addisons, OMAW) and… a children’s author.

I had the opportunity to talk to him about how he got started as an author and his thoughts on how the world perceives the “typical” bouncer. Check out the interview below.

barry donaldson

So you used to play football and are a bouncer. How on earth did becoming a children’s author come about?

It’s always something I wanted to do. For years, I’ve had an idea of writing a book but always put it off. I was always too busy, but 2 years ago, I made a new years resolution that I would get a book done.

Tell me about Where Do They Go? Pt 1

Where Do They Go? is a 3 part children’s book series that unravels the mystery of missing socks. The focus is on two young children who keep getting in trouble for losing their socks. Originally it was going to be one long book, but I decided to split it up into 3 parts.

What was your inspiration?

Not having any children of my own yet, it was my niece and nephew. They happen to be the main stars of the book as well. I don’t see them as much as I want because we live in different cities, but I am really proud of them. 

What changes are you hoping to make in society by telling this story?

I wanted my first kids’ book to help bridge the gap between children and adults. The topic of missing socks is one that adults can relate to very well. At the same time, I wanted to ensure that kids could understand. I wanted to make the connection between parents and kids on a relative subject that they both could understand and enjoy. I’ve had many parents tell me so far that they loved the topic and enjoyed reading it to their children. 

Anymore books on the horizon? Is this your chosen genre ongoing?

The plan is to finish part 2 and part 3 this year. I am currently working on 2 and it is almost done. I think I found a calling with children’s literature. I’ve always prided myself on being very creative. Children’s books give me a fantastic outlet to let that creativity loose. 

What do you have to say to people that think bouncers are big knuckleheads with no depth?

I’ve been in this business since 2003 and I’ve seen a lot over the years. As bouncers, people have this notion that we can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.

I’ve worked with countless security who’ve become cops, lawyers, teachers, trainers, hold government jobs, the list goes on. Being a bouncer is a part-time job for me but I take it very seriously. Sometimes people confuse that seriousness with the notion that bouncers are fake cops. 

In reality, people have no idea the mess we put up with to keep people safe. On top of that, they have no idea that the person they are insulting could be more educated, has an MBA and makes more money than them. In my case… the concept of don’t judge a book by it’s cover relates very well.

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Now that you’ve seen the softer side of the city’s toughest bouncer, do you feel differently about the people that work your favourite spots? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe

Ken Bryan

Ken Bryan

Ken Bryan is a Toronto nightlife & hospitality expert, turned party promoter, brand marketer, and blogger. Follow him through his blog, Instagram and Twitter.
Ken Bryan