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A Conversation with Danielle Rampe

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The siren song of nightly dollar-draft specials weaves a powerful spell over South Oakland's denizens, drawing them to Hemingway's Café on Forbes Avenue. Keeping the underage from getting in, and escorting the over-lubricated out, falls to Danielle Rampe, 29, of Oakland. She's been checking ID and ushering the besotted and belligerent out the door for about three years, after a one-year stint at the University of Pittsburgh's law school. Before that, she majored in psychology with a minor in law at Syracuse University.

 

What's the first thing that catches your eye, makes you think an ID might be fake?

A lot of times, you know before people even get it in your hand.

 

They have body language that gives them away?

Oh, absolutely. There's always signs that people are lying. There's always like tics they have, like looking up to the left. People just give themselves away sometimes.

 

So your psychology background informs your work here.

It does. When people lie, one of the things they do is they won't look at you. When they go to hand you their ID, they want to avoid you and they try and cover it up, by like talking to the person next to them.

 

So, the throwing out ... you do it with class. You do it like no one I've ever seen. I've seen unruly guys convinced that you, as a woman, can't move them. I've seen you toss those same guys out, too.

I'm a girl. Believe it or not, most people would consider that a giant disadvantage to my job because a lot of the guys are going to be stronger than you and you're going to have more problems. But that's not true. Most of the guys don't want to fight me. They're always taught not to put their hands on a girl. They would rather just have you walk them out than have you throw them into a headlock and drag them out, because having a girl drag you out of the bar? Way more embarrassing. Some guys want me to drag them out of here. Those are the guys who want to prove I can't, and they're wrong: I can.

 

How about those standing ovations you get after a successful bounce?

Really, I'm pretty modest. Everyone clapping when I come back in -- that's embarrassing. You don't realize everyone's watching you when you're doing it -- standing on things and watching you. If you're actually physically wrestling with someone in the bar, you want to be most aware of that situation. I don't like the spotlight. I was one of those kids that hid under the kitchen table when you sang "Happy Birthday."

 

Aww!

I got into a lot of fights when I was younger. I have five brothers, and two younger sisters. So, I got into a lot of fights, we did a lot of little things that were bad. We were mischievous children.

 

So you come by it honestly.

Yeah. I don't really have a temper, but I do. I'm very patient, until you do something that makes me snap. Usually it's the word "no." I don't like the word "no." I don't like that word at all. I like to say it, I love to use it, but I don't like to hear it.

 

What's your least favorite kind of drunk? There's all kinds of drunks, like the Crying Drunk ...

That's it, you nailed it, first choice. I can't stand a crying drunk. There's nothing worse than a crying drunk. I don't know how to handle a crying drunk. How do you handle that? First thing I'm gonna do, I'm going to hand you some napkins. The gesture of handing the tissues is enough to break the ice, and now I can find out why you're crying. Maybe it's because you're so hammered you just need to go lay down somewhere. Maybe you just broke up with your boyfriend or your dog just died, I don't know. I need to find out why, but I don't know how to handle the crying. I feel bad that you're crying, and I want to help fix it. If you're being a dick to the bartender, you can just be removed, but when someone's crying? You can't throw someone out for being sad!

 

What about the jukebox? Do you get sick as hell of hearing "Livin' on a Prayer"?

Yeah, all the time. You know that song, "Sweet Caroline"? Who's that guy?

 

Neil Diamond.

Yeah, Neil Diamond. I can't stand that guy anymore.

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