For a fish, he is more than capable of stopping to take a deep breath. Even encouraging others to do so. It’s one of his best capabilities. Maybe most unexpected.
Big Fish can be found often at Mercury Lounge, a beloved Tulsa music venue and dive bar. On a stool with a high-top table he is by the patio entrance. To the side of the front door before anyone walks in. Just inside the front door.
He’s wherever the “door” needs to be, depending on the weather and the show at the time. And he’ll need to see your ID. And there will likely be a bucket for the band with a suggestion or a certainty.
Unlikely to take any credit himself, Fish has been an integral part of the community currently blooming at Tulsa’s most consistent music venue. The patio and bar welcomes all those 21 and up, with the notable exception of racists, sexists, homophobes, and assholes.
A sign to make it official went up during the tumultuous summer of 2020.
“We [had] to protect this place; we [had] to be very careful about it,” Fish told ASLUT about the warning sign. “And, you know, having something like that just going right into the door, if you see that sign, that means don’t fall into any of those categories. It ended up being at first we don't want anyone who's going to cause any shit in here. Now, it's more of a kind of a lifestyle that it's kind of morphed into.”
A statement that matters to Fish because it sets the tone at Mercury Lounge. “I haven't seen anything like it in any other place I've worked,” Fish notes. “And I've worked at a lot of bars, a lot of venues, a lot of clubs, and shit. Nobody has had the balls to say the things that we do.”
From field parties as a teenager, Fish gained lessons he’d take to Norman at The Deli door during college. Doors kept opening for his skills watching them, including a stint at The Viper Room in L.A. during the ‘90s. Aside from a 3-month break he couldn’t come back fast enough from, Fish has kept his stool at Mercury for nearly four years.
“I don’t think I’ll ever leave,” Fish told ASLUT. “This is the bar where I'm gonna retire, because I don't want to work at another bar. I know what other bars are like.”
To the uninitiated at Merc, he may appear a tattooed sentry in between them and a good time. For many of those regular to the corner of 18th and Boston, he is a pillar, ensuring that a good time is possible.
“You can all us a concierge, call us a fucking floor diplomat,” Fish tells ASLUT. “You can call us any number of different things that sound all pretty nice. You know, at the end of the day, we are just trying to make the place safe, make sure that business runs smoothly for the bartenders and make sure that our bands or our entertainment have a place where they understand that they can do their business uninhibited. And that the customers or patrons or bar family feel like they can be part of what's going on. You know, it's just really very simple.”
Although not a certainty across the state of Oklahoma, Fish wants his bar to be a place the LGBTQ+ community feels included and protected at.
“I mean, everybody at Mercury either has people who are part of that community in their family or they are part of the community,” Fish tells ASLUT. “There is a very deep love for the LGBTQ+ community at Mercury Lounge. We’re going to recognize you. We’re going to appreciate you. And we’re going to do everything in our power to welcome you and let you know this is a safe place.”
For absolutely looking every bit of the part of someone you don’t want to fuck with, force isn’t how he keeps it safe. “Hey, I can't help it, I was born with this fucking face. I didn't ask for it.”
Even as loud as the posted warning sign is for two-dimensions and his stature an advantage in the trade, neither is magical. Fish relies on experience, instinct, and common sense to do his part in keeping the show going.
“The service that I provide is we're gonna do a no-touch policy,” Fish explains. “You know, hands off, use your brain to process the situation. And use every bit of patience you have to make sure that you can sincerely calm the person down”
Constantly aware of how quick things can turn, Fish stays alert for any issue he can prevent. “If you can mitigate it, then you don’t have to worry about it.”
Time has taught Fish how to be effective. “Control comes by making sure that people are protected.”
Cool, calm, and collected, his presence is a relief for those seeking a musical refuge from or celebration for whatever their reality is.
He protects them at Mercury Lounge. Fish is damn good at his job.
See Fish at Mercury Lounge, 1747 S. Boston, with your ID ready.
Follow @thebigfish1973 on Instagram for more “Bouncer Shit.”