Home guards

Some jobs have cachet. A New York doorman may not earn much, but he meets the rich and famous and knows the city's secrets. By Tessa Souter. Photographs by Gigi Cohen

Occasionally, I flick through the "apartments for rent" ads of The New York Times, in preparation for the day I can afford to live in the manner, if not manor, to which I would like to become accustomed. My fantasy apartment has air-conditioning, wood floors, huge floor-to- ceiling windows, tons of built-in bookcases, and a fireplace. But most of all, it has a real New York doorman. Not a male model type, like the one who, on my first visit to New York's Royalton hotel, grabbed my bags, catwalked me to my room, swung open the door, caught sight of himself in the mirror, gave a small scream and - dashing my bags to the ground - ran to the mirror and cried: "Oh my Guard! Look at these age lines!"

No, real doormen don't wear Armani. They wear uniforms and caps and loiter benignly outside, or in the foyers of posh apartment buildings, being generally helpful - opening limousine and taxi doors, shovelling snow in winter, and practically carrying old people to their cars.

My dream doorman is a heavily wrinkled, favourite uncle type who knows my name, dispenses relationship advice, tells me he likes my outfit when I'm on my way to somewhere important, and receives packages so that I don't have to spend two hours in the post office picking it up the next day. And, as Karen Salmansohn says (the author of How To Make Your Man Behave In 21 Days Or Less, Using the Secrets Of Professional Dog Trainers) - "My doorman doesn't care if I'm all sweaty from the gym, or all dressed up for a first date. He's always pleased to see me"

Carlos Slores, 58, doorman at 945 5th Avenue I used to work in a bank, but it pays more here. I meet beautiful people, like the girl taking these pictures. What I don't like is the hours. I work in the evenings, so I miss going out with the beautiful girl taking these pictures.

Marcos Carrasco, 27, at 43 West End Avenue I was leaving school and the super [superintendent] called and asked if I wanted the job. That was six years ago. I've never had any trouble. People are nice. This isn't a fancy building, just your typical middle class.

Adis Feratovic, 20, at 455 W. 34 Street My uncle is the super. My twin brother does it, too, so we do different shifts. I like the hours because in the morning I can go to college - I'm studying criminal justice. I want to join the FBI. My brother is going to be in the FBI, too. The worst thing is the money. We're not in the union and we earn very little.

Bill Kearns, 63, at 300 W. 23rd Street I've been doing this for 27 years. I earn $31,000 a year, plus overtime. Great medical benefits. I get the mornings off. And it's not hard work. I make sure people don't go upstairs that doesn't belong. It can be awkward when I ask them to leave. They might give you a buncha mouth. But most will be cool.

Toavorus Freeman, 29, at 435 W. 23rd Street Debbie Harry lives here. I got my last birthday on video, and Debbie Harry was there. I work 4pm to lam, and I go to the gym by 12 and spar. My social life sucks, but I want to turn professional fighter so I can make a million dollars.

Owen Smith, 50, at 1045 Park Avenue I was a bartender once, but the lifestyle was too fast. The best thing about this job is my co-workers. You got porters, handymen, cleaners. We watch the fights together, go to dinner together. The only thing I don't like is shovelling snow.

Noel Rodriguez and Raphael Nuez, both 38, at 11 E. 86th Noel: We've had to chase burglars away a few times. It can be frightening when they come with a bat or a stick in their hands, but we don't usually have any trouble. I miss the tenants sometimes when they move out. Certain ones. They're nice to you, so you're nice to them back. Raphael: I'm very busy. I gotta go!

Stephanie Mark, "20-ish", at 1050 5th Avenue I'm saving up to go travelling before graduate school. I am moved by Arthur Miller's endeavours to broaden his view of the world by putting himself in situations. I'm writing some short stories about my experiences. Some people are afraid to say too much to me, but others tell me family problems. I couldn't tell you what. That would be betraying their trust.

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