The reputation of London's bouncers probably rates lower than that of second hand car salesmen. Doesn't everyone remember the two Hippodrome heavies beating a mentally disturbed man to death?

But if we think of bouncers as unremittingly bolshy, the fact is, that for the most part, they have a good record. In these increasingly violent times, it has become a high risk job. On nightclub doors guns and knives are routinely brandished. Always perceived as the enemy, it takes an unusual type of man to be a good bouncer.

Pat Mossom, head of security at the Brixton Academy, fits the bill in size, but not in manner. 'I'm strict in what I do. It's probably not the right way sometimes, but that's how I'm known. It's not always the bouncers meting out the punishment. 'I was put in intensive care once. It was a case of 'we'll sort you out later'. I thought yah, yah. Only they did this time with nailed-through baseball bats.

Other doormen have other talents. Take Nigel. Nigel has a sixth sense for drugs. He will ask a straight-looking youth to take his shoe off. Out pops a bag of Ecstasy. How did Nigel know? Trade secret.

All bouncers agree on what causes the most problems. Pat laughs: 'It's these faceless egotists supposedly involved in the music business. Their pride rests on whether they can get in for free or not.

'They always say, don't you know who I am, I'll have you fired'.'

Everybody has a bouncer nightmare story to tell, so they can't all be gentlemen. The 'three stooges at the Camden Palace are notorious: unhelpful and aggressive. Then, of course, there was Winston at the Wag. He has passed into legend as the man who coined the immortal doorman's rejoinder, 'Fuck off, you can't come in'.

5 BEST BOUNCERS

1. Errol and Johnny at Club Iceni.

These two know you get more from a smile. Best night the souly Flipside on Saturday. 10pm-3.30am, 11 Whitehorse St, W1. (071-495 5533) pounds 8

2. Andre at the Gardening Club.

Andre's has an elephant's memory for names. This can have it's downsid. Best night Feel Real, deep house on Fridays. 11pm-6am, The Piazza, Covent Garden, WC2 (071-497 3154) pounds 10

3. Bigga at Gossips.

Perhaps the longest serving of Soho's doormen. Best night Gaz's Rockin' Blues on Thursdays, blues and ska. 10pm-3.30am, 69 Dean St, W1 (071-434 4480) pounds 5

4. Charles at Raw.

Very smooth. Why is he a bouncer? Best night Solid Ground on Fridays. 10.30pm-6am, 112a Great Russell St, WC1 pounds 8

5. The whole team at Velvet Underground.

What doormen should be: big friendly giants. Best night Pleased on Wednesdays, party house. 10pm-3am, 143 Charing Cross Rd, W1 (071-439 4655) pounds 5

5 RUDEST BOUNCERS

1. Everybody at the Ministry of Sound.

Clubland rule of thumb; the more successful the club, the ruder the bouncers. The Ministry is true to form. 103 Gaunt St, SE1 (071-378 6528)

2. Chester at the Wag.

Now wearing the mantle of the rudest of rude, former Wag doorman Winston. 35 Wardour St, W1 (071-437 5534)

3. The Camden Palace.

Blood sports, anyone? 1a Camden High St, NW1 (071-387 0428)

4. Hippodrome.

Stereotypical dicky-bows. More muscle than brain. Leicester Square, Charing Cross Rd, W1 (071-437 4311)

5. Err. . .

That's enough. I have to face these blokes every night.

(Photograph omitted)

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