On the Job: Gerald DeLisser also acts, sings, helps charities

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Photo courtesy Gerald DeLisser

Editor’s note: “On the Job” is a series that profiles locals and the work they do. It runs every other Thursday in The Aspen Times.

It’s not hard to find Gerald DeLisser somewhere in Aspen. And that’s not because of his commanding frame or booming voice.

You could say he’s a ubiquitous presence.

“I look out for people on opiates, something that makes them lethargic and drunk. I think that’s very dangerous.”
Gerald DeLisser
Actor and bouncer

There he is all winter long, in sub-freezing temperatures, standing at the top of the stairs that lead to the Regal Watering Hole’s front door, eyeing and chatting up would-be patrons to see if they are sober enough to enter. DeLisser has been the South Galena Street club’s security director for about six years.

There he is in the fall offseason, stationed outside Clark’s Market and City Market, selling raffle tickets to raise money on behalf of the Shining Stars charity, a role he takes on with relish as vice president of Aspen’s Eagles Club.

There he is in the summer at Galena Plaza, performing with other actors in a Shakespeare in the Park production, delivering lines clearly and drawing attention to the performances in his own inimitable way.

There he is any time of year at Ryno’s Pies and Pints’ karaoke night, singing “When You Wish Upon a Star” in true operatic fashion, eliciting laughter and smiles from the crowd no matter its size.

But security gigs are how the New York native-turned-Aspenite makes his living.

DeLisser, 31, describes himself as a pacifist with a gentle nature. But when he has to get tough and restrain an unruly patron, he doesn’t hesitate.

He never received any formal training in security measures. He said the good reflexes that stem from being an ace pingpong player serve him well at work.

“I’ve always in my life been one who likes to help squash arguments and fights. Personally, I’ve never thrown a real blow in a fight before. I might have had a scuffle or something, but I’ve never been in an actual fight. I’ve definitely jumped in and stopped them many times,” DeLisser said.

In a town of martini-and-margarita business lunches and dinners — where mild alcohol consumption and waiting tables can sometimes go hand in hand — DeLisser said it also helps that he’s always completely sober when he works.

“That gives me an edge over people,” he said. “Being sober gives me a huge advantage over someone who might be starting a fight in a club. I’ve had people hit me but never anyone hurt me. Half the time they miss me and they fall on the ground.”

The Regal can get a little wild, inside and outside the door, especially during weekends in the height of ski season, when there often are long lines of people waiting for others to leave so that they can enter. Police reports from December through March often make mention of a disturbance in the vicinity of the club.

“It depends on the night,” DeLisser said. “There are months when nothing really happens. And then I’ll have a night when there are four incidents in the same night. I always work upstairs (outside), and my guys work inside. I try to train my guys to squash things before they happen. If they see people arguing and things are getting heated, it’s good to talk with them before it escalates.”

The low temperatures don’t bother DeLisser so much — at least not until they hit single digits.

“When it gets to single digits or below zero, it can be pretty miserable,” he said.

Besides the cold, there is the matter of having to deal with people who are cold, as well, and don’t want to wait in a line. Typically, the lines grow long during holiday weeks or special-event weekends such as the Winter X Games.

And then there are those he has to refuse entry because it’s apparent they are too drunk or hopped up on a variety of substances.

“It can get ugly sometimes,” he said. “Some people seem to really take it personally. I explain to people that we’ve all been there before. Sometimes they get mad and call me names; sometimes I get an apology the next day when they come back or a ‘thank you’ for not letting them in when they were too drunk. Sometimes people don’t remember anything at all.”

There are a few simple steps to determine if someone’s too inebriated or stoned to enter a club, he said.

“You want to get a few words out of everyone who comes in,” DeLisser said. “You definitely have to watch out for the silent ones. You can usually tell by the way someone walks or how they focus with their eyes.”

Spotting drunks is not so hard, but DeLisser said it’s sometimes difficult to tell if a person is too high on cocaine to function inside the club. As for people who are on hallucinogenics, he doesn’t worry as much.

“If people are tripping, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing,” he said. “I look out for people on opiates, something that makes them lethargic and drunk. I think that’s very dangerous. You’ve heard of people dying when they do all this coke and then they take opiates and their heart just stops. It’s really scary when people mix depressants with alcohol (and cocaine), and it’s the No. 1 thing we have to worry about in this town.”

DeLisser said he started acting in his teens at the Oakwood Friends School in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., which was founded on Quaker principles. He estimates that he’s been involved in 30 plays in the past 13 years throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

He works hard on his theater skills, reciting lines at home and sometimes recording himself or typing the words out to memorize them more effectively. He also prefers to learn his lines while on his feet, as if he already is standing on a stage.

DeLisser likes Shakespeare and said he doesn’t find it difficult to handle The Bard’s works. He played “Othello” in the 2001 Colorado Mountain College play of the same name.

“A lot of people don’t realize that Shakespeare is often the easiest to memorize,” he said. “It’s poetry for the most part. There’s cadence and alliteration and other tools he uses to make it less difficult for the actors.”

He said his acting skills don’t necessarily help him with his security work, but they don’t hurt, either.

“We all play roles constantly,” DeLisser said. “Everyone’s an actor, especially if you work in the service industry. Anytime you’ve had to pretend to be pleasant to someone who’s a complete douchebag, you’re an actor.”