Gerry Barber Was One Tough Son Of A Bitch

He was the meanest, toughest, nastiest bar bouncer in the Hull-Ottawa area, probably the entire country, and my friends and I hold the tremendous honour of being thrown down the stairs by him.

We weren’t the first and we weren’t the last, but at least I can tell my grandkids someday that I once got tossed around like a pillow by the great Gerry Barber.

He wasn’t a giant of a man, this Gerry Barber, maybe five feet, 10 inches and maybe 250 pounds, but he took on all comers – drunken bikers a handful at a time, snotty teenaged kids with one too many quarts of beer in their gut, and shady characters toting guns and knives.

He broke up fights nightly at the Chaudiere Club, busted a lot of heads, and had his own head cracked open several times from pipes and other things that would damage you and me much more than him. Absolutely, Gerry Barber was one tough mother.

The Chaudiere Club sat alone on the road that led from Hull to Alymer on the Quebec side of the river across from Ottawa. It was a testament to a golden era, a massive dirty-white, two-story club built in the 1930s, and it was a monolithic marvel of balconies, rooms, and murals. In its prime, it was one of the finest jazz and swing night spots found anywhere.

Louis Armstrong, Gene Krupa, the Inkspots, Duke Ellington, they all played this house affectionately called the Chaud, and folks came from all over the Ottawa Valley tossed their fedoras and mink shawls aside and swung the night away.

But the Chaud, beginning in the 1960s, took a hardcore turn as music and minds changed, and toughs from all over began to make it their beer-soaked clubhouse. Fights, loud arguments, passing out at tables, stabbings, and angry confrontations in the parking lot all came along.

Luckily, so did Gerry Barber.

It didn’t matter how many he had to throw out, he just threw them out. Anybody. Any amount. Any time. He did his damage with sheer power, and was willing to takes great cracks on the head and knuckles on his nose to get the job done. And he’d return the favour.

Gerry Barber’s reputation grew. National magazine write-ups, stories in the Ottawa papers. Curious profiles. Several years ago, Ottawa Sun columnist Earl McRae held a long and fascinating poll with his readers to determine Ottawa’s toughest man ever. Yep, Gerry Barber won.

That’s why being thrown down the stairs at the Chaud by the great Gerry Barber is such an honour for me. I don’t remember what my friends and I had done to deserve the treatment, but guessing that we were young, obnoxious, drunken morons would be a really good guess.

Gerry Barber has been gone many years now, but I’m sure he’s still talked about with reverence and awe in the Ottawa area. The Chaudiere’s gone now too, levelled by a wrecking ball that was probably almost as hard as Barber’s fist and head. Now, for those who partied there, all that’s left are memories, several scars, and a few missing teeth.

The Chaud really had something when it had Gerry Barber to keep things in line. The place might have been out of control if it wasn’t for him. He not only rearranged noses, but he probably saved many lives by booting them out head-first into the parking lot before the worst could happen.

He was a man who can be an inspiration for all bouncers who decide to be the best they can be. Just don’t try to be like him, because you could get hurt. And I don’t want to get thrown down any more stairs.

147 thoughts on “Gerry Barber Was One Tough Son Of A Bitch”

  1. All the staff (Green Door) did not ever give dirty glasses or make glasses dirty. The dishwasher over 30 years old was always being fixed. (Raul the dishwasher…the staff gave him part of their tips….was very proud of work he did. He worked the Wed. Fri Sat Sun…

    Yes I was generally super nice to every one. Found that made for good tip night. We made $1.15 an hour in the late seventies. so Fights dealing with idiots (hard to believe there could be one or two in a bar of 4500) etc. cut into tip time. And the Green door was a tad rougher than the Rose room and one or two more squabbles occurred done there weekly.

    All the staff had day jobs, mine was writing an operating system and NRC Flight research….sort of Jeckle /Hyde personality at least job wise

    hope the years have seen you healthy
    c
    drr

  2. David, you mentioned something that happened downstairs that a friend once told me about. Some of the details are vague, but this is how I remember it.

    One summer night in 1977 there was a wildcat strike by night shift postal workers on the City Floor at the Alta Vista post office. I was part of that shift but I had called in sick and was drinking at Le Soleil on Montcalm in Hull so I didn’t know anything about the strike.

    It was around 2 AM and I was outside on the terrace when I spotted one of my buddies from work looking around for a table. As I went over to see him I spotted another guy from the shift, only this was somebody you’d never expect to see out drinking, it just wasn’t his thing. While I was shaking my head at that, a bunch more of them rolled in.

    As it got explained to me, after leaving the building at 11:30 PM, about 20-30 people from the night shift ended up at the Green Door. It was a weeknight and it was very, very dead. They were the only ones there in fact. They were still excited from the job action, the wildcat strike, and some of them would go on to get a bit rowdy.

    Maybe you saw the Earl McRae article on Gerry Barber that shows up in the Google news archives? The article starts with a quote by the late Lally Lalonde. Lally was very well-known in the area, having played every sport imaginable. He boxed in the Navy, played in the Grey Cup with the Ottawa Rough Riders, played with the Montreal Alouettes, coached Larry Robinson and Pat Burns in the CJHL, was an outstanding lacrosse player in the 1940s, and later became a sportscaster. Around that time, when he was in his 50s, Lally worked at the Post Office and when the strike was called that night, left the building with the rest of the shift, most of them 25 years his junior, and somehow ended up at the Green Door.

    As my friend recalls, Gerry came downstairs to size things up and spotted Lally. They greeted each other like old pals and sat down for some conversation. Meanwhile, a few quarts in, some of the posties started getting loud, razzing the band, etc., I wasn’t there like I said but I can just imagine. Apparently the band was not receptive to requests, and didn’t seem to share the spirit of fun. After getting spoken to about yelling, carrying on, etc., one of the guys, and yes, it was the guy who you’d never expect to see out drinking, let alone at the Chaud, dropped trou and mooned the band. It wasn’t too much later that the local police showed up, in riot gear no less, and had the place evacuated. Some of the guys later ended up at Le Soleil.

    I recall asking my buddy what he had thought about the whole thing. He was as puzzled as I was, since it was highly doubtful any of them would have resisted had Gerry and a dozen waiters shut down the music and said it was time to go. Never did figure that one out.

    One more thing, Dave Brown of the Ottawa Citizen wrote an article published on July 7, 2008 where Lally is quoted as having fought Gerry twice. The first time was after WWII, in Lowertown, to settle an argument among some friends as to who was better. They went up and down the streets for a half hour before the fight was declared a draw. The second time, Lally claimed it didn’t go far but offered no further details. Lally passed away in 2012.

    So there you go Dennis (and David), another post to add to this incredible five year comment thread.

    Terry

  3. Played the Green Door for a week in late 1970’s. Sass Jordan was playing upstairs. No problems at the Door – except one band member getting knocked out. I remember Gerry as a fairly genial type of guy, but I’d heard of his reputation and knew this was not a guy to mess about. After our last night we were partying up in the room with Sass and her band when a bunch of people appeared on the roof outside our window pleading for us to let them in. We opened the window and a whole group piled in saying there was some guy shooting a gun in the parking lot. When payment came the next day Gerry arranged for his cut to be paid to him and we gladly obliged.

  4. I don’t know much of this man just what I read a out him and I still think tommy willmont was the man everyone tried and failed nobody wanted nothing to do with him in that way but nicest guy in the world two different times tho

  5. Happy New Year everyone.. Wow this amazing! I have not read the comments in a while and had a lot of catching up to do lol… The best part is that there are more and more comments about Gerry Barber, awesome!

  6. We played the “Chaud” in 1974. We were from Sudbury & thought we had seen it all. Stoic Belle Isle iron miners(Mel Storms & company) swept the Prospect Tavern floor one night with the local sud sucking bikers, Ray Shea shooting holes through canoes at the Belton Hotel the night fishing season opened. Hippies sniffing poppies outside Paul Rimstead’s Ontario St. home (down the street from Edie Shacks place). Then we saw Gerry in action. He liked our band because my Dad was from Shawville. The Barber’s are big in Shawville (gentle farmers) but quite different from Gerry. He was a perfect storm. In the parking lot one night he wielded a broom stick like a claymore & dispatched 4 young louts in their prime to crawl home & consider their future as louts. His eyes were alive with pleasure as they peeled off threatening to return with shotguns. He then walked over to our van & said “so you guys have a good trip back to the “Rock” & say hi to “Stompin What The Fucks His Name” which reaffirmed our opinion of him as the “Greasy Hemerriod” we used to refer him as. He was a true warrior of the just!

  7. Ken, did you ever play Dangerous Dan’s at the Holiday Inn in Sudbury? I used to work there and the adjoining pub, Flanigans. 1972.

  8. Well you worked there soon after the opening of the Mall. I was working at Prom Music( corner of Durham & I can’t remember) then. I was dabbling in music & the fist band I remember was the former Accociated Press(Jim Dunn, Brian O’Neil ) which later became Apoloosa. I saw alot of good bands at DD. Were you from Sudbury?.I played the Frontenac a few times(Joe’s Blue room,a cool place). These years were a do or die era (what else is new) for Sudbury. I recently heard Records on Wheels closed it’s doors after 40 years. It was on the corner of Durham & Elm(Tamblyn’s Drug Store) at the end. I am living in the Wakefield QC area now & have heard of Gerry’s exploits here. Later –Ken

  9. Hi Ken. I’m from Orillia but was living in Toronto where I went to bartender’s school which got me a job at the Holiday Inn in Sudbury. Was there for about a year and a half.

  10. A staple of the music scene in the early 80’s was Galleon, they played the Chaud on a regular rotation .. today they announced the original line up will be doing a one night only show at Greenfields Pub in Barrhaven on August 9th … a lot of Chaud faces will be there. 🙂

  11. Lori sad you feel that way he was a good man in my eyes I put my full name up there just cuz if you herd of me you would know that he was like family and all my family was good to me

  12. Out of all honesty, Tommy instilled a lot of fear into people and most people did not respect the guy. He would assault innocent bystanders, fellow musicians and his drug/alcohol fueled attacks were always without motive or reason. And most likely, the victim was an undeserving bystander. Don’t get me wrong. I feel compassion for his family seeing that he died at such an early age but as they say, you live by the sword…

  13. If you knew Tommy then you know who I am. Here’s a typical Tommy story … we went to the 7-11 to get a pack of smokes … I went in, he was in the car. Bought the smokes, paid cash, kid (about 15 yrs old) behind the counter handed me my changed, smiled, said have a nice day. I got back in the car, he said ‘did that kid smile at you?’ In a flash he was out of the car, in the store. Before the kid even knew it was coming he sucker punched the kid (he was real good at that). Broke the kid’s jaw and then broke his arm and all his fingers. Yeah, great guy.

  14. Good story you probably had a bf he beat up or something and your mad at a guy you talk bad about that’s not even here to justify it but keep it up

  15. In 1960, I worked for 9 months alongside of the toughest man I’ve ever known in the snake pit. Got to know Gerry better than most other waiters and he was a good guy. Also knew other very tough guys including Joe McGovern, Bob Baker
    and Emile Mallette and they also worked for J.P.
    Nobody….and I mean Nobody….ever got the best of Gerry while I was working with him….and I saw him fight some of the
    toughest guys in and around Ottawa….and yes , I saw him take out two Roughrider lineman and when he was finished with them he said clean up the mess kid as he went to change shirts.
    So what would have been a dream fight of all time….How about
    Gerry in his prime and a great street fighter from Cabbage Town by the name of George Chuvalo….WOW!!!

  16. Jack Samson vs Gerry Barber 1. Winner: Gerry Barber. (Decisive)

    Jack Samson vs Jerry Barber 2. Winner: Gerry Barber. (Decisive)

    Jack Samson vs Gerry Barber 3. Winner: Jack Samson. (Decisive)

    After round three, there was mutual respect, a even a mild friendship.

  17. In fact, Jack Samson went back a fourth time to see if Gerry wanted to “play” some more as he used to put it.

    Witnesses and old friends have remarked over the years that given who Gerry Baber was, and no onewas in any way taking anything away from the knuckle king, they found Jack Samson’s complete lack of intimidation and sheer rage that he would give it to Gerry as bad or worse than Gerry had given it to him, to be most unsettling.

  18. Back in 1977 i was part of a group of posties on a wildcat strike that ended up downstairs at the Chaud. the place was pretty much empty, 5 or 6 people watching the band but the posties were in a festive mood. There were a couple of people that had ingested some psychedelics and while everyone was having a good time they decided to dance on the tables and then mooned the band. Within about 15 minutes the Aylmer police showed up and requested everyone leave. It was kind of bizarre because no one noticed the cops when they first walked in they just came over and said the bar was closed and we had to leave. It freaked everyone out but luckily one of our party, Lally Lalonde, spoke to Gerry and pretty much negotiated our form of leaving. without anyone getting arrested. But i do remember a very vociferous waiter kept yelling at the cops and pointing at me.

  19. That was a great article about Lally. It’s fun to read all comments. Me, I just watched the happenings at the Chaud.. I sat with friends and enjoyed alll the shows. I was and still am such a small person that if I had been caught being a bad girl, I would not be here lol

  20. One mistake in a posting is height and weight.
    The man Gerry Barber, was 6’4″ and weight was 285-305. Depending on the season!
    Very interesting stories tho. Lally lalonde was a very good friend to Gerry. Along with many more.

  21. That toughness was in Gerry’s genes that’s for sure because his kids and grand children are tough like him too.

  22. Tommy Wilmont was no man he was a goof who beat up people for no reason. in today’s world he would have his ass kicked or some gangster would have killed him.

  23. Hi Dennis, and all the rest of you crazy psycho’s (awesome crazy lol) wanting to hear about the toughest MF that bounced at a huge two floored rock club called La Chaudière. His name mentioned in all the comments yes, Gerry Barber. I looked forward to playing the Rose Room after my band graduated from the downstairs Green Room. I played there with a band Called Viper (of course heavy metal, and a lot of Gerry’s favorite band Led Zeppelin) and had heard of all the rumors and thought, how tough can this place and the bouncer be? Well we did and if it weren’t for Gerry the bar would of probably be in its preset day state, demolished but a lot sooner. I also played in the Rose Room several times with a band called Universal Juveniles (of course a Max Webster/Kim Mitchell clone)on our own plus shared the stage with at least one other act that I can recall (as it’s over 30yrs ago) called Clear light (Pink Floyd clone). Ironically the reason I’m even commenting on this is cause I posted a remark on Ross Thompson’s Face book picture of him when he was with the band and played the Rose Room as well. I’ve read all the comments and man I really didn’t see much compared to the rest of the people. Unless the band members were idiots and thought they could misbehave, they were wrong as they’d have to deal with Gerry. Ok the only time that I did witness Gerry in action (and really wasn’t much fighting) was a night when I playing the Green Room. A want to be biker came in and started yelling at us as we were playing and wouldn’t stop so one of the staff tried to stop him and wasn’t successful so of course Gerry was there probably within a minute and politely tried to calm him down (always giving the person a chance to back off) but this guy didn’t and said “so you’re the tough guy huh” and Gerry just clenched the palms of his hands and said “ah huh” and the guy tried to hit him and totally missed and Gerry just said “ok you had your chance, now mine” and easily hit him and all we saw was the biker hit the floor and was out cold lol. He then grabbed his jacket and dragged him out. He came in quickly afterword and started yelling at us? We thought oh oh what the hell did we do? Did he think that we had something to do with that episode? He was yelling for us to stop playing and we did and told us that it was a dead night (as there was only about 6 or 7 people we were playing for) and were even wondering if we should at all? He told us that if there’s more people in the band (including crew) that’s in the audience we legally didn’t have to play at all. We just stood there and said did you hear me, so we all shook our heads yes and quickly shut her down for the night as we were there for a few more days. We weren’t sure if he was fucking with us and then somehow we’d have to deal with him or if it were true? Well when we walked by him he said “make up for it tomorrow night and play an extra set” we looked at each other and said sure. He then said he’d be down to make sure we did and make sure we played that extra set mostly Zeppelin lmao!! Ironically the next night there were a lot more people that showed up along with ,,,,,Yup that same biker want to be. He did exactly the same thing waiting for Gerry to show up. Gerry was busier upstairs and didn’t show (at least not right away) the biker started to mouth off that the guy who surprised deck him was scared of him and that’s why he didn’t show. Only reason Gerry didn’t cause he was busy and didn’t want to knock this guy out again. Gerry finally showed up and same thing happened but this time the biker managed to move out of the way (the first time) then WAMMO, I thought I saw teeth fly out of his mouth lol. Gerry then proceeded to drag him out again. He came back in and just smiled at us. To both his and our surprise that same dude that he just dragged out was back (bleeding profusely and disoriented) looked at Gerry and yelled “hey Pussy” try that again? Gerry just clenched his fists again and said “OK”. The biker dude went running into him but had a crowbar in his hand and surprisingly actually hit Gerry. He didn’t even feel it I thought and grabbed the crowbar and went to use it on him and said “no don’t want to kill this guy” so just knocked more teeth out of his mouth I think and dragged him out to his car this time. I know cause we took a break and I went out to see. Gerry threw this guy (like a puppet) on the hood of his car and shook his head and walked away. Somehow this biker miraculously came to and threw something and hit Gerry. He then jumped into his car thinking he could get away ,,,,WRONG, Gerry grabbed the back of his car and easily lifted the back wheels off the ground. Mr. Biker wasn’t going anywhere lmaoroflr!! This went on for a min or so then Gerry positioned the car so that when he let go it would take off and ram a tree (that was close by) in which he did, and the car immediately started to move and hit it. The look on the bikers’ face was priceless, until Gerry went over and knocked him out one last time. I know I went on and on but had to give all details. That night I will never forget.

    Joe Tota

  24. Joe, what a fantastic story and a great addition to this site. I think Mr. Biker should’ve found a new profession. Something that didn’t hurt as much. Most of all, he should’ve learned the first time not to mess with Gerry. I only got thrown down the stairs by Gerry and I learned from that to be nice and polite around him. Thanks again. Awesome read.

  25. Your very welcome Dennis, funny haven’t thought of Gerry or that specific bar for years. Some awesome memories that’s for sure. Cheers Dennis and everyone else.

  26. sorry but you sais the old chaud as been torn down nope it still up and runnig it now a concress center and a hotel a hilton in if ben working ther for the last 25 year luke

  27. It was really cool to read some of the stories and comments about Gerry. He was is a legend. I knew Gerry from the Chad and as my next door neighbour…lol
    I would go to the Chaud, on the standard Wednesday, Friday, Saturday nights and sometimes Gerry would let me in and sometimes he wouldn’t. I was under aged. He would let me sit at the front door and check ID’s. If I drank, I was only allowed Pink Ladies (Lionel ‘ s choice).
    Some nights, if I wasn’t too hammered, Gerry would give me a lift home or ask Lionel to drive me home. He didn’t want my Mom worrying.
    I asked Gerry once why he never hired women to waitress. His reply was that women got periods and when they had their periods they wouldn’t show up for work. That’s why he only hired women for the coat check. Man, did I laugh. Then I argued with him about women and periods. Hahaha
    Gerry Barber was a multi-faceted man. He is not forgotten.

  28. This story is complete and total bulls**t I knew Tom personally and I can tell you he would never ever touch a kid and he never sucker punched people if Tommy Wilmott wanted to hit you he didn’t sneak shot you you knew he was coming spit flying hair flying and all he didn’t need to sucker punch you sucker punch means the person was scared of the other person so they had to catch them off guard and I cannot tell you cause I’ve seen it my self with my own eyes that man wasn’t scared of anything or anybody and for the people saying he attacked “innocent bystanders” well I can tell you this cause I went in public both Tom alot if mindedbyour business and stay out of his business and didn’t cause shit with him he would leave you alone but most people heard his reputation and proceeded to not listen to the reputation and find out first hand Tommy never looked for trouble it followed him cause people always thought “we can take him he looks like nothing”

    Lori

    THIS STORY IS BULLS**T : Here’s a typical Tommy (Tommy Wilmott) story … we went to the 7-11 to get a pack of smokes … I went in, he was in the car. Bought the smokes, paid cash, kid (about 15 yrs old) behind the counter handed me my changed, smiled, said have a nice day. I got back in the car, he said ‘did that kid smile at you?’ In a flash he was out of the car, in the store. Before the kid even knew it was coming he sucker punched the kid (he was real good at that). Broke the kid’s jaw and then broke his arm and all his fingers. Yeah, great guy.

  29. This story is complete and total bulls**t I knew Tom personally and I can tell you he would never ever touch a kid and he never sucker punched people if Tommy Wilmott wanted to hit you he didn’t sneak shot you you knew he was coming spit flying hair flying and all he didn’t need to sucker punch you sucker punch means the person was scared of the other person so they had to catch them off guard and I cannot tell you cause I’ve seen it my self with my own eyes that man wasn’t scared of anything or anybody and for the people saying he attacked “innocent bystanders” well I can tell you this cause I went in public both Tom alot if mindedbyour business and stay out of his business and didn’t cause shit with him he would leave you alone but most people heard his reputation and proceeded to not listen to the reputation and find out first hand Tommy never looked for trouble it followed him cause people always thought “we can take him he looks like nothing”

    Lori

    THIS STORY IS BULLS**T : Here’s a typical Tommy (Tommy Wilmott) story … we went to the 7-11 to get a pack of smokes … I went in, he was in the car. Bought the smokes, paid cash, kid (about 15 yrs old) behind the counter handed me my changed, smiled, said have a nice day. I got back in the car, he said ‘did that kid smile at you?’ In a flash he was out of the car, in the store. Before the kid even knew it was coming he sucker punched the kid (he was real good at that). Broke the kid’s jaw and then broke his arm and all his fingers. Yeah, great guy.

  30. It was announced today that part of Clarence St. In Lowertown has been renamed Barber St., after Paul Barber, one of the first African-American people to settle in Ottawa. I’m thinking he was an ancestor to Gerry Barber. I read as much in the Citizen once but don’t recall the date and didn’t keep the paper. Anyway, it’s fitting to honour people who came and helped build the community by their presence.

  31. Actually, the name of the joint was “La Chaudière” , not the Chaud. Mind you, unless you speak French, it doesn’t mean a darn thing. Nevertheless, la chaudiere means the pail, a pseudonym for ‘the final pit stop of the evening’.

  32. one night gerry barber came after my grandfather harold wootton. he picked on the wrong guy. turned around cracked jerry under the chin with an uppercut knocked him out cold. true story

  33. I once got into a fight at the Chaud . The other guys’s friend hit me with a chair over the head which caused a pretty severe cut . I proceded to the bathroom to clean it up . The guy’s friend followed me to the bathroom and we went at it again outside the bathroom and before i new it we where flying down the stairs I am guessing but it was probably Gerry that did it . we both were thrown out by Mr Barber . very early 80’s if i am not mistaken . My Dad new Gerry and when i got home he reminded me Gerry did not play favorites . Drinking and Fighting was very common in those days everybody had short fuses 🙂

  34. I also did time with Tom Wilmott in the late 70’s early 80’s . I rememeber him when he was tall and thin by the time he left Burritts Rapids he was 200llbs of solid muscle . Lots of stories to tell about Tommy but this post is about arguably the toughest guy in the Ottawa valley in the last 50 years Gerry Barber .

  35. Gerry barber was one tough man a lot of my older family new him and many good things to say about him but also said “if you crossed Gerry the wrong way you were in trouble and in a unrelated issue all you people on here talking bad about Tommy Wilmott you’re all a little pathetic if you all thought he was a punk and all the rest why didn’t you say it to his face when he was alive ? Why didn’t you tell him straight to his face what you thought of him ? Why wait till he is dead ? if you don’t like the man that’s cool but don’t shit talk a guy that’s not here for you to say it to his face or defend him self when people do that makes you look like a scared little b**ch besides those who really knew him know why those of you shit talking him on here would never say it to his face when he was alive you were scared little punks that only started talking tough toward him when you knew he couldn’t come back and deal with you
    AND LORI you’re story about Tom is complete and total bulls**t I knew Tom my whole life and he would never ever hit a kid or even get mad Infront of one he spent days and days at my house with my kids and never once even breathed at them the wrong way I know who you are lol you’re one of his ex’s but I also know the true story between him and you if you want I can post it or you can have some respect for the man THAT’S NOT HERE TO DEFEND HIM SELF and for those if you that didn’t do anything and have to read this this has nothing to do with you and I truly am sorry for putting a speech up but some people have to learn respect That was someone’s family someone’s friend this is on the internet where his loved ones can see this crap you don’t have to like him that’s your choice but don’t be a child about it and I would say the same thing if someone was in here bashing Gerry Barber HAVE SOME RESPECT YOU’RE ALL ADULTS ACT LIKE IT

  36. And Daman you calling Tommy Wilmott a goof when his dead and can’t defend him self makes you a straight up goof

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