Gerry Barber Was Tougher Than You And Me

I wrote and posted this story back in June of 2008, and the reaction since has been amazing. I’ve received all sorts of comments from people sharing their own personal Gerry Barber stories. These comments can be seen under the original story right here – 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.

16 thoughts on “Gerry Barber Was Tougher Than You And Me”

  1. Now there is a name I haven’t heard for years……. The reason you were honoured with the Gerry Barber 86 is because you were sitting with Frank.

  2. Here’s an interest piece I found on the web:

    The Chaud was also home of Gerry Barber, the toughest bouncer on the planet. One story about Barber will suffice: A patron was being unruly and Barber asked him to sit down and shutthefuckup, tabernac!. The patron objected and showed his displeasure by breaking a nearly full quart beer bottle over Gerry Barber’s head. Normally, this would knock most humans to their knees.

    Barber laughed out loud, in the face of the patron: The 2,000 drunks in the room instantly became very quiet, as we knew what was going to happen next. Barber grabbed the patron by the face and genitals, throwing him in the direction of the door, over a couple of tables. When Barber strode over to where the crumpled patron lay, he was still chuckling to himself. He picked up the patron by the belt, then used the patron’s head to open the door and toss him into the parking lot. The band resumed playing and the rest of us resumed drinking.

  3. Hey Dennis, my apologies for being off topic and this guy Gerry sounds like he was a good guy as well as being tough. I guess the people I watched tonight were pretty tough too and the thing is we didn’t necessarily know it at the time. I just happened to surf into TSN2 and a program called Darkness and Hope a show about depression. I’m not a really big fan of Michael Landsberg but I caught enough to pique my interest and wow what a revealing piece. The three athletes he talks to mostly are Darryl Strawberry, Clara Hughes, and Stephane Richer. I remember everyone being so disappointed with Richer when he didn’t become the next french star despite all the tools and eventually he was traded to New Jersey. They show a picture of Richer holding the Cup and he points out that even at that moment when you should be on top of the world you can see he is standing slightly apart from the rest of the team. Strawberry who I only remember as a baseball player always doing drugs thought about suicide on several occasions. Clara Hughes, one of our most celebrated Olympians, talking about how hard it can be to move forward. Anyway it just goes to show that our heroes are just as human and just as susceptible as the rest of us no matter how much money or fame they achieve and when those heroes let us down we don’t always know the whole story. Landsberg himself also suffers from depression and the hug he got from Rowdy Roddy Piper was so sincere. Stephan Richer summed it up for me when he said every morning when he gets up he says to himself “Rich you gotta be strong today.”

  4. This isn’t the same kind of thing but Gerry reminds me of a story that my girlfriend’s father told me once about his uncle. His uncle owned a small bar in Montreal and one day two thugs came in a tried to shake him down for protection money. He ended up beating the shit out of them on the spot. He was never bothered again.

    I don’t know if I’d want to be tough like that (or like Gerry). It sometimes reminds me of the song ‘The Winner’ by Bobby Bare.

    We all get so very stupid when we drink. Has anyone ever gotten more sophisticated from drinking in the history of this world?

    John – I can say that depression is a god-awful thing. It plays with your mind in so many awful ways. One of it’s biggest “gifts” is that it makes you feel so very alone, even in moments when the complete opposite is true. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Richer feeling like that doesn’t surprise me one bit. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he felt he didn’t deserve it at the time.

  5. DJ, it’s always just fine to comment under an unrelated topic. I’m just very grateful for the comment.
    I saw this show the other night and I agree with you, it was really interesting. I find it interesting to see that people whom we think have the world by the tail go through what many of us go through. Who would think that an Olympian, a Cup champ, a successful TV personality, and a baseball hero all went home after a day of success and had such dark thoughts.It just goes to show that this can happen to any of us. I get dark thoughts but not to the extent that it could be called hard-core depression. More like down days, bad days.
    A year or two ago I wrote about a family member who is bipolar and has serious depression, and several readers shared their own situation. I think depression is under the surface for many who don’t show it in public, people around us, and we really don’t have a clue. I also think it’s fantastic that these four public figures opened up like that and I hope the show is aired again for those who missed it.

  6. I grew up half an hour away from The Chaud on the ontario side,
    too young to hang out there but my older sisters had all kinds of stories about the place. Small world.

  7. My first night in Ottawa when I moved here in 1972 for work as a Technican the guy I was with took me to the “Chaud” and he pointed out Barber to me. He wore a big baggy black suit and spent the night cruising around the club clearing quart bottles off the table. I remember he approached a table of guys and had a very short conversation with them … The whole table of 4or 5 just got up and quietly left …. Reputation was all that was needed in that case ..

  8. Laef Fan, a love these Barber stories. Yes, a reputation goes a long way. And the Chaud was one tough club.

  9. Marc, where did you grow up? I lived in Ottawa for 15 years and worked at EB Eddy in Hull for four of those years.

  10. Hey Dennis, I grew up on a farm in wendover ont.
    just across the ottawa river. I sent that piece on the Chaud
    to mt sister in L.A. and another in victoria, Sooke actually.
    They used to go there all the time, I had no idea it was such a rough joint.
    I did not know they were such tough chicks.

  11. Marc, I had a friend who lived in Wendover and we used to visit him from time to time. I remember there was either a canal or a river running behind his house. And yes, now you know – your sisters are biker chicks.

  12. We used to get to the Chaud early on a Saturday night so we could get out backs to the wall. I still carry the scar over my right eye from a quart bottle that came flying out of a melee in the Chaud.
    I can also remember the QPP at times had a paddy wagon in the parking lot and when Gerry would expedite the exit of some punk the QPP would pick up the drunk and deposit him in the wagon. I can also remember a few RCMP new recuits when off duty coming to the club thinking they were tough and
    Gerry explaining a few facts to them as well.

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