Calhoun Hendricks has watched the door at Silver Dollar for 15 years
If you’ve walked under the cover of darkness anywhere on Upper King Street over the past 15 years, you have no doubt seen Calhoun Hendricks standing outside of the Silver Dollar. The bouncer has been there nearly every night, checking IDs and observing the world around him. As much a staple of King Street as his statuesque namesake in Marion Square, I first came to know him in the fall of 2003, like so many other freshman before me. Over the years, Calhoun became sort of a protector, my own personal bouncer and friend. Since I come up to basically his hips, he’s a great person to have around whenever someone wants to come at you, bro. But now, after his nearly two decades of service at the dirty Dollar, Hendricks is retiring, leaving a gaping hole where he once stood.
City Paper: Obviously you have been as much of an institution as the Silver Dollar has been for more than a decade. Can you tell me how you became an employee?
: Well, where to start? I guess at the beginning. I moved to Charleston back in ’98, when some friends of mine and I transferred to College of Charleston from University of South Carolina Beaufort. I was a theater major at the time and the program here was/is really good, and bunch of my friends from home were already here, so it was a natural fit. I’ve been here ever since.
The beginning for me at the Dollar was shortly after it first opened. I was working at a bar called Capone’s at the time. An old school F&B bar that did 98 percent of our business after 2 a.m., Capone’s got shut down after the first round of 2 a.m. bar closings. We fought the city and won ... then the city struck back. They condemned our building. I landed, for a short time, at Moe’s Crosstown Tavern, and tried to pick up the late night slack that was left with the demise of Capone’s. It never got busy enough that time of night to need a door guy at Moe’s. My friend Gunny had been working at this new place called the Silver Dollar, and he asked me, "Hey, we need someone at the Dollar." The rest is history.
CP: What made you stay so long and why?
: I guess it was just fun. This kinda segues nicely into the story part. Ever seen the movie Groundhog Day
? Bill Murray? Genius movie. That’s kind of exactly what it’s like working at a bar. The same things happen over and over and over again, but with little twists that make the story that much weirder. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, something happens that makes you stop and say, "Well...didn’t think of that. Did that really just happen? Could that person really be that stupid?" Just the little things that happen, change whole perspectives. I think, in the end, it was the people I worked with that made me stay so long.
CP: I’m sure you have your fair share of stories. Can you tell me any tales that happened during your tenure?
: Stories stories stories ... I could write a book on the stuff I’ve seen. Cool stuff, meeting famous people, epic parties, crazy fights. Bad stuff, people getting hit by cars, stress, crazy fights. Every night something new happens. One night, as the band was playing to a packed house, some drunk girl dancing on stage fell on the band’s lights and broke them. Not only did she break them, she spilled beer in the broken, still live, lights. It was one of those music-screeching-to-a-halt moments and the singer just said, "That’s not good." The bar filled with smoke in a matter of seconds. I ripped the front doors open and started to get people out of the building as the firefighters were dispatched. What makes this funny, is that this was back when you could still smoke in the bars. There were still people sitting at the bar, smoking, oblivious to the surrounding chaos of the possible burning building that they were in. Stuff like that makes you just put your head down and say, "Wow."
The worst nights were always the ones where the bad fights happened, or other bad things happened. Over the years, I saw eight people get full on hit by cars on King Street. That’s always unsettling to see something like that.
As far as fake IDs, I had a kid come up not too long ago with an ID saying he was born in 1961. When I took the ID from him (because it was by far the worst attempt ever) he said, “Come on man, can I have it back? It’s my dad’s ID.” I kept it just out of principle. That was just ridiculous.
CP: What makes Silver Dollar so popular with the college crop?
Who knows? I’ve never quite been able to figure that one out. I guess it’s tradition at this point. But the Dollar is more than just the college crowd. This resurgence that’s going on now isn’t just college kids. It’s everybody. The weekends bring in a wide variety of people.
CP: When did you decide it was time to retire? What’s next for you?
Well, 14, almost 15 years at one bar will wear on you. It was brewing for a while, but the turning point was another interview like this one. A few months back, I was interviewed for the news about the changes on King Street, and the police, and the crowds, and how it’s all changed over the years. The reporter asked me about my start in the business, and I remember saying the words, and not really thinking about it, until I saw the piece on TV. When I saw myself saying the words. Then it clicked. I’d been doing it for 19 years. It’s time to move on. That was that. I’d had enough.
Now, I’m adjusting to an opposite lifestyle. Along with my affinity for the performing arts, I also picked up a degree in welding along the way. I got a job at an engineering company. Now I go to bed early, and I’m up early in the morning. I still have some hoops to jump through. This side of the business depends on certifications, so I’m working on those.
I firmly believe that every now and then, you just need to step back and get a different perspective. That’s what I’m doing now. What’s next? Not sure yet. Get all the certifications and climb my way up the path I’m on now, maybe. It’s a good path. Maybe I’ll open my own bar. Every F&B person wants their own place. Who knows? That’s kinda the beauty of it. Either way, I’m moving forward. Do I miss the night life? Sure. Who wouldn’t? It’s fun. Do I like sleeping at night and working all day? Yeah. I do. Never thought I’d be a morning person, but I am. I’ve also lost about 20 pounds. Life is full of possibilities right now.