doer, then, because when a fellow is 6-foot-4 and 340 pounds, shaves his slab of head, lets his beard scraggle downward like a forgotten member of ZZ Top, has dragon tattoos slithering over nearly every pore, has his earlobes stretched like a tribesman’s, has a sorority’s worth of piercings over his face, deliberately burns symbols into his fingers and generally freaks people out with the silver horns protruding from his nostrils, one is inclined to call him whatever he wants to be called.
James Brown, who walked into the club one night, was apparently shocked. “Did he come out his mama lookin’ like that?!” the Godfather of Soul quipped to an associate.
Mr. Burdette freely told the story, admitting he was “physically hard to forget.” To the thousands of customers who streamed into the city’s premier nightclub to hear established and rising acts, Mr. Burdette was a footnote, really, to their evening of entertainment. He said he was often called “That Guy,” a nickname that managed to be anonymous, universal and intimidating all at once. Used in a sentence, it was frequently, “Oh, my God, do you see
eee that guy?”
He embraced “That Guy” as part of his e-mail handle, and he played the part of “That Guy” for the past 16 years.
“What keeps me doing this after getting kicked in the head, fought, spit on, is seeing people leave the club with a smile on their face,” he told The Washington Post in 2006. “I know that’s a trite thing to say, but my job is to make sure people have fun.”
The Maryland chief examiner’s office said Thursday that Mr. Burdette’s death at his Kensington home was a suicide. Efforts to reach his family were unsuccessful.
Behind the imposing facade, Mr. Burdette was widely regarded as a gentleman and a gentle man in the role of gatekeeper. “I have a degree in psychology, so I watch people — it’s what I do,” the University of Maryland graduate once said. He sparingly resorted to toughness to resolve disputes. He prided himself on identifying troublemakers before they could act — the 21-year-old guys paired with much-younger girls, the beer-spilling customers who needed a pit stop outside in the fresh air, the hinky types “puffing” on joints hidden inside pieces of fruit.
But in the nightclub trade, where the darker forces of humanity sometimes reveal themselves, the surprises never cease.
“I could tell you about the biggest brawl I’ve ever been in, but that’s the exception, not the rule,” he once told The Washington Post. “If we have a fight, it’s once every six months. And one of the worst fights we’ve ever had was at a Super Diamond show — and that’s a Neil Diamond tribute band! It was a doctor and a dentist. You just never know.”