Soho bouncer opens door on a new acting career
Former nightclub doorman is cast in film alongside Steven Berkoff
06 April, 2018 — By Heather Kroeker
Omar Shaker: ‘After 20 years, I’d just had enough. I’d been in a lot of dangerous situations. It was time to make a change’
AFTER 20 years as a Jazz After Dark doorman, Omar Shaker has decided to open the door on a new acting career.
The 36-year-old has been cast in upcoming Savvas D Michael film, Red Devil, starring Steven Berkoff and Adam Deacon, and set for release this year.
Mr Shaker says his time as a doorman at the famous Soho nightclub has helped him prepare for his thug role.
“You’re faced with crazy situations all the time. You can never let anything go wrong. I have to think fast,” he said.
He recalls one evening he restrained an intoxicated customer who become violent, thinking his phone was stolen. The man bit Mr Shaker on the arm and he ended up at hospital for a hepatitis shot.
The cocktail bar where he worked has been a Soho fixture since his father opened it in 1985. The venue has played host to many famous acts, including The Libertines and Amy Winehouse, with whom he was close.
“She was really, really decent. A very sweet girl,” said Mr Shaker. “She had a really good heart, and was really funny.”
Though he enjoyed his time on the door, his passion was in photography and acting, which he dabbled in over the years, even getting cast in a Kellogg’s commercial.
“After 20 years, I’d just had enough. I’d been in a lot of dangerous situations. It was time to make a change,” he said.
Mr Shaker says Soho has changed dramatically during his 20 years on the door. He says crime has only gotten worse in Soho, especially after CCTV was removed by Westminster Council in a controversial 2016 decision.
Police began asking doormen in the area to act like police, asking them to patrol streets, deter drug dealers, and help people if needed, he said.
But after Ms Winehouse died, Mr Shaker decided to take a month off work to write a book in Spain. He realised that it was time to follow his passion.
“I was in a place where I knew I had to get out of there,” he said. “I had to move on. It was a now or never situation.”
He left in the middle of a Saturday night shift at the bar and never went back.
“Since then, I’ve been giving it basically everything I’ve got. I’m actually finally doing what I love doing for once.”