Victoria Jackson: Saturday Night Live!
Dana Carvey: Old cast or new?
Victoria Jackson: New!
Dana Carvey: Wait at the bar! Wait at the bar!
Oh, you're that elite troper! I'm so sorry, I didn't recognize you for a moment. Please forgive that humble bouncer. I am the Maitre'd at this establishment. Let me get you our Luxurious Liquor list as you sit on your expensive velvet-upholstered chair while we tell you what this trope is about. Ah, there's one of our beautiful servers now...
Some businesses, such as high-end French restaurants, upscale bars, and fancy nightclubs will not admit or serve people who are not celebrities, wealthy or of high social status, and at least in fiction are often quite rude about it. Sometimes the unfitting Everyman will simply be refused entry; otherwise they might be allowed in, but have to suffer long wait times, poor service or rude staff. We are proud to say that our trope is Truth in Television, especially in finer nightclubs, restaurants and similar establishments, and especially in cities where the famous and the beautiful socialites, Millionaire Playboys, rock stars, and Tech Bro CEOs gather.
The goal behind this trope is typically to cultivate an 'exclusive', elite and 'high-end' reputation for marketing purposes: "If only famous, wealthy VIP people can shop there, it must be high-quality, so I should definitely go if I get the chance, and if I get in, I should happily pay $21 for a cocktail" Or conversely, if you're already wealthy or famous: "I sure am sick of spending all day around the hoi polloi and riffraff. If there was a place where I could hang out with only other elites at my level, I'd love to patronize it." However, some practitioners in fiction have more personal or esoteric motives. Even if a highly influential person is Not on the List, they may be allowed access simply because they know the person in charge, have enough money to bypass any roadblocks, or their very presence acts as free publicity and marketing.
If you'll be traveling in the near future, we'd be honored to recommend our sister establishments at Socially Scored Society — which extends our policy to services and privileges in everyday life — and Fame Gate — where a video game quantifies fame and you must accumulate a certain amount to access some quest or area.
Might I recommend an appetizer as you compare Dude, Where's My Respect?, Favors for the Sexy, Not on the List, and Wannabe Line? Please be mindful as you leave, though; the plebeians in Money Is Not Power have been making trouble lately.
- In a Capital One commercial, a group of Vikings takes a vacation to Hollywood (thanks to Capital One, of course). One short scene shows a Viking's goat being allowed into a club, only for the Viking to follow and be blocked by the bouncer.
- In Speed Grapher, due to its outrageously high membership fees, the only people who can get in Suitengu's Roppongi Club are the fabulously wealthy, and most of its members are of high prestige around Japan. As it turns out, Suitengu cultivated the Club's elite status specifically to recruit as many rich, powerful, and influential people as he could in order to kill them all by locking them in the building and bombing it from the inside.
- Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra: At the end of the movie, Caesar is waiting to get into a banquet held by Cleopatra along with his general Ceeplus. The doorman keeps insisting Caesar, ruler of the Roman Empire, isn't on the list, but it turns out Ceeplus is, letting him in. Caesar only gets in after it turns out there's a reserved amphora with his name on it.
- In Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts's Hooker with a Heart of Gold goes into a store on Rodeo Drive and gets treated badly by clerks, even though she has plenty of money. Later, after being served because of the intervention of a kind concierge, she goes in and asks if they get commission (extra pay depending what they sell personally). They do, so she gets to hold up all of her shopping bags from other stores and give them a short What Were You Thinking? talk.
- Inverted in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: it's left as a mystery for half the movie why Norah seems to know every bouncer in New York, who just let this High School girl in at the front of the line. Turns out her dad's a record producer.
- In Selena, while looking for an outfit for the Grammy Awards, the singer was being brushed off by a fancy dress-store's clerks on the account of them being casually dressed Mexicans. Then one fan recognized her, and their attitudes quickly changed. Which prompted a very polite yet awesome response from Selena, in the midst of a crowd of fans:
- Selena (to store clerk): Excuse me, Miss? We don't need the dress.
- In Beaches, at the height of her Broadway career, C.C. brings her best friend and their husbands to her favorite restaurant. A waiter quietly evicts another couple in the middle of their dinner because "there's somebody here who's bigger than you." The maitre'd then escorts C.C. and her party to the newly vacant spot, claiming that "we've saved your favorite table for you."
- In The Mask, Stanley Ipkiss's buddy Charlie goes in, with babes on his arms... Ipkiss is stopped because "he's not on the list".
- Jabez starts Shortcut to Happiness working in a high-end men's clothing store. He gets fired for serving an old man who his supervisor does not think is wealthy enough to be shopping there. As a final act of defiance, he buys the tie the old man was interested in and gives it to him as a gift.
- A Hard Day's Night: Paul's Grandfather has gone to the Le Circle club with an invitation intended for Ringo, and as their manager, Norm, takes the Beatles to get Paul's Grandfather, he's initially stopped by the bouncer before he gestures to the group, and they're let in. When their roadie, Shake, trails them, he's stopped, then says "I'm with them, I'm Ringo's sister", then goes in after them.
- In Airborn, the restaurant Matt meets Kate at in Skybreaker barely let him in because of his secondhand Academy uniform; he was about to be escorted out until Chef Vlad intervened.
- In Extras, the world's economy is based on fame/popularity, with a rating given to every person in the city. You receive better clothes, food, and invitations to parties the higher your rating is.
- Honor Harrington: A waiter at a posh restaurant grudgingly serves a group of junior navy officers and their friends and probably would not have seated them at all if it was a busier time of the day. He does not realize that they are heirs to some of the wealthiest people in the region, and one of them is actually in direct line to the Manticore throne (Albeit quite distantly).
- In The Enemy Within, the main character (An FBI Agent) has a reservation at a restaurant and is kept waiting for his table for over an hour. Then he sees a Senator walk in without a reservation and get seated immediately. At this point, he cancels the reservation and walks out.
- In the BattleTech novel Illusions of Victory, mechwarrior Karl Edwards is initially denied access to Valhalla, the most exclusive club in Solaris City until his friend Michael Searcy, then the top-ranked gladiator on Solaris, insists he be let in.
- Saturday Night Live: a rather meta sketch found a few funny ways to play with it, with the cast of the show itself trying to trade on their fame and finding that "New Cast" didn't rate next to "Old Cast".
"Look! It's Rob Lowe (in his "Brat Pack" days)! Wait at the bar! Wait at the bar!"
- Several skits had a bar that you could only get into if you had hosted SNL enough times. Originally, it was the Five Timer's club (people who have hosted the show five or more times), and it involved Tom Hanks being inducted into the club. Other members involved Steve Martin, Elliot Gould, and Paul Simon. Ralph Nader tries to crash it, and Jon Lovitz is serving drinks. Also features Conan O'Brien in a bit part as the doorman. The club was referenced again during the fifth appearance of Danny DeVito, John Goodman, Drew Barrymore, and Alec Baldwin. The Martin vs. Baldwin sketch was an extension of this, taking place in the club's "Platinum Lounge" that was only open to Twelve Timers (where drinks are served by Martin Short).
- Downton Abbey: Anna and Bates decide on going to a posh restaurant for a date. Even though they did make a reservation, they are rejected by a stuck-up maître d' because "Lady Graham and her friends are inside", obviously implying Anna and Bates are not important enough to enter. Lady Cora appears then behind the maître d', warmly greets Anna and Bates, and innocently asks if they are coming inside. After Anna mentions the maître d' said there's not enough tables for them, Cora invites them to her table and (with the most polite smile on her face) asks maître d' if this is a problem. He quickly tries to cover up his mistake by saying he just lost Anna and Bates' reservation, but he found it now and of course they can enter. After the maître d' is gone, Cora with a huge smile says "I'm pretty sure you won't have problems with getting a table here ever again". Said maître d' is then extremely polite both to Anna and Bates for the whole evening. Cora then humiliates the maître d' further by casually mentioning Anna and Bates can use her limousine to go back to Downton while he's near their table.
- Fawlty Towers: Basil Fawlty lived by this trope. He either showed fawning obsequiousness for anybody with money, a title, or a sufficiently fancy car; or contempt for everyone else especially his hotel's residents, out-of-town work crews staying at Fawlty Towers on business, foreigners, and families with kids. The real fun comes when Basil mistakes the former for the latter, then realizes with horror what he's done.
- One episode of Extras deals with Andy's attempts to get into the VIP area of a club. Andy finally breaks out as a C-list celebrity and gets shown to the VIP area of a club, which he rubs in to his arch-rival who happens to be there. After sitting there for about a minute, he is unceremoniously booted out when David Bowie shows up, and when Bowie leaves the new bouncer doesn't recognise Andy.
- "Little fat man who sold his soul... little fat man who sold his dream."
- Another episode contains a scene where Andy rescues Maggie from a bitchy saleslady (to the tune of "Pretty Woman") only to balk when he finds out the price of the dress she picks out. And the Christmas special depicts Andy's ability, and later lack thereof, to get a table at the Ivy without a reservation.
- Happened in Arrested Development to Lucille and Lindsay. After being refused entrance to the trendiest bar/nightclub in town, they retreat to
Denny'sKlimpy's where a smiling hostess greets them with "Sit anywhere you like!" Lucille is appalled at finding herself in such a non-selective restaurant.
- In Just Shoot Me!, Dennis goes to a club with his new wife Adrienne, a well-known fashion model. The bouncer lets her in, but shuts Dennis out, not believing his claims of being married.
- The Pretty Woman example is spoofed on The Office (US). Dwight is denied service at a store for his appearance, so Andy and Kelly give him a makeover with the purpose of going back and humiliate the attendants who rejected him. Only when they get there, they find that the reason Dwight was not let in was that he appeared to have blood on his hands (it was actually beet juice).
- In the How I Met Your Mother episode "Robots vs. Wrestlers", the gang tries to gatecrash an extremely selective high-society party by having Lily pretend to be one of the people on the guest list (long story), only to have said guest turn up and cockblock her. Ted eventually has to flirt with the guest until she invites them along, only for everyone to realize the party is snooty and dull (Marshall declares it "Douchepocalypse 2010") but being unwilling to leave after putting so much effort into getting in. Eventually, they ditch it for a "Robots vs. Wrestlers" fight in a dingy, sleazy hole in downtown New York.
- Exploited on NCIS when The Squad needs to get into a nightclub that's connected to a recent murder. They send in McGee under his nom de plume, Thom E. Gemcity, and the bouncer lets him right in.
- Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story: Even Mario and Luigi themselves can't get into two high-class shops in the Mushroom Mall until they've proved that they're the right sort of clientele. This requires reaching certain Character Levels, so from a mechanical point of view, it prevents thrifty players from buying top-tier gear at low levels. From an in-universe point of view, it makes one wonder who the hell their other clients are, given that most inhabitants of the Mushroom Kingdom (and just about everyone else in The 'Verse) recognize Mario on sight.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, getting through the main gate to The Strip (where all the casinos are) usually require a credit check - you need to have at least 2,000 caps for them to consider you to have any business there. The justification is that Mr. House wants potential customers in the Strip rather than just freeloaders. Of course you can get an ID (or a forgery) in Freeside, hack the robots, or ride the NCR Monorail in from Camp McCarran by either having a 'liked' reputation with the NCR or disguising yourself as an NCR Trooper or Ranger.
- In the Genesis version of Shadowrun, many bars have door charges that they will waive if you have an appropriate Reputation stat. The Club Penumbra goes further: you can only get in at all with a door charge and the proper rep. Subverted by Icarus Descending; it's a bar run by racist elves, and you can get in with a high enough Rep, but if you go there before you're supposed to, there's nothing there, and when the plot points you to the Johnson there, you can get in by invitation instead.
- The whole point of reputation rewards in World of Warcraft. You will need to reach a specific fame level with a specific faction in order to buy some of their items, some of which will require you to be exalted among their ranks before they will consider selling it to you. Should your reputation fall beneath the required level for some reason (such as becoming accepted by their opposing faction) you will not be able to use the item anymore.
- In Leisure Suit Larry 2: Looking for Love (in Several Wrong Places), Larry (who's recently won the lottery) goes to a fancy restaurant at one point. The waiter proceeds to make him wait, seating five upper-class couples before pulling out a folding table and seating him there. And the EVIL EVIL EVIL EVIL staff had conspired to poison Larry's food, which will cause his death if he tries to eat it.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion:
- It's impossible to buy houses in the cities of Chorrol or Skingrad without a certain level of fame, which makes one wonder how some of the local nobodies ever managed to break into the real estate market.
- Exaggerated by Voranil, who hosts weekly parties that "everybody who's anybody" attends — which never includes you, even if you come to lead all the major Guilds and have your praises sung in the streets for saving the world.
- In Fable, the Hero is barred from entering the northern district of Bowerstone until he cements his reputation in Albion by becoming Champion of the Arena. This raises the question of what the ordinary-looking residents did to earn their place there...
- In Pokémon X and Y, Lumiose City has an invisible "style" meter that rises by shopping in certain stores, taking the taxi and Gogoat rides, and so on. However, if the player isn't stylish enough, they will be turned away from certain boutiques and restaurants. Some shops also give discounts to more stylish players.
- In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, The ritzy “Grand Wikian Resort” offers its guests a choice between two service packages: an expensive “Deluxe Pack” and a much cheaper “Discount Pack.” If you pick the Deluxe Pack, then they’ll treat you like a princess, but if you take the cheaper option, they’ll shoo you out back into a rat-infested alleyway with a bed in it.
- The merchants who sell weapons and clothing in Splatoon will not sell to the player character until his or her Level is at a certain point, which they treat as an indicator of how cool you are: the first game even calls this "Freshness", though the term would go on to refer to your proficiency with a given weapon. Downplayed in that said point is pretty low — and you can get Sheldon to consider you to be sufficiently baller in less than 15 minutes. Sheldon himself is a zigzagged example, however, as he has both the lowest and the highest requirements: the weapons he'll sell to you have varying level minima to meet, meaning you'll gradually be able to buy more and more from him as your level increases. Everyone else just has a particular threshold, after which their entire selection becomes available.
- Heroes of Might and Magic III: Heroes will be turned away from the Library of Enlightenment if the caretaker does not deem them "famous or diplomatic enough" to study there. For most heroes this means needing to be at least level 10, but a hero with the diplomacy skill can be permitted entry at level 8, 6 or 4 depending on their skill mastery level.
- Lovely People: Taken to the extreme with the social credit system seen in the story. The one restaurant that is shown has different sections depending the customer's social credit score and those with a too low score can lose the ability to purchase necessities.
- The Perry Bible Fellowship has an 8 in the line for the Big Numbers club. Then the bouncer yells at the 8 hard enough to flip it 90 degrees...
- Futurama, "That's Lobstertainment": Fry and Leela, having just escaped the La Brea tar pits, are at first refused entrance to the Oscars' reception. Then the doorman sees the caveman skeleton hanging from Fry's ankle and says, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you were with Mr. Stallone."
- In ReBoot, Cecil, being a French Jerk, sees available seats for Bob and Enzo, but doesn't place the pair in them.
Cecil: Wait at the bar. Wait at the bar.
- On American Dad!, Stan and Francine went to a restaurant and the French Jerk concierge appeared uninterested in serving them until Stan mentioned he was in the CIA. Subverted in that the concierge apparently doesn't hold the CIA in high regard and instead of a table they're led to an alley outside the restaurant where a vagrant pees on their feet.
- The Kids from Room 402: Nancy saved $200 to have a haircut at a fancy salon only to learn that, because she's not a celebrity, the salon's janitor would do the job.
- Even Heathcliff goes through this when he has A Nightmare In Beverly Hills. Luckily for him, it was All Just a Dream.
- The Simpsons:
Greeter: Good evening, sir. Would you please leave without a fuss, right now?Homer: (sheepishly) Okay...(backs away)
- "Three Men and a Comic Book" has Bart in his debut as Bartman show up in costume to a comic convention to get in for half-price. Unfortunately, the merchant didn't think this qualifies and charged him the full admission.
- In "Treehouse of Horror II" during Lisa's nightmare when the family becomes rich and famous, they go to a fancy restaurant where some unnamed group is denied service, but the family is immediately let in to all of the dining patrons' chagrin.
- In "Flaming Moe's" when Homer's drink made Moe so famous that he now had a bouncer at the door, he initially denies Homer entry to the tavern before he even gave him his name. Then once he learns it, he still claims that he's not on the list (without bothering to look at the list) and tells him to get lost.
- In "Fear of Flying", after being banned from Moe's, Homer goes into an upscale establishment to drink there instead. This exchange occurs:
- During the decadent disco era in the 1970s, this aggressive vetting happened a lot with the Studio 54 nightclub. The bouncers had a long line of rock and pop stars, actors, wealthy socialites and models. They only let the coolest, sexiest VIPs in.The other wiki has a good writeup on it.
- David Lee Roth tells stories of coming off Van Halen's wildly successful first tour and not being able to get into Studio 54.
- Nile Rodgers wrote the song Le Freak in response to being shut out of Studio 54. The original chorus of the song ("aaaaaaaaw fuck off!"; replaced in the version that got released by "aaaaaaaw freak out!") was a direct stab at Steve Rubell, owner of S54.
- Even Woody Allen was turned away at the club's opening.
- Rubell purposely cultivated this policy, allowing only certain celebs (or any girl willing to humiliate herself for the honor) in so as to make Studio 54 look like the most happening place to be.
- Stephen Fry's second volume of autobiography mentions an incident in a New York restaurant where a waiter was extremely rude and dismissive towards him until he mentioned the name of the person he was dining with (a major Broadway producer) at which point the waiter couldn't do enough for him.
- Urban Legend has it that a shabbily dressed man walked into a bank for parking validation, only to be turned down and condescended to by the teller. He then proceeded to close his accounts with the bank and take the money — which amounted to over a million dollars — to a competitor. The legend is based on John Barrier, a man who made his millions off of home remodeling, who did the deed in 1998, shifting his money from an institution he'd banked with for 30 years to a competitor (entities that would become part of US Bank and Bank of America, respectively.)
- Oprah Winfrey got this treatment at a very exclusive boutique in Zurich, a sales assistant apparently not believing she could afford a thirty thousand dollar handbag. Now, admittedly The Oprah Winfrey Show never got much airtime outside North America, but the racial undertones did not go unnoticed.
- Barney's (the retail store, not that other one) displayed this a number of times in late 2013, coupled with Unfortunate Implications when they sent police after two young black people (in separate incidents) because they suspected that they were using stolen debit cards to make the purchase.