Impeccable manners and an inviting smile are what make Ahmed Braimah—who spent four years in the army and studied graphic communications in college—good at his job as VIP captain at The Underground, Billy Dec’s nightclub and celeb hangout in River North. What are the duties of a VIP captain? “It’s about meeting people,” Braimah explains. “Making sure they’re seated at the right table. Seeing if there’s anything I can do to increase their happiness.” Essentially, Braimah makes everyone feel very important in a setting where egos and emotions tend to amplify. He credits his Ghana-born mother for teaching him the ropes (“She’s not happy until you’re happy, and she’s always smiling”) and his “big brother,” Tunde, a formidable but friendly bouncer at The Underground, for helping keep the peace. The job’s hours are typical for the nightlife crew—as late as 6 a.m. on Saturdays—and Braimah admits that for someone with such a social job, he doesn’t have much of a social life. And what about sleep? “You can’t accomplish anything if you’re sleeping,” he says.
Photograph: Maria Ponce