He has been robbed in his house twice while present (they thought he had cash), he has have been attacked four times with a knife, (still has three of the knives… one is an okapi), shot at once, and also hit two guys with their own guns on separate occasions (caught on camera), hijacked in his car and tied down and robbed of cash at gunpoint.
He never drives to or from work, always takes a taxi. He plays a mean acoustic guitar and has a singing voice and golden locks that make women weak in the knees. He is the owner of the vastly popular Dylan’s nightclub in the Windhoek’s upmarket suburb of Klein Windhoek. He is the all-round nice guy and his name is Tony Fourie. But do not mess with him.
Having a conversation with Tony is like interviewing one of those (in)famous New York night club owners. Tony has taken a beer mug to the head and been strangled to the point of fainting and has lost teeth involuntarily. And he tends to pepper his sentences with profanities and expletives.
“My leg was driven over by a big car on one occasion. My partner, Anton, almost lost his eye when he was hit with a brick in the face while locking up. I was arrested for stopping a smash and grab thief, and have had to appear as a witness in at least eight court cases, mainly robbery and assault,” he says with his trademark affectionate smile before he picks up his acoustic guitar to join his old buddy Stefan ‘Old Slow Hand’ Steyn on stage for a second session of intense jamming.
Apart from being the longest-serving nightclub owner of one club, Tony believes in dedication, loyalty and rewarding such people. This is obvious, as he has had the same core staff for almost 10 years and has helped put their kids through school.
“We suffer from ‘eat and run’ customers regularly and they cost us a small fortune every month. I have car keys, credit cards and ID’s stacked to the roof for so-called collateral. I regularly receive threatening SMSes and phone calls early morning and by 10h00 the person normally apologises and asks me to delete and forgive or you never hear from that drunk again,” he says.
“People think because they know me and I am cool, they take advantage; I am not into that. My staff gets paid overtime after 02h00 so if you want to come and party, I charge at the door. I repair toilets on a weekly basis… specially women’s amenities. ‘Vroumense’ (women) love to trash toilets for some strange reason. I spend plenty late evening review drunks video, we have 18 cameras to bring back the past to prove that their stuff was not stolen in Dylan’s. We have regulars that we know are going to try and f***k us over, for incorrect change, or they say they paid their bill but didn’t. We catch them every time. But they only have three chances,” he says.
“But at the end of the day, most people are cool and well-behaved and awesome to party with.”
Why a night club owner and musician? Tony says he started playing guitar at a late stage in his colourful life after being part of the clean-cut, clean-shaven business world. “That was not me; I wanted to run a nightclub and be a musician. I wanted to play hard [party until] late and sleep late the next day. So I grew back my hair, put on my jeans and hippie shirts and did just that.”
Dylan’s – named in honour of the great Afrikaans folk poet/singer/songwriter Bob Dylan – has had to shut its door in the early days when it opened in a small complex in Klein Windhoek on numerous occasions. The club’s noisy existence was in contrast with its residential neighbours, in a neighbourhood known for its quietness. But Tony apathetic to the complaints about noise, describing his former neighbours as people “who did not work hard enough during the day and would lie awake at night and get annoyed by listening to the celebration of life carrying on at the bar”.
“It’s a flipping tough industry. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. You have to deal with anything from parking problems to getting arrested for catching a thief. There’s no money in this industry. I don’t possess a car. I stick every cent back into Dylan’s to entertain my customers. Then you have the seasonally dry spells, or the seven lean years as I call them, when things just slow down due to weather or finances or whatever.
“I make a living and I have put my three kids through school.”
Tony is a self-taught guitarist but highly respected in the industry with his music flowing from influences such as the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and JJ Cale.
He has shared stages with Hugh Masekela, Archie van der Ploeg, Sakkie van Niekerk, Lynn Clarke, Zvi Gorelick and many other visiting musicians.
Last weekend, he celebrated 14 years of jamming with his old buddy Stefan Steyn. Dylan’s has hosted many famous artistes, locally based and from all over the globe, including the keyboard player of Robbie Williams band, Carlos Santana’s cousin, and Peter Satriani – who was no relation to Joe Satriani.
Dylan’s in its establishment, followed a tradition created in Sam’s Restaurant, which was owned and operated by Zvi Gorelick, and where Tony cut his teeth in the live music scene in the 90s.
“We also used to do gigs around Windhoek, but I stopped that when the drummer fell into the pond with his kit at a local watering hole,” he chuckles.
When the first Dylan’s club opened in 1994 it provided a breath of fresh musical air, as there was no existing jam spot for musicians at the turn of the millennium and live venues became popular. Problem was the club employed this weird model whose choice of music confused music-loving crowds. The club ended up with even less bands taking to the stage.
“So we decided to take a three-year break, ‘musical misdirection’ for this thing to sort out its own head and now we are back with a vengeance, with the same sounds and new tunes that we are presenting to the public,” Tony says.
One cannot describe the Dylan’s sound; it is just a bar room beat, which was proven again last week Friday night when the legendary South African Brian Finch pitched up and had the crowds begging for more.Since 2004, the Thursday nights at Dylan’s have always been Karaoke evenings, which Tony started hosting back when he first opened in 1994. It remains a crowd favourite until today.
And what about the future? “We have various artistes from all over the country and the sub-continent in the pipeline.”
And as I pick up my notebook and camera to leave and Tony’s soothing voice repeats the lyrics of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, I say to myself when Frank Sinatra sang “I did it my Way”, he must have had people like Tony Fourie in mind.