Oronde Gibson, 43, doorman and manager at Club Fluid

Posted: August 22, 2014

THE BIG GUY with the imposing dreads and the fierce demeanor at the door of the nightclub could be intimidating - if you didn't know him.

But as those regulars who got to know Oronde Gibson could tell you, he was a "lovable bear."

Oronde was the manager and guardian of the door at the former Club Fluid on South 4th Street, a nightclub popular with fans of hip-hop, soul and rap, delivered by exuberant DJs, who made the records shriek like bouncing banshees.

The crowd loved it. By midnight, the small dance floor was jammed, you had to wait in line to get a drink and the noise level was just this side of unbearable.

Oronde ruled this wild kingdom with his bulk and personality, and loyal patrons were well-aware that this bear of a man loved them all.

Fluid closed in April 2013 after 14 years, and the legend that was Oronde Gibson went with it.

He died Aug. 14 of cardiac arrest. He was 43 and lived in Camden.

"When Club Fluid got shut down, I think it crushed Oronde," Mike Trampe, promoter and social-media director, wrote in a blog. "Fluid was Oronde and Oronde was Fluid. I will miss him dearly, but his memories will live on."

Oronde was a legend in the world of hip-hop, where DJs and entertainers go by names like Questlove, Dieselboy, Jazzy Jeff, Psydde Delicious, Ultraviolet and Flygirl, and the music is a thumping beat of barely restrained hysterics.

"Oronde was a great person, a kind soul, and just overall an awesome guy," Mike Trampe wrote. "I wish there were more people like him in the world. He saw people for who they were, not what they were. He didn't judge, he didn't hold grudges."

Oronde, who was born and grew up in Camden and served in the Army during Desert Storm, arrived at Club Fluid as a patron, took a job as head of security and eventually became the manager.

As he saw it, his job was to maintain peace and order in what could have been a disorderly scene. But he did it with understanding and compassion.

He was a great conversationalist and if he liked you, he could keep you engaged in talk for hours on a variety of subjects, ranging from music, sports, civil rights, politics, philosophy - you name it.

Some patrons arrived at Fluid to catch the music, and wound up standing outside talking with Oronde.

Bill Chenevert, a writer and longtime friend of Oronde, collected comments about his death for an online blog.

"Oronde was one of the most interesting and authentic human beings I ever met," said George Lawrence, of DL Productions. "His humility and integrity will always be inspiring. I missed some of my favorite DJs standing in the freezing cold having some of the best conversations of my life."

He posted on Facebook, "We all felt safe at Fluid, not because they had the biggest, toughest dudes in the city but because they had one of the realist. Having Oronde at the door is what always set the vibe for the rest of the night."

DJ Apt One (Michael Fichman) called Oronde "a man of rare quality. I can count on one hand the people that I have met in my life who have been so universally loved and admired."

"This man was filled with love," DJ Cosmo Baker said.

Laiya St. Clair, who hosts the morning show on WPHI-FM, or Hot 107.9, said Oronde "was a huge man with a huge heart and a beautiful face," she said. "A lot of times I went to Fluid and never made it inside. I was stuck outside talking to Oronde."

After Fluid closed, Oronde held similar positions at several other local clubs, but it was unlikely he ever found what he had at Fluid.

Oronde graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden. He is survived by his mother, Jennifer Gibson. Information on other survivors was not immediately available.

Services: Were last night.

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