Vince — friends call him Vito — picks me up from the hotel I’m staying at in Myrtle Beach, SC. He has a plaid short sleeve shirt held together by the only buttons he crossed successfully over his belly. He looks like a cross between a skinnier Don Vito (of “Viva la Bam” fame) and a man that was hanging way too often around my mother when I was 15.
At the left corner of his mouth he has a yellow stain, as if he just ate his way through a plate of pollen and forgot to rinse. His gray hair is messed every which way. He came to Myrtle Beach from North Carolina and is not about to go back any time soon.
He says he worked in Washington, D.C. about 25 years ago — he was a cab driver there as well. And also sold insurance. And was also a lobbyist. He gambled on the stock market and made lots of money. But then lost it all and had to move. He ran a two-cab company in Chapel Hill. He charged more than other companies, but he says he delivered people on time and was reliable. He charged $60 to get people from Chapel Hill to Durham (a little over 11 miles) and $45 for an airport ride.
In Myrtle Beach he works for the $1.8 per mile that most cabs use. This time of year is shitty for cabbies in Myrtle Beach. Most of the tourists are gone and the golfers are just starting to trickle in. He likes it when he makes $150 a day. Last week was crap. He made $50 Tuesday, $35 Wednesday and $4 Thursday (this is profit after all expenses are deducted).
What helps business is taking guys to the strip club — he gets about $5 a head for every guy he delivers to a strip joint. Strip clubs here are packed at 10 in the morning; mostly golfers trying to get their groove on before they hit the course. Whore houses though are even more profitable. Deliver one guy to the whore house — conveniently disguised as a massage parlor — and you get half of the fee they are charged. That means $40 a pop. Literally a pop if you think about it.
Myrtle Beach is a whore house — that’s why people come here, Vito says. He’s writing a book about it. He says he wrote one about Chapel Hill, but it was a political book. He also just recently got his South Carolina insurance salesman license. Next on his list is a lobbyist license. He’s going to lobby to bring poker machines to Myrtle Beach — he knows some people who make ATMs who also make poker machines.
With New Orleans off the gambling circuit for a while, Myrtle Beach can get in the game and make some money. And video poker could certainly do the trick. And if that doesn’t work, Vito still hopes the Washington Times, his favorite newspaper, will pay him some royalties for an idea he passed on to the editor more than 20 years ago during a cab ride.
Good luck Vito!