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The Soul of Super Pimp

He's the top draw on Cleveland's nightlife circuit. But seriously, who is this guy?

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"She was really looking at me to see who I am and what I'm about," he says today. "I took her back that weekend, then looked at myself in the mirror and said, 'Let's talk about who you are. You need to get off your ass and make something happen.'"

Over the radio, an ad for Progressive said the insurance giant was hiring in sales. Toth called in, lit up the old charm, and BS'ed his way to Cleveland for an interview. Soon, he was offered a job and relocated to Mentor. Once the first paycheck came in, it was time to see what local nightlife had to offer.

***

Toth likes to keep his true age in his back pocket, but he's not shy about having more rings on his trunk than most guys at the bar. Still, he cuts a young image: Under the suits, he's army fit, with a Key West tan and a ferociously spiked crown of close-cropped hair, smudged only with the slightest birthmark streak of white.

But even though he's running at top condition, his schedule is an unyielding grind. He goes out at least four nights a week. His regular haunts are the West Sixth slam-dunks: Velvet Dog, Barley House, and the Blind Pig. During the summer, he's big on Shooters, the lone remaining vestige of 1990s hedonism on the West Bank of the Flats.

Before he got custody of Kelley, he was working a shift at Progressive that ended at 9 p.m. Not one for a late start, Toth used to haul his suits into work, then change in the Progressive bathrooms at quitting time.

"My co-workers used to be able to set their watches by me," he says. Since he's become a full-time dad, he ends most days at five, heads home, and cooks his daughter dinner before heading out. If he's swinging through downtown on a weeknight, he never begs off work the next day: It's always back at his desk by 8 a.m., clear of mind or otherwise.

An evening on the town for Super Pimp doesn't look much like your average shitface; it's more about restraint and diligence. He puts in time at every club, whether he wants to or not. And he watches what he downs. Bourbon is his regular choice, augmented with occasional Snakebites — the Jack and lime juice shot he prefers. He also knows when it's time to pull back in order to drive home safely.

And he's always alone. Sometimes a crew collects at his side for a few stops, but mostly it's a solo act. So it goes romantically: Toth is single and plans to keep it that way. He's had his share of serious relationships; today, he says, it's just not realistic. Not that he doesn't get offers, or have to fend off bedroom eyes or grab-ass. "When a really nice woman makes a play, I just make a joke or say I'm not all I'm cracked up to be," he says with a laugh. "Something that doesn't let them down in a cruel way. But it's a defense mechanism for me to keep at arms' length."

But don't think he's lonely. When he's making the rounds, people often come up asking who's he's with. "Take a look around," he'll say. "I'm with everybody."

***

Super Pimp's two worlds are colliding, and he's beaming once again.

Everyone is piled into a suburban kitchen in North Royalton, 180 degrees from the Warehouse District. The house belongs to Toth's sister Carole and her husband. About 15 members of the Toth clan are here, juggling beers and tipping plates of pizza and wings. Smack in the middle of this snapshot of a family Saturday, Super Pimp struts about in his pinstriped robe-suit.

"David is always the butt of every joke," shrugs Carole, a retired English teacher who still calls her brother by the name their parents used. "Once the family starts in on him, it does not stop. But it just bounces off him."

"He's always wanted to be right in the middle of everything, man," echoes brother Dan. "Does he still drop down and do the one-handed push up?"

He's asking a group of outsiders hugging the wall: five 20- and 30-year-old guys here on Super Pimp's invite, who are nodding in the affirmative.

"Old-school fans from way back," Super Pimp explains. "They enjoy it. That's the beauty to me. People say, 'How do you go out? You work all the time, you're a single dad, you own a home ... how do you go out four times a week?'" he says with a smile knocked down a few notches in wattage, his confidence overshadowed by gratitude. "Because it's the fans that drive me, and how happy it makes people. And that makes me happy. It's an inspiration to me."

Fans — he drops the word a lot when talking about the parade of faces that pass by each night, the people who want photos or fill his ear with drunken recitations of their life story. But Super Pimp doesn't saddle the word with ego; he's a gusher of appreciation toward anyone who throws a little love his way.

One guy here, Paul Nget, actually minted the name "Super Pimp." In 2004, Nget was puttering around MySpace when he noticed an older guy in neon suits showing up in all his friends' pictures on the town. He decided to make a MySpace page for the stranger and pulled out the name Super Pimp at random. The next day, he had hundreds of friend requests, and more the following day. When he saw the newly crowned Super Pimp himself, he filled him in on the phenomenon.

"He was super-cool about it," says Nget, who doesn't go out much these days. "A month later, I ran into him again, and people were in line to take pictures with him, going 'Super Pimp! Super Pimp!'"

Among the family members who take Super Pimp in stride is Toth's own daughter, Kelley. Whereas most teens might cringe if their father's social life were as amped up as Toth's, she just politely shrugs it off. "He's just always been this way," she says. "This is nothing new."

***

When was the last time you waited in line at a club?"

"Probably the '60s," Super Pimp answers as he slips past the bouncer manning the gates at Anatomy, a windowless club-bunker with curvaceous white decor that wouldn't be out of place on the Starship Enterprise. Inside, a party for Crav vodka is limping to a start. Only a few dancers populate the open floor; the VIP area is gathering dust.

Crav is a touchy spot right now for Super Pimp. He's in negotiations to become a sort of figurehead for the locally distilled vodka, but the two sides can't agree on the value of his stamp of approval. It seems Crav isn't quite sure what they'd be buying. Despite the stalemate, Super Pimp wanted to stop by as a friendly gesture.

A couple of years back, as his status on the Cleveland scene swelled, Toth had a feeling he could harness the reaction he sparks into an actual business. The specifics were less clear — the main head-scratcher being how exactly do you hang a profit model around the life of the party?

But then Super Pimp crossed paths with Sorin Bica, a Romanian-born go-getter who co-owns a local marketing firm. Once the two put their heads together, the ideas for Super Pimp Co. started flowing: plans for endorsements, appearances, websites, music videos, clothing lines, a fragrance, charity work, reality TV. They've already made some strides. In October, Super Pimp broke the champagne bottle over a sharp new website featuring pictures and first-person accounts of his exploits past and present. They celebrated the launch with a Pimp and Pimpettes Party at Barley House, an event they hope to make annual.

Nowadays, Super Pimp sightings don't just happen outside of his normal carousing schedule. He commands a small fee for personal appearances at birthday parties and other events. He's also steadily grooved into charity work. But if he stepped it up to full time, as Toth explains it, he'd essentially be a cruise director for a client's festivities, dispatching his personality to make sure the party's pulse stays quick.

It's a bit of a gamble, mainly because so much of the impact he makes on a room has a see-it-to-believe-it quality that doesn't jump out as particularly tangible in the face of tight marketing budgets. But Super Pimp is betting his value will be appreciated: This spring, he's chopping down his hours at Progressive in order to free up more pimp time.

"This," he says gravely, palms up to encompass not only the now-teeming dance floor, but the entirety of the Saturday night that's simmering to a boil all over town, "is my dream."

***

After the West Sixth clubs have declared last call, the throngs empty out into the street and gravitate toward Panini's for their first chewable sustenance of the evening. Inside, girls shamble two-by-two for support, as if they're finishing drunken three-legged races. Guys angrily stare out from behind dawning hangovers. A crossfire of barks and laughs echoes through the room.

Super Pimp is here, making a final appearance. A tall guy in his late twenties steps into his face, his voice pushing out with a slightly aggressive edge. "What do you do?"

The night hasn't slowed Super Pimp's ready response: "It ain't easy."

"No, I mean what do you do? What's your deal? You've got these suits," he slurs, slightly more angrily now. "You must do something, you've got the money for the suits. What do you do?"

Toth gently sets a hand on the guy's shoulder, then leans in, his face done up in the softer smile he uses when he's being sincere. "It's not about the suits. It's not about money. I'm just me."

The guy stares for a moment, then mumbles something incomprehensible into Super Pimp's ear before trucking for the door. And Super Pimp's eyes start dancing again.

"He'll get it someday."

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