At that point, circa 1990, there were quite a few hookers working San Pablo Ave. around Gilman St.; they've since moved south to Alcatraz and the Oakland city limits. They migrated. All the working girls moved south to Oakland, and I'm not sure why. I'd rather get arrested in Berkeley --- for anything --- than in Oakland.
But when I was in Berkeley, there were plenty of hookers. I used to hang out with one in particular named Crystal --- that's what she said her name was, anyway --- when she was taking time off. We'd sit in the bus shelter at the corner of San Pablo and Gilman, splitting a bottle of whatever and cadging cigarettes from each other. I taught her how to roll Bugler tobacco, always a money-saver. I'd ask her how business was, she would ask me how things at the club were going. She was curious about the club being a potential source or business, until I pointed out that both poverty and a median age of about nineteen made it a poor source of customers.
Most of her business was conducted in the parking lot of the Golden Gate Fields racetrack. She preferred working in the john's car on side streets, which was safer for her but riskier for the john: he only needed some nosy neighbor getting his plate and calling the cops for his night to go to hell. Her night could go to hell at the track courtesy of any psycho with a gun or blade, resulting in her being raped and robbed.
We were discussing this dilemma when a thought occurred to me: Sunday through Thursday after 10:30 p.m., the club was empty except for me. I could check johns for weapons and be on guard with my bat --- all she'd have to do is scream and I'd start whaling on anything with a penis. This was worth five bucks a trick to her, and I could use the money.
We got to try this idea out within twenty minutes. Some guy pulled up and asked if Crystal was working, she replied in the affirmative, and she had a place for them to go. We drove down to 8th and Gilman, I let everyone in, then told him I was going to check him for weapons, nothing personal sir, just a safety precaution. He was nervous about the surroundings, but that was no surprise: there was a whole lot of Krylon in that room. I let them in the office (which had the best sofa) and told them to enjoy.
Fifteen minutes later they emerged, the john asking the way to the bathroom. I pointed him towards the men's, and Crystal to the women's. Minus the five for me, she was up $45 (suck, fuck, he went down on her). We got a ride back up to the corner.... And did the same thing within fifteen minutes. This was just a suck, so she only came out of it with with $15, $20 minus my $5. The next one was an all-nighter at one of the motels, so my services weren't needed.
Over the next couple weeks I made about $40 per night, keeping the club "open" until three in the morning....
.... Then my business doubled. Another girl Crystal knew wanted to avail herself of my services, for the same reason: safety. Hey, no problem The sofas in the "store" weren't quite as nice, but serviceable for their need. So sometimes I'd have two in the club, at the same time, me hanging out on the stage reading until it was time to unlock the door for someone.
Then a third, and a fourth girl liked the idea of having a safe place to work. I was getting rather busy.
And what do you do when you get busy? Expand!
I "acquired" a cooler that I loaded with bottles of Miller and ice, three bucks each (hey, bar prices). I also managed to get a big bag of condoms from the Free Clinic, which were distributed to the johns when they came in. We ran into a problem with crowding: there was the office, the store, and the loft.... And if there was a fourth girl working, her and the john would have to wait until one of the spaces opened up. I'd sell the john (and sometimes the girl) a beer and give them a tour of the club, explaining the artwork, turn on some mellow music like Marvin Gaye or Al Green, and chat with the couple waiting for space. On the rare occasions someone had a pistol I'd remove the ammunition, returning it to him as he left (knives too would also be returned). I would explain that weapons were not allowed, period, and to a man, there were no objections. I was mannerly but forceful about not having weapons in the same room with the girls. It was my job to keep the girls safe ---- hence the bat --- and as I said, this was accepted. I ended up with two pistols, a .38 Colt and a piece of shit .25 both abandoned by drunks. I held on to the .38 and gave the .25 to Crystal, who worked a lot of motels and could stand the protection. Crystal wasn't bad looking and could use the extra safety. I offered the .38 to the other three girls, but they didn't want it. Given my job, it made the most sense for me to hold onto it, tucking it in my belt for display while I checked them for weapons., just a quick pat-down and frisk for guns and blades.
I only had to bounce three guys the whole time I did that job, all three due to violence on their part. They were drunk and decided punching the girl would be a good idea; I dissuaded them of that idea by putting my bat into their kidneys then pushing them out the door with no small measure of effort. Assholes had the gall to not understand why I was bouncing them. Two of the three were how I got the pistols. They were mystified as to why I was upset: "She's just a fuckin' hooker, what's the difference?" I told them their mamas didn't raise them right and to keep out of North Berkeley, spend their time in West Oakland instead. Two of the three assaults were the guy punching the girl in the gut, one was a face shot, fortunately not hard. No damage. I considered opening up on the bastard scumbags, but for sheer pragmatism I got them out the door, put my foot in their ass, and told them to keep out of "my" neighborhood.
Mostly it was just guys leaving bars and feeling horny. Plenty of wedding bands on display. A few actually recognized the club: "Say, this is that punk rock place, isn't it? What's going on here?" "I'm freelancing."
This one little weasel decided the girls needed a pimp, and tried to horn in on their business. He had nothing to offer: I was already providing physical protection, and he didn't have the money for bail if they got arrested --- being off the street protected them from that, too --- so he was totally superfluous. His only qualification was wearing a really ugly suit. I let my hatred of pimps be known. I wouldn't even let him in the building, telling him to fuck off and here's a dollar, go get some coffee at the donut shop. He could sit and nurse his dreams about being Superfly over a cruller.
My only concern was that he did carry a Raven .25 which, as pathetic as it is, will still put holes in a person. I doubted he had ammunition for it, and it was marginally more effective than throwing a handful of gravel. Nonetheless, I let him know about my own .38 Colt and he dropped the subject quickly.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. In this case, it was a drummer who had forgotten his house keys at the club, leaving them in the office. Two girls were working inside. He knocked, I assumed it was one of the other girls showing up with a john.
"Duuude.... What's goin' on??" (He'd marched straight into the office before I could stop him.) I explained I was helping out a couple friends, keeping them safe.
"What's with the cooler of beer? Ya know you can't have beer in the club." I was honest about that: I was selling it to people, and could we discuss this tomorrow? "Um.... Okay...."
The situation was discussed the next day with a couple officers of the club. I explained that what I was doing was helping protect some of the local working girls from robbery, assault, and rape.... And that's not a bad thing, is it?. Sure, I made a bit of money out of it, but that was at their offer, I was hardly functioning as a procurer and certainly not a pimp. (I hate pimps. They should be strung up from light poles, flayed alive and left in the street to be run over by passing cars. Tell me you're a pimp, you'd better have a gun, otherwise you're losing the use of two or three limbs and your jaw. I"m going to put you in a wheelchair for a couple months.) I emphasized my humanitarian focus in what I was doing and apologized for the beer sales. They said that was all fine and sweet, but it didn't change the fact that I was running a brothel out of the damn club. It wouldn't just be me getting in trouble, but the club itself for allowing to happen. The beer sales should be obvious to me.
I kept my girlfriend away from all this, insisting she remain sequestered at her house in San Francisco during the week (she'd come to Berkeley on the weekends: "You got some money now, so we can get a motel room and fuck without my asshole parents jamming us up. Still can't believe those cunt-sacks wouldn't let you crash here when you were living in the goddamn fucking BART station. Fucking shitheads.") She was convinced she'd make an excellent pimp: "I'll wear their cunts smooth, they'll make a fortune."
I wasn't sure now a fourteen year old female pimp would work, but I saw a lot of problems in the idea, the obvious one being johns getting confused about who who was for rent. (We split when she confessed to to pulling a train for four bicycle messenger in exchange for ten hits of Ecstasy: She assumed I'd been getting free rides from the hookers --- bye-bye went any trust we had.) But she was sure she could double their business somehow. They didn't want their business doubled, they had to sleep sometime, and since they operated without pimps, they could work how and when they wanted.... Without a vaguely psychotic teenage girl trying to tell them their job and getting a cut of the money..
I felt terrible breaking the news to them: it was working really well for all involved. They liked the safety, I liked not having to recycle cans and bottles to work up food money. Aw well, sometimes dreams die, other times they hit the fan.