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

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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"There's another one over there," he says, waving a furtive pinkie toward a lone woman near the bar flanked by a squad of gym-swollen guys.

By now, photo requests are part of the game. He debuted his eyesore suits in the early '80s, and today his wardrobe is a mind-bending grab bag: from acid-trip colors to Magic Eye patterns to Mad Hatter cuts. Eyewitnesses want to bring home the evidence on their cameras, so much so that Super Pimp can read any crowd, spot body language or stray glances — the twin giveaways someone's warming up the nerve to approach him.

Even the subtlest hints don't slip his eye, like the woman he's just pointed out. She's volleying around flirtations from her companions and hasn't even flicked one random eye in Super Pimp's direction yet.

"I like to say now I'm a Kardashian, 'cause I've got no talent, but I'm famous for being famous," he says through a laugh.

Super Pimp has a way of swashbuckling through his sentences, working the words around winks and grins for emphasis, building toward the inevitable punch line. But when the topic settles on why he does what he does, Toth is purely candid. It's clear he treats having a good time — or more precisely, helping others have a good time — as serious business.

He isn't whipped up by decadence or a need to be seen. When he's on the town, he's drawing on the same circuit of energy he discovered all those years ago onstage; here, West Side Story is swapped for West Sixth. But Super Pimp isn't a character Mike Toth is playing. There's no distance between the moniker and the man.

"There's not a day where I can't be me," he says. "It's not because everything is perfect with me. It's because every day is a choice; every day is bringing people happiness around you. Even if you're having a bad day, it brings the positive back to you."

Super Pimp believes he's a walking, talking example of "testicular fortitude," his shorthand for having the stones to be who you are without caring squat about what everyone else thinks. If he's sitting out on the far edge of ridiculous, he hopes others will be inspired enough to do their own thing too.

"One of my favorite sayings is: Life begins where your comfort zone ends. You don't really start living your life truly until you step out of your comfort zone, where you're roboting along. Everything that you have, everything that you've learned, everything that you are — you bring that out. Now that's life."

Easy as it might be to toss all this aside as greeting-card hokum, in practice it's working pretty well. It's hard to be around Super Pimp and still chew over cares or worries. He's too relentlessly positive, too happy; everyone who bumps into him walks away with faces stretched into genuine grins. After a few drinks, his avuncular lines start ringing as true as tao; after a few more, you begin to think he's peeked under the skirt of life's essential truths and lived to tell the tale.

And before he can settle up the bill, that woman taps Super Pimp on the shoulder and asks for a picture.

***

It's a swift kick to your self-esteem, crisscrossing the Pacific with national secrets on your wrist one day and being just another dude from Lorain the next. The steadiest gig Toth kept for a while was bouncing drunks from an Amherst bar.

He never really hammered out ambitions after the army. Instead, he surfed through the late '70s and early '80s, riding out entrepreneurial rolls of the dice. Thanks to his family-bred confidence, he never doubted he could get something going; thanks to the army, he was resourceful.

Eventually he landed in Phoenix, where he sold stereos. Sometimes he'd just walk into a wholesaler, see what was lying around on discount and take a crack at selling it. When the bank account was low, he'd try something else.

"If I had money, I was in the comfort zone. But what really got my creative juices going is when I didn't have any money. Then I knew I would have to go out and let everything flow to make something happen. The whole thing was not to work hard."

Toth's life was a tightrope walk between flush and bust, but the stakes didn't weigh heavily. He was too busy waterskiing, motorcycling, or chasing ladies through Phoenix's clubs to let anything eat at him. And when life eventually did bring him low, he leaned on the good times as a crutch.

One afternoon in '83, he was zooming around town on his bike, when he decided to steer it back home. Whether it was dumb luck or a feel for family that ran deeper than words could explain, the choice proved prophetic. He was back in Ohio by September; on Christmas Eve, Toth's beloved mom had a debilitating stroke, a turn of events that shoots tears through his eyes 19 years later.

By the mid-'90s, he had bottomed out: After following an ill-fated romance to Alliance, he became a fixture in the bars there, a standout in eye-catching suits. But what no one knew down in small-town Stark County was that when Mike Toth called it a night, he went home to an unheated trailer, threw himself on a mattress, and let his problems blot out everything else.

He couldn't get a job. Both parents were dead. Cancer took down a couple of close buddies. The only bright spot was also tinged with pain: His daughter Kelley was born in '94, but his chance at fatherhood was chopped up into occasional weekends due to a bruising custody dispute. Toth passed the days shivering under blankets, waiting for the evening when he could put on a suit and fool everyone into thinking nothing was off. It went on like that for six months.

One day while his baby girl was visiting, Toth played ball with her in the yard. There was a change in the child's face when she looked his way, something that told Toth she was sizing him up.

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