Sartorial Satire at Gene Todd’s Pool Room

Dino didn’t compromise fashion for the pool room.

Grown men played the game in work clothes, those who worked at anything. Others were unabashed to dress in rags, if rags were all they had once clothing budgets had been consumed in wine.

We boys—too young to legally inhabit such a den of venial sin and freedom—followed Dino sartorially, dressing for the pool room as we did for high school, color coordinated in Gold Cups, Gant shirts, khaki pants, and Madras.

Gene Todd’s Pool Room had the only underage, fashion-conscious customer base I ever saw in a genuine concrete floored, tobacco smoke choked pool hall, short of certain “billiard parlors,” where even girls were allowed.

At the pool room, we let our shirt tails hang out and rolled our sleeves up. The peacock style we affected decorated and stylized a legendary gambling joint, known among outlaws and road gamblers from New York to Miami. It was an ironic venue for preppy fashion, let alone perfume for men.

We all wore it: English Leather, Jade East, Old Spice . . .

At the pool room, aromas that augmented boys for the company of girls did battle with cherry flavored urinal deodorizer, challenged dead cigar butts, and camouflaged the sweat of boys who gambled beyond their means. We were hot. Ask the tourist girls who came looking for us by the thousands in the summertime.

Each year that passed, we climbed rungs up the ladder of worldly experience ahead of most kids our age. The town we called home was a carnival, a gold rush town. One hundred days a year the tourists arrived with cash. Indeed, the summers were golden, magical. Each year, the town grew rich overnight.

New money loved peacock colors and perfume: bleeding Madras, Gold Cups, and English Leather. We danced to a symphony of cash register bells each summer, and then all winter long, nursed dwindling bank accounts like hangovers, stretching dollar bills till the summer came back.

My hometown never changed. Myrtle Beach was always a carnival, it just got bigger.