The Breakfast Club

In Galveston, it's coffee, a newspaper and a blow job on the way to work

If she sees a man in uniform driving a company car, she calls the number on the vehicle and tells his boss. The many men she's ratted out include city employees, a Schindler elevator repairman and a Galveston Community College security guard.

"These girls are working constantly," she says. "I don't think they even brush their teeth or rinse their mouth before jumping into another car."

Mary Willis writes down the license plate numbers of 
men who pick up prostitutes.
Daniel Kramer
Mary Willis writes down the license plate numbers of men who pick up prostitutes.
Elisabeth Willis videotapes prostitutes working on her 
Daniel Kramer
Elisabeth Willis videotapes prostitutes working on her street.

John Gulley, a retired real estate broker, lives one street away from Willis in a two-bedroom cottage built in 1914. From his front porch, he can see the ocean.

Four years ago, the house was a crack den. "They had prostitutes working out of it," Gulley says. Living this close to the beach, prostitution is expected, he says. "It's a tourist town."

Since Gulley doesn't have a big yard, he's set up a tool shop on the porch as he renovates and rebuilds the house. Prostitutes walk by while Gulley is working on the porch. He says hello, they say hello. They always ask him how he's doing. "They're friendly," he says.

His wife, a retired corporate secretary, Mary Louise Gulley, adds, "I guess they have to be."

The neighborhood is much like Houston's Sixth Ward. There are historic homes meticulously renovated and painted bright Easter-basket colors. Next door are shacks that are rotting and falling apart. On almost every street, neighbors can identify a crack house.

Women who live in the neighborhood avoid walking alone because men try to pick them up. One neighbor says the city is cutting down oleander bushes because of "activities" occurring in them. Around the corner, a man says he can't pause at a stop sign without being propositioned. Another resident says she often sees crack whores waiting for parents on the edge of the school zone.

Almost everyone says the same thing when asked about the prostitutes: They're a part of the neighborhood -- just like the seagulls. They're always out, morning and night.

And try as they might, the cops can't get rid of them. If someone calls the cops about a prostitute, by the time an officer arrives the hooker has gotten into another car and driven away. "Only the good Lord, the Creator, can clean it all up," says Luebirdia Gee, a retired housekeeper.

The man who lives across the street from the Gulleys used to call the cops to complain about prostitutes all the time. The Gulleys have never filed a complaint. "We were concerned if we turned them in, whoever they were controlled by would retaliate," Mary Louise Gulley says.

The Gulleys don't live in Galveston full time, but they know who the regular prostitutes are. The new ones, John Gulley says, usually have a man walking with them, or riding a bike "showing them the route."

"You see them starting out and they're strutting and frisky, and then you see them go down," he says. "You see them again and again."

The couple repeats that the prostitutes don't give them any trouble. "But we don't like to have them around," Mary Louise Gulley says.

When a flowerpot was stolen from the front porch, John Gulley told the whores that if more things were stolen, he was going to get rid of the prostitutes. The women asked around and helped him locate the thief.

Robbie McBee walks her husband to work -- he's a mechanic at the Shell station. Then she buys herself a pack of menthol Newports and a Dolly Madison prepackaged cinnamon roll.

Around 7:45 a.m. she's heading home to take a shower. As she walks along the seawall, a man in a dirty white van who looks like Mel from Alice slows to her pace. "Want a cup of coffee?" he asks, through the open window.

"Coffee?" she repeats. "No."

"That's my old, old trick," she says. "He knows I don't like coffee."

She tells him she's not working anymore. He used to take her out to eat, she says. McBee is 42 years old. She has hazel eyes and long dark hair streaked with gray and a few splashes of white paint. She wears silver rings on her fingers, green glitter nail polish and bright blue eye shadow. She has about a dozen stray chin hairs and only three teeth. The rest were knocked out about a year ago. McBee says she got into a car with two guys and one put a gun to her head. She tells the story like she's Dirty Harry, claiming she told them to make her day before she jumped out of the moving car. She knocked out her teeth, cut herself up and came home covered in blood. "My son told me next time, I'll get killed," she says.

When she worked, McBee walked around wearing the same outfits she wears now. Just pants, sneakers and a loose T-shirt. "I ain't dressing up like a hoochie mama wearing junk clothes," she says.

Twenty years ago, she was a school cafeteria cook in Hitchcock. She dated her husband for three months before they got married. She has four kids. Three were raised by her sister. She says the eldest was taken from her when he was four years old. "Because I was on drugs."

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Concentrate on exposing and arresting the johns and confiscating their vehicles, and bust the crack dealers big time. Business and then the crack supply will dry up and move somewhere else.

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