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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Former Cabbie Recalls Night in Hell…In Taxi No. 666

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2007 at 9:15 AM


“Some weird things happened that night…”

By Joe Eskenazi

You may recall the tempest in a taxi that was raised when God-fearing local cabbie Michael Byrne unsuccessfully attempted to have the Taxi Commission change his medallion from No. 666 to a number that’s not the Mark of the Beast.

Well, things went badly for Byrne. He lost his bid and was ridiculed by his fellow cabbies in the process. But one of his former brethren can understand why Byrne wouldn’t have wanted to drive about the town in the Devil’s Taxi. Larry Sager is now a downtown San Francisco lawyer, but 12 years ago he spent a memorable night of his own behind the wheel of Cab No. 666.

“The dispatcher gave me a choice…

between No. 666 and another cab. He laid these two medallions out. I could take either of those cabs. He didn’t even want to say ‘666,’” recalled Sager with a chuckle.

“Well, I went and looked at the cabs and, of course, 666 was in much better condition and had far fewer miles on it. So that’s what I based my decision on.”

Besides, fear of a fiery demise doesn’t work on Sager – he’s from Detroit. And all that “Mark of the Beast” stuff from the New Testament? He’s Jewish.

Still, “Some weird things happened that night.

click to enlarge sager01small.jpg

“A lot of people stopped me or were walking by shouting ‘Oh, 666 – it’s the Beastmaster!’ There were a couple of people who refused to get in the cab. They hailed me and then they wouldn’t get in,” recalled Sager, who has documented his taxi-driving years with a largely autobiographical novel titled “No Guns, No Knives, No Personal Checks.”

“One guy who did get in started telling me stories about his adventures being a hotel clerk in the Tenderloin and finding Magnum .357s hidden in rooms or behind the walls and people robbing them. Weird things.”

Finally, Sager saw a vision of hell -- A horrific accident took place that night and even a dozen years later he remembers the intersection: Clay and Franklin.

It’s a memory that won’t die because, with his devilish luck, he ended up driving one of the victims’ mothers to the scene.

Sager drove cabs around San Francisco for a couple more years before heading off to law school at the University of Michigan, but he never sat behind the wheel of No. 666 again. And, in his opinion, no one should if they don’t want to.

“Hey, with my background, 666 was a total joke. But there are people out there who have problems with that number,” he said.

“But me, personally, I was born in the 13th. So that stuff never hit home.”

Photo of Larry Sager | Joe Eskenazi

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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