In 1977, I was the DJ at a new Solana Beach discotheque, The Distillery, when I first met Vince DeGregory Jr. I was new to North County San Diego and excited to spin records and make people dance. The film “Saturday Night Fever” was a box office smash hit. And the rest, they say, was history.
The club was located directly across from the Solana Beach Post Office. This new nightspot was top class, huge and beautifully designed — the best nightclub I ever worked in, without a doubt. As a DJ, I’d spin vinyl records with pulsating lights and work the crowd of more than 600 people into a frenzy.
That’s where I met Vince DeGregory, who hailed from Saratoga Springs, New York. He was tall, handsome, very personable and dapper, always dressed to the nines.
People migrated to Vince — especially women — attracted to his infectious smile and lighthearted demeanor. Full of life, Vince was a natural talent at virtually everything, including being an accomplished jazz trumpet player.
Vince was a jockey’s agent, booking mounts for his represented riders. Over the years, Vince represented nine hall of fame jockeys, including Laffit Pincay, Jr. Together, Vince and Pincay won six consecutive national money titles from 1970 to ‘76.
The first time I met him was at the bar at the club, “The Distillery.” Vince was holding court with a row of beautiful women and a bartop full of drinks nearby. Always tailored in a suit and designer shirts, Vince was right out of a fashion magazine. Being in his company was exceptional and laughter was always part of any conversation.
Many nights he would come in with top-shelf celebrities, such as Jack Klugman, Burt Bacharach, Angie Dickinson and Telly Savalas — everyone loved being close to Vince. Vince was a tremendous storyteller and storyteller and storyteller and had a memory like an elephant. He made you happy by being in his presence.
Since that initial meeting nearly 40 years ago, Vince and I have remained close friends. Not only was he a friend but a mentor to me in the horse racing game. When I first started, I knew nothing, but Vince taught me the ropes and never once did his support wilt after forty-five years of friendship. I consider myself blessed to know such a caring, loving and supreme human being.
In 1995, My radio show debuted in Las Vegas and Vince was my first guest. Just as in ’77, Vince shone like the brightest star as my most treasured interviewee. When I needed advice or information, Vince was always there — he never wavered and treated me like a son.
Last Monday, Vince turned 90 and he is still working on the game he loves and mastered. There isn’t a hall of fame for jockey agents, but if there were, Vince would top the induction list by a country mile.
More importantly, Vince has always been a hall of fame friend to me. Never has he forgotten my birthday — he calls me regularly and keeps me in the loop. If you have one friend like him in life, you won’t worry about the ones you don’t have. Vince has impacted me and to say I love him would be a vast understatement.
When I look back to 1977, I immediately think about my early DJ days. But I also think of the night I met Vince DeGregory Jr., starting a friendship that has lasted my lifetime. No one is closer or better than Vince. When they made him, the mold was broken. And if you were fortunate to be one of his many, many friends. You were better off from the jump.
Vince, here’s to 91, 92 and beyond. You are an endangered species and a true gift to life itself. Thanks for being the man you have always been, not to mention a fantastic mentor and friend.
Quite frankly, there is no one better!