Thursday, August 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr Slim!

   If Robert Beck (AKA Iceberg Slim) were alive today, he would be 93 years old.  Even though he died in 1992, Iceberg Slim is still known as one of the world's most famous pimps!  I's kind of a strange claim to fame, but Iceberg Slim documented his life as a pimp through his literature, which gave an experienced voice to the sex-trade industry in the 1960s during a time when prostitution and sexuality were not exactly discussed openly.

   His first book, Pimp, is an autobiographical (but somewhat fictionalized) account of life on the streets.  I read this book a few years ago, and the reality of the violence, poverty, and misogyny involved in the prostitution business is heartbreaking.  I mean, I wasn't expecting it to be a super sweet, heartwarming tale or anything, it's just a little more jarring when you know that Iceberg Slim's accounts are based in the reality of his experience as a pimp for over 20 years.  After several imprisonments, Iceberg Slim changed his name to Robert Beck, got married and left the pimping business behind.  The book was written years after Slim left the business, and in retrospect, he seems incredibly regretful about many of the decision he made that led to his life of crime.  Some of the book even feels like an apology to his wife and the women he employed.  Iceberg Slim went on to write several more books, some of the more famous titles being Mama Black Widow, and Trick Baby.
    The book includes a glossary of lesser known pimping terms to aide readers unfamiliar with the business, which I had to refer to many many times...similar to the Clockwork Orange reading experience.  But be warned, this book contains graphically violent and sexual content.  Still, Pimp is an incredibly valuable piece of literature as it gave a voice to a different facet of the black community and continues to be influential to writers, filmmakers, and artists all over the world.