Biographical NotesFor Iceberg Slim
Iceberg Slim, also known as
Robert Beck,was born as
Robert Lee Maupinin Chicago, Illinois on August 4th, 1918.He spent much of his childhood in Milwaukee and Rockford, Illinoisbefore returning to Chicago as a teenager.
His father having abandoned them, Slim's mother supported the family by working as a domestic and operating a beauty shop. He credits his mother for having prepared him for the pimp lifestyle by pampering him during his childhood.
Iceberg attended Tuskegee Institute briefly in the mid 1930's, at the same time
Ralph Ellisonwas there, however they did not know one another.
At 18, Robert began his initiation into "
the life", adopting his
nom de guerre,"Iceberg Slim"and remained a pimp until age 42, predominantly in the Chicago area. He was incarcerated several times in conjunction with his crimes, including a stretch in
Leavenworthand spent a 10 month prison sentence in solitary confinement at Cook County House of Corrections in 1960. It was this last stretch that finally motivated Iceberg to "
square up", and take to writing about his life experiences rather than pursuing a life of crime.
Slim moved to California in the 1960's to pursue the a normal life, and changed his name to
Robert Beck, using the last name of the man his mother was married to at the time.
He published his first autobiographical novel,
Pimp: The Story of My Lifein 1969 published by
Holloway House. He found his book being shelved next to other black authors of the angry 60's like
Soul On Iceand
The Autobiography of Malcolm X. As the climate shifted to the more militant black political movements in the 1970's, Slim had an opportunity to meet
Huey Newtonand other members of the
Black Panther Party, whom he admired greatly. He considered his success as a pimp as a blow against white oppression. The Black Panthers, however, had little mutual regard for Slim, considered his former profession as little more than theexploitation of his people for personal gain.
Slim's books were met with great success and immediatelygarnered widespread attention. The film rights to
Pimpwere purchased by
Universal Picturesfollowing the success of
The Godfather, however the project was considered "too hot" and put on hold indefinitely. However, in 1973
Trick Babywas made into a
filmdirected by Larry Yust. The cast included Kiel Martin as "White Folks"; Mel Stewart as "Blue Howard"; and Ted Lange as "Melvin the Pimp". [
: I just found out that this was recently released on
video- check your local (cool) independently owned video store, or
There have been rumors that a film based on
Pimpis now in production, with both
Ice Cubevying for the leading role. By the way, both "Ices" cite Iceberg Slimas an early inspiration, and paid homage to him by adopting his name.
: It looks like Ice Cube has gotten the part for the upcoming film, check outthis
articlefrom MTV.com, though since this is dated May 2000, the production may have beenpostponed. Here's another (undated)
blurbfrom Rolling Stone.
Iceberg Slim passed away April 28, 1992 at age 73.
Hustler's Glossary (excerpt)
One of the more entertaining aspects of Slim's books are the glossaries in the back which define key terms of "
the life". These glossaries have become important sources for dictionaries of slang and studies on black English, in which he is cited repeatedly as a source.These definitions come from
Pimp: The Story of My Life.
: pimp's main woman, his foundation
: a whore's first trick of a working day
: small-time, one whore pimp
: to get out of the life
to pull someone's coat
: to inform and teach
Iceberg Slim may seem like an unlikely success, however his gritty depictions of the life in the mean streets of Chicagoin the 40's and 50's have a virtually universal appeal. To date, Slim'sbooks have sold more than 6 million copies making him one of the most successful black American authors in history.
Ironically, despite his commercial success, and his status as a "local hero" to kids on the street, he remained an outsider in the "square" black community, leading him to comment: "I am a loner to the extent that I put my own shadow outside the door and lock it out."
His novels, however, were included in a literature course at
Harvard Universitycalled "The Rogue Novel". Despite his criminal trade, and his now
politically incorrectattitude towards women, his rags to riches story remains uniquely American, full of jazz age color and character.
His books, translated into German, Spanish and French have captured the imagination of European readers as much as they have in America.
The Biography Project's
Black Powerauthor listcites dozens of great books written by angry black men.
Archived Articleson Iceberg Slim
A 1972 interview of Iceberg Slim from the Los Angeles Free Press.
A 1973 interview of Iceberg Slim from the Washington Post.
An October 1992 article about Iceberg Slim from Esquire Magazine.
A 1992 article from The Guardian (UK) on Slim's death.
An undated (probably 1992) article about Slim's life from Cash Box. (A coin-op music trade magazine.)
(Has several factual errors)
Draft of First Chapter of Dr. Peter Muckley's Iceberg Slim Biographyfrom
Iceberg Slim, The Life as Art
, to be published by Dorrance.
online resourcesfor Iceberg Slim
Cast and creditsinformation on
Trick Babyfrom the Internet Movie Database.
Possibly the best, most complete analysis of Iceberg Slim. Unfortunately, it's in German.
Essaywritten by "Tosh" on Iceberg Slim and posted in the
Miskatonic.orgRARA-AVIS archives, which are devoted to the discussion of hard-boiled and noir fiction.
Articleon pimping from
Africana.com. Excellent read.
www.icebergslim.com: Holloway House, Iceberg Slim's publisher, steps into the 21st century with this website, currently under construction (7-17-99), but I have high hopes... In the mean time, check out
Another foreign site on Iceberg Slim,
http://www.liberation.fr/livres/98juil/980709slim.html, this one is in French. The funny thing is, I think the author cribbed from this page, but maybe not, my French is pretty rusty.
www.pimpsup.com: The official site for"
Pimps Up, Ho'sDown" a 1998 documentary featuring profiles of several pimps. I haven't seen this yet.
Hookers, Hustlers, Pimps and Their Johns: Internet Movie Database link for this 1993 documentary (not much there...) Weirdly enough this is credited to the same director as
To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar
www.cs.oberlin.edu/students/pjaques/etext/prison-guide.html: The Black People's Prison Survival Guide. Enough said.
www.canongate.co.uk: The site for Payback Press, the UK publisher of Slim's work, as well as a number of other great titles.
www.wwnorton.com/osb/: Norton's Old School Books site. This imprint is an excellent source on other black authors, including
Robert Deane Pharr, author of
Giveadamn Brownas well as numerous other black authors such as
Clarence Cooper, Jr., and
Josh Alan Friedman'stribute to Iceberg Slim at the WMFU site.
Findagrave.com'sPictures of Iceberg Slim's burial place.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale (Los Angeles County), California.
www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Palms/8392/: Homepage for "Iceberg Slim 1998" an Arizona band formerly known as "Jedi Mind Trick". Uh oh guys, watch out for those copyrighted names....
newsflash:Theyhave gone back to using Jedi Mind Trick.
www.icebergslim450.cjb.net: official homepage for "Iceberg Slim", a white wrestler. I hope someone kicks this fat fuck's ass. Apparently part of his gimmick is to bleed a lot. It's obviously fake. The very existence of this person using Iceberg Slim as a stage name just pisses me off.
'Iceberg Slim': a "pro" wrestler
Complete Bibliography of Iceberg Slim
don't forget to check out the amazon.co.uk
Iceberg Slim bibliography
Iceberg Slim in Spanish
Pimp:Memorias de un Chulo: 1998, published by
Barcelona, Spain. (Trans. Eduardo Fuentes; Intro. Dr. Peter A. Muckley)
Trick Baby: 2000, published by
Anagrama, Barcelona, Spain. (Trans. Eduardo Fuentes; Intro. Dr. Peter A. Muckley)
Related Secondary Texts
American Pimp: Hughes Brothers' documentary, supposed to be excellent, though I haven't seen it. (by the Hughes Brothers directors of
Menace II Society,
Dead Presidents, and
From Hell) Available on DVD.
Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Originally, part of an HBO documentary. Available on DVD. Also check out
Pimpology Uncut: The Movie.
Prison Writing In the 20th Centuryby H. Bruce Franklin. This contains an excerpt by Slim from
The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim, as well as dozens of other incarcerated authors.
Darius James:A fantastic source book on the entire
blaxploitationfilm genre, including one of the last interviews with Iceberg Slim (1990) and information on Trick Baby AKA Double Con, a 1973
filmrelease, which was recently release on video.
The Life : The Lore and Folk Poetry of the Black Hustler: by Dennis Wepman. An ethnographic analysis of the 'toast' (now called 'rap') of incarcerated black hustlers, including Iceberg Slim, kept in print by
Holloway House,of course.
The Pimp's Bible: Sweet Science of Sin
Turning Pro: A Guide to Sex Work for the Ambitious and the IntriguedWritten by an ex-hooker.
Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its WomenInteresting look at the life of the whores in Nevada's legal brothels.
Hookers, Tricks and CopsInside look at the relationship between law enforcement and prostitution, written by an ex-vice squad cop.
Prostitution: On Whores, Hustlers and JohnsPublished by Prometheus books, known for their upfront, no holds approach, no subject too racy. In other words, buy this book.
The Brothel Bible: A small press "tell-it-like-is" book about the industry.
Red Light: Inside the Sex Industry: A fancier book, aesthetically pleasing, lots o' glossy photos. Almost too slick for the subject matter.
The Art of Mackin': Tariq "K-Flex" Nasheed. Apparently a bit more humorous than biographical.
The Pimp's Rap: A True Story: by The Master Pimp. Well, the
Trickshot: The Story of a Black Pimp: A tell-it-all book by Randolph Harris, originally published in the early 80's.
Black Players: The Secret World of Black Pimps: by Christina Millner. Black Players is an out of print book which I believe has a section devoted to Iceberg Slim in it, at any rate it is of corollary interest. I've never been able to find it.
Too Short: Shorty the Pimp at the Player's Ball (1992) : Rap star Too $hort, live at the Player's Ball.
Author: Patrick Deese