For Iceberg Slim AKA
also known as Robert Beck,
was born as
Robert Lee Maupin in Chicago, Illinois on August 4th, 1918.
He spent much of his childhood in Milwaukee and Rockford, Illinois
before 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 Ellison
was there, however they did not know one another.
At 18, Robert began his initiation into "the life", adopting his
nom de guerre,
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 Leavenworth and 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 Life
in 1969 published by
He found his book being shelved next to other black authors of the
angry 60's like
Soul On Ice
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
and 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 the
exploitation of his people for personal gain.
Slim's books were met with great success and immediately
garnered widespread attention. The film rights to
were purchased by
following the success of
The Godfather, however the project was considered "too hot" and put on hold
indefinitely. However, in 1973
Trick Baby was made into a
directed by Larry Yust. The cast included Kiel Martin as "White Folks"; Mel
Stewart as "Blue Howard"; and Ted Lange as "Melvin the Pimp". [NEWSFLASH:
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
Pimp is now in
production, with both Ice-T
and Ice Cube
vying for the leading role. By the way, both "Ices" cite Iceberg Slim
as an early inspiration, and paid homage to him by adopting his name.
UPDATE: It looks like Ice Cube has gotten the part for the upcoming film, check out
from MTV.com, though since this is dated May 2000, the production may have been
postponed. Here's another (undated)
blurb from 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.
bottom woman: pimp's main woman, his foundation
breaking luck: a whore's first trick of a working day
chili pimp: small-time, one whore pimp
square up: 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 Chicago
in the 40's and 50's have a virtually universal appeal. To date, Slim's
books 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 University
called "The Rogue Novel". Despite his criminal trade, and his now
politically incorrect attitude 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.
for Iceberg Slim
Cast and credits information on
Trick Baby from the Internet Movie Database.
Possibly the best, most complete analysis of Iceberg Slim. Unfortunately, it's in German.
written by "Tosh" on Iceberg Slim and posted in the
Miskatonic.org RARA-AVIS archives,
which are devoted to the discussion of hard-boiled and noir fiction.
on pimping from Africana.com. Excellent
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 www.hollowayhousebooks.com.
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's
Down" 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,
as well as numerous other black authors such as
Clarence Cooper, Jr.,
Read Josh Alan Friedman's tribute to Iceberg Slim at the WMFU site.
Pictures 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....
have gone back to using Jedi Mind Trick.
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
of Iceberg Slim
to check out the amazon.co.uk Iceberg Slim
Iceberg Slim in Spanish
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
Pimp: Hughes Brothers' documentary, supposed to be excellent, though I
haven't seen it. (by the Hughes Brothers directors of Menace
II Society, Dead
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 Century
by H. Bruce Franklin. This contains an excerpt by Slim from
The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim, as well as dozens of other incarcerated authors.
A fantastic source book on the entire blaxploitation
film genre, including one of the last interviews with Iceberg Slim (1990) and information on Trick Baby AKA Double Con, a 1973
release, 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,
The Pimp's Bible: Sweet Science of Sin
Turning Pro: A Guide to Sex Work for the Ambitious and the Intrigued
Written by an ex-hooker.
Brothel: Mustang Ranch and Its Women Interesting look at the life of the
whores in Nevada's legal brothels.
Tricks and Cops Inside look at the relationship between law enforcement
and prostitution, written by an ex-vice squad cop.
Prostitution: On Whores, Hustlers and Johns Published 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.
Art of Mackin': Tariq "K-Flex" Nasheed. Apparently a bit more
humorous than biographical.
Pimp's Rap: A True Story: by The Master Pimp. Well, the cover looks
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.
Short: Shorty the Pimp at the Player's Ball (1992) : Rap star Too $hort,
live at the Player's Ball.
Author: Patrick Deese