Buy Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim.
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Robert Beck, AKA Iceberg Slim led a career as a pimp. After opting out of his career, Beck cleaned up his act and worked a legit job with the dream of becoming a writer. Pimp: The Story of My Life is his memoir and pinnacle work.
Beck didn’t want the book to become a manual for ghetto youth to get into pimping, but it undoubtedly became that for some. From my point of view, he glamorized his job on accident. If someone is excited by the pimping possibilities from the knowledge in Pimp, that person was probably already inclined to become a pimp before reading the book.
In many ways Slim was born and bred to be a pimp. He was sexually abused by a woman when he was only 3 years old. His mother was left by his father when he was a baby, and she married a devout Christian with ample means. She left the Christian, the only man Slim had loved as a father, for another man. The new man was abusive and took all her money. They were left on their own and Slim was left alone to learn from the streets every night.
These life experiences helped form Slim’s hatred of women necessary for pimping. Here he describes the recurring dream he had in prison, while waiting to get out and try his pimping hand:
I would be very tiny. A gargantuan Christ, in a sea of light, would be towering above me. In his anger his eyes would be blazing blue suns. His silky platinum hair would stand on end in his rage.
Like a crash of summer thunder he would command, ‘Punish this evil woman. Destroy the devil inside her. The Lord so directs thee.’
Eagerly I would grab the heavy whip in both hands. I would bring it down with all my force on the woman’s back. She would just stand there. The scarlet would drain down from her slashed back. She would be standing to her knees in a river of blood.
According to his mentor and infamous Chicago-area pimp, Sweet James Jones:
Slim, pimping ain’t no game of love. Any [pimp] who believes a whore loves him shouldn’t a fell outta his mammy’s ass.
Slim, I hope you ain’t sexed that pretty bitch yet. Believe me, Slim, a pimp is really a whore who’s reversed the game on whores. Slim, be as sweet as the scratch. Don’t be no sweeter. Always stick a whore for a bundle before you sex her. A whore ain’t nothing but a trick to a pimp. Don’t let ’em Georgia you. Always get your money in front just like a whore.
To “Georgia” someone means to take advantage of them sexually with no financial compensation. To be a professional pimp, at least a street pimp in a competitive market like Chicago, the working relationship must be clear from the beginning.
I was amazed at how Slim acquired his first full-time whore. He was fresh out of prison with only a couple dollars, but wearing a flashy suit. A girl at a club offered to buy him a drink. He’d been locked up for two years with no women, no sex. Yet he had the self-control to keep an ice-cold facade. They went back to her apartment, a love nest with marijuana and Billy Holiday on the turntable. But despite his sexual drought, Slim stuck to his script. He demanded money upfront. The girl, who he refers to in the novel as “the runt,” balked.
You stinking black Bitch, you’re a fake. There’s no such thing as a lady in our world. You either got to be a bitch or a faggot in drag. Now Bitch, which is it? Bitch, I’m not a gentleman, I’m a pimp. I’ll kick your funky ass. You gave me first lick. Bitch, you’re creaming to eat me up. I’m not a come freak, you are. I’m a freak to scratch.
At this, she still refused to give him money.
I thought, ‘I’m going to murder this runt black bitch if she don’t give me that scratch …’
She gritted … ‘I have changed my mind. Get your lid and benny and split.’ …
I could feel the tendons at my hip socket straining. My eyes sighted for a heart shot. My needle-toed eleven triple-A shoe rocketed toward her.
The lucky runt turned a fraction of a second in time. The leather bomb exploded into her left shoulder blade. It knocked her flat on her belly. She lay there groaning.
Then like in the dreams in the joint, I kicked her rear end until my leg cramped. Through it all she just moaned and sobbed. I was soaked in sweat. Panting, I lay on the bear-skin beside her. I thrust my mouth against her ear.
In an icy whisper I said, ‘Bitch, do I have to kill you to make you my whore? Get up and give me that scratch.’
She got up and gave him her stashed money. Then he “fucked her brains out.” Then she was his prostitute for several years, walking the streets of Chicago and forwarding all the proceeds to him.
Soon after starting, “the runt” takes a temporary leave from streetwalking, feigning illness. Slim feels she’s taking advantage. He turns to Sweets for advice:
Put your foot in her ass hard. If that don’t work, take a wire coat hanger and twist it into a whip. Ain’t no bitch, freak or not, can stand up to that hanger.
Slim implemented that advice as soon as he got home:
The runt was propped up in bed smoking a [joint]. Lady Day was tar brushing that mean, sweet man again. I saw the edge of a paper plate sticking out of the waste basket … Two navy beans were in a puddle of grease on the side of the plate. A pile of sucked, cleaned neck bones were heaped in the center of it. The runt had gone out to the greasy spoon and copped a hearty meal. She sure had a healthy appetite for a sick bitch …
I ripped the record off the turn table. I broke it in half and hurled the pieces into the waste basket … She played it cool … “Daddy, I’m feeling better. I felt good enough to go across the street for food. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll feel good enough to go in the street. Baby, I would’ve went out after I ate, but my legs were too weak.”
I said, “Bitch, I already passed the death sentence on you … Take off that gown and lie on your belly, bitch.”
I went to the closet. I took down a wire hanger. I straightened it into one long piece. I doubled and braided it. I wrapped a necktie around the handle end. I turned back to the bed. She was still propped in the bed. Her mouth was gaped open. She had both her hands clapped over her chest …
She rolled across the bed away from me. I raised my right arm up and back. I heard my shoulder socket creak … Her naked rear end had scrambled to the far edge of the bed. I raced around the foot of the bed. She rolled to the middle. She was on her back. Her arms held her jack-knifed legs against her chest.
The whites of her eyes glowed like phosphorus. I brought the wire whip down. I heard it swich through the air. It struck across the shin bones. She cried out like she was celebrating New Year’s Eve.
She screamed, “Ooh-whee! Ooh-whee!”
She jerked flat, rigid on the bed then smalled her fists against her temples. She sucked her bottom lip into her jib. I slashed the air again …
She turned over on her belly. I tore the gown from her back. She was naked. She flailed her arms like a holy-roller. The whip whistled a deadly lyric as I brought it down again and again across her back and butt. I saw the awful welts puffing the black velvet skin.
I stopped and turned her over. The pillow stuck to her face. I snatched it away. There was a ripping sound. I saw feathers sticking to her tear wet face. She had chewed a hole in the pillow …
Her chest heaved in great sobs. She was staring at me and shaking her skull … Her lips were moving. I got on the bed. I stuck my ear near.
She whispered, “I don’t need any more whipping. I give, Daddy. You’re the boss. I was a dumb bitch. It looks like you got a whore now. Kiss me and help me up.”
Slim kisses her, helps her into a bath, and gives her a handful of speed pills. Then:
“Phyllis, why do you make your sweet daddy mean? Daddy’s gonna kill his little bitch if she don’t straighten up and whore like the star she is.
“Bitch, lie down in that water for a while. Then get in the street and get some real scratch for your man. You don’t have to stay in this block. Just walk and work until you get respectable scratch to bring in … Bitch, get down and star. You want your man, get him some real scratch.”
“The runt” started streetwalking immediately after her bath. In the morning she came back with her best earnings since starting with Slim. And he learned, “The tougher a stud is the more a whore goes for him.”
Those kinds of scenes are rampant in Pimp. So be forewarned, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Here’s more advice from Sweet Jones:
Slim, a pretty nigger bitch and a white whore are just alike. They both will get in a stable to wreck it. They’ll leave the pimp on his ass with no whore. You gotta make ’em hump hard and fast. Stick ’em for long scratch quick.
Slim used that advice when Kim, one of the most beautiful sex workers he ever had, threatened to leave. She made a big show in front of the other girls. Slim’s rebuttal:
Listen square-ass bitch, I have never had a whore I couldn’t do without. I celebrate, Bitch, when a whore leaves me. It gives some worthy bitch a chance to take her place and be a star. You scurvy Bitch, if I shit in your face, you gotta love it and open your mouth wide …
Bitch, you are nothing but a funky zero. Before me you had one chili chump with no rep. Nobody except his mother ever heard of the bastard. Yes, Bitch, I’ll be back this morning to put your phony ass on the train.
That was a bluff. But he was ready to carry it through. He drove her all the way to the train station, where she fell apart crying, begging him to take her back.
According to Sweet:
Never get friendly and confide in your whores. You got twenty whores, don’t forget your thoughts are secret. A good pimp is always really alone. You gotta always be a puzzle, a mystery to them. That’s how you hold a whore.
Sweet ultimately committed suicide. It’s not a happy job.
Growing up, Slim never saw another route to making something of himself. Nothing else ever occured to him. In that American era, decades before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, opportunities for African-Americans were near nil. The book goes into significant detail of the role of racism and socio-economic factors in procuring and prostitution.
Slim (then Robert Beck) published his book in 1969, at the height of black nationalist movements such as the Black Panthers. Beck thought these movements were positive for black youth. However, the movements wanted nothing to do with Iceberg Slim. The black nationalist narrative focused on the abuses of the white man, and left no room for black pimps viciously beating black women. He was shunned.
The Kim scene in its entirety is wonderfully narrated in this video:
1968 Iceberg Slim interview:
In that interview Beck talks about White Folks, whom he profiled in his second best selling book, Trick Baby. If you like Pimp, you’ll like Trick Baby. They made a blaxploitation film based on it. Watch Trick Baby on YouTube.
Po Pimp by Do Or Die
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