I wonder if any of you boys have ever read the literary works of Iceberg Slim. For those of you who don’t know, Iceberg is an individual who, like me, had some trouble with the law. He got sucked into the belly of the beast and years later, shot out its ass with 100% Writer’s blood flowing through his veins.
As you might be able to guess by his handle, Iceberg was a pimp. And a damn good one, to hear him tell it. Iceberg was born in 1918 so we’re talking back in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s prostitution scene. He worked primarily out of the southside of Chicago, a good place for pimps, apparently. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for us, he went down about three times and had to retire. He moved out to Los Angeles California and wrote his first book, Pimp: The Story of My Life which was published in 1967. It was and is a huge influence on modern crime fiction and rap music. It has been a noted influence for everybody from Irvine Welsh to Ices Cube and T. It is not only one of the greatest books ever written by a criminal, but also has the distinction of being the second best title ever for an autobiography, after Roger Vadim’s Deneuve, Bardot, Fonda: My Life With the Three Most Beautiful Women in the World.
Iceberg’s story is raw and powerful. Not surprisingly he knows the insides and outsides of the pimping game. It is fascinating to hear the details of how the job works. How you get started with nothing and build your way up to the largest stable in the neighborhood. But even for professionals who have already experienced that themselves, there is plenty of historical significance here. I think today’s pimps might be interested to learn the history of their profession as well as the vintage slang. These are individuals who call babies crumb crushers, they call money scratch, they call Cadillacs hogs and marijuana gangster and rich people muckty mucks and white people peckerwoods. It is some good slang. Let Iceberg pull your coat on this slang.
Even to a seasoned individual like myself it can be a little distressing what this motherfucker starts talking about. I mean you hear bitch and nigger so much you start to get desensitized. You’re afraid it might slip out when you’re at church or something. “That’s right bitch, praise Him!” Even when you’re desensitized it’s still a little bit stomach churning when the motherfucker starts whipping a gal with a coathanger or something. Iceberg knows what a horror story he is telling, and he goes for the jugular. In the opening of the book he is sexually molested by his mother’s friend. He never outruns that emotional scar, and tries to use it as an excuse. But he can’t escape that little jiminy cricket motherfucker called a conscience, so he is always haunted by nightmares of himself using his cruel pimping tactics on his mother.
After Pimp Iceberg wrote a series of gritty crime novels working from his encyclopedic street knowledge. There’s a real good one called Trick Baby and who knows whether it’s based on a real guy or not. It is the story of a light skinned black con man named White Folks. He is a real archetypical, mythical Joseph Campbell type of character in my opinion. He is hated by his people because they think he’s a peckerwood, or they call him trick baby like his mom was a prostitute and his dad was a white john. The truth is his father left him but he was a jazz drummer and not a bad one.
White Folks uses his white skin to elevate himself to the top of the con game. He is able to pass for white in order to make white marks trust him, something his mentor Blue Howard has more difficulty with. But living a lie in the white world is a dangerous occupation and of course various dramatic type incidents happen.
I always thought Trick Baby would make a great movie. Then I found out they already made it. It is sometimes known as Double Con but it’s never been released on video. If anybody knows how to get a bootleg or get it released or something, let me know. Like if you happen to be the owner of it, please release it on dvd and then send me a copy. Thanks.
I’m not sure how good the movie could be, though. The casting of White Folks would be real tricky. You gotta make him look white enough to pass for white, but not white enough to seem like some dumb white guy. Judging from the picture on the poster, they just got some dumb white guy. But what can you do, man. I still wanna see it.
Now I don’t want to sound like I’m going overboard here, but I like to think of Iceberg as being a little bit like shakespeare, the authoer of Titus. Because he’s got a powerful sense of drama and storytelling, combined with the pure horror and the stylized dialogue. I think when an individual makes a movie based on the works of Iceberg Slim, you gotta treat it like Shakespeare. Go ahead and trim it down to fit in the movie time frame. Try to think of some interesting new ways to stage it. But keep the dialogue and storyline intact please.
Oh yeah but do NOT cast that asshole Kenneth Branagh as white folks, please. and keep your shirt on fella.
Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is because right now there are individuals planning a movie version of Pimp. This one is gonna star the rapping artist Ice Cube as Iceberg Slim. It is going to be directed by Kevin Hooks, who was a child actor and is now known as the director of Passenger 57.
Unfortunately I checked out Mr. Hooks’ picture and it did not inspire confidence in me that he is the right man to adapt Slim. As you know I am a scholar of the Die Hard series and I am sorry to report that Passenger 57 is one of the weakest I ever seen.
This is a poor man’s Die Hard 2. It doesn’t have the same high quality filmmaking, epic setting, or exciting action. All it has is an airplane. The only Die Hard tradition they followed successfully was to name the main character John. Otherwise these boys struck out.
The villains are some of the biggest sissies I have seen in any die hard type picture. I mean there is a guy in this movie who chases Wesley Snipes, who I think might work at the computer store by my house. I’ve seen scarier white guys in Jackie Chan movies for crying out loud. These pussies make the thugs in El Mariachi look like Tank Abbot.
Wesley doesn’t have anything real clever to do. He never really outsmarts the terrorists or uses a household object as a weapon or even walks across glass with barefeet. I mean jesus he doesn’t even swing on anything. It is sad when Jean Claude Van Damme can make a similar movie to yours and it is way, way better. The music is cheesy and there is no originality and etc. The only thing good is when Wesley says, “You ever play roulette? Always bet on black.” And Kevin Hooks must have known that was the only good part since he zoomed right into Wesley’s face Bruce Lee style, to emphasize the line.
The only good news to report is that Wesley Snipes is a pretty good action hero. It is unusual that an individual starts out as a successful dramatic actor and THEN does action movies, and is convincing. He does real martial arts and does his own stunts and better filmatists were able to take advantage of this later in the movie, Vampire Man I believe it was called.
So Kevin I know it’s been about 8 years, I hope you’ve been spending that time improving your skillmanship for this important project. I want to see some good camerawork here pal. I want to see some period detail. A compelling soundtrack. And this Ice Cube, I want him to deliver the dialogue correctly.
Shit I don’t know how you’re gonna pull this off. It is a delicate balance. You can’t tone it down, or it’s gonna glorify this industry which, as fun as it may seem on the surface, is about as cool as slavery or child abuse or setting an orphanage on fire during a benefit for sick animals.
But at the same time you can’t get too preachy or you’re gonna lose all the appeal of the book. It is very important that you keep Iceberg’s voice in there, both in the dialogue and the narration. These people gotta speak in big fancy speeches and pickup lines. I don’t want no realism. Here is an example from the book for those of you ain’t hip yet:
She giggled. I could hear the thrill in her voice. The horn blower had taken her off the track, but the whore was alive and thrashing inside her. She had class. She had done more than screw on the fire escape at high school.
She said, ‘I don’t drink and besides I don’t know you.’
I said, ‘You met me in your first hot dream, remember? You know that pretty joker in your little girl dreams that always faded when you woke up wet between the legs. You waited and wished.
‘You lucky bitch, I’ve stepped out of your dreams. I’m alive and real across the hall from you. Get over here, I’m gonna turn you on. Don’t worry about the watch dog. I saw him split out of the greasy spoon ten minutes ago. Baby, I’m gonna have to make one of my whores bake you a cake with a saw in it.’
She said, ‘You’re not married to one of them? I don’t want my throat cut. I don’t want to break an old habit, breathing.’
I said, ‘Yeah, I’m married. I’m married to the whore game. You’re still a member of the club yourself. You just ain’t paid any dues lately. Maybe if you ain’t full of shit I can put you back in good standing. Now get over here!’
If there is one movie in production I want to know more about, and there is, it’s this one. Hell i read all those sights like the ain’t it cool news, the corona extra coming attractions, dark shadows and etc. But I haven’t seen any coverage of this important project.
AND THAT’S GOOD. Because I am declaring it MINE.
Moriarty, I know you’re reading this. Listen to me motherfucker. PIMP is off limits.
The rest of you motherfuckers, well you probaly never even heard of me. Let me introce myself. I’m Vern. Now listen up bitches. PIMP is VERN’S. I own it.
So if anybody out there knows PEEP about this picture, tell ME.
I don’t care what it is. If you read something in a newspaper, forward it to me. If you were an extra in it, or your friend was a caterer, or whatever, you gotta tell me what you saw or what you heard. If a friend of a friend knows one of the producers, or if the script passed by your desk at the agency you work at, or you used to be in NWA with Ice Cube, or who knows. WHATEVER the fuck it is. Tell me what’s going on with this movie. I will report it here on my sight. This will be the best reporting you ever seen, in my opinion. And we will watch this baby grow.
Thanks friends. Let’s get to work.
#1 Iceberg Slim film adaptation advocate on the internet
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.