Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
A Review of Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim

By thugsonfilm in Culture
Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 11:15:54 PM EST
Tags: books, reviews, 1419 (all tags)
Books

Pimp: The story of my life, by Iceberg Slim (Robert Beck) focuses mainly on Beck's attempts at breaking into, and then succeeding at, the pimp game.



In this book Robert Beck, aka Iceberg Slim, documents the dramatic ups and downs of his life as an aspiring, then successful, then failed pimp.

Highlights

Major highlights included his initial difficulties figuring out the pimp game and getting whores, his dabbling into drugs and finally heavy drug use, his betrayals by other pimps and some of his women, jail time and the usual flora and fauna one would expect. Amusingly his career in crime started out with a crime called the 'murphy' in which Iceberg dressed like a woman hooker and his fellow criminal 'sold' his services to those who couldn't see him/her very closely (or didn't care). They would then run away with their loot.
He admits his initial fumbling as a pimp proved difficult and the "psychology" of pimping comes through only in flashes.

Opening Moves

His first woman he acquires through sheer bravado. She holds his poverty against him later on in the book, but is his 'bottom bitch' (main prostitute in a stable) for some time. The role of wealth in acquiring women is problematic, and in getting his first he has none. He not only takes her money, he has her sign over her car to him. The theme of making displays of money, in clothing, cars and in cash, occurs frequently although he often notes that it is a false front. He goes broke buying a new car later in the book, he fills bags with small bills but covers them up with hundreds to give the appearance of bulky loot, and so on. This seems to be a part of the pseudo-promise of a flashy "fabulous" life that lures in women to work for him. He says that one waitress came into his stable exactly for this reason. The irony, of course, is that if they women to acquire anything it is through the money they make, give to Iceberg, which he then spends on them or not.
Iceberg mentions the superior nature of moving women away from their familiar cities, which suddenly makes the "cross country pimpin'" motif of the movie Pimps up, hos down make sense. This method, though, makes people like Iceberg subject to white slavery charges, which Iceberg serves a sentence for when one of his women leaves him on bad terms. She gets her revenge by setting him up with a term in federal prison.

The Pimp Game

Oddly, Iceberg mentions that pimping is a skull game not a sex game. The pimp, he seems to give the impression, only occasionally has sex with his women. His primary role is as a good/bad cop. The "bottom whore/bitch" is the probably other good/bad cop. My guess is that the pimp sets himself for rewards, while the bottom bitch sets herself to dole out the day to day punishments.
Iceberg notes that "the pimp book", which he claims to have followed, indicates that you should always have at least 5 women or more at any time. This may be a matter of pimp status, which seems to be a recurring thing in Iceberg's book, but it may also be a matter of what he calls the "cop and drop". This method is a matter of turning over women into prostitution, or finding prostitutes who are willing to come over, and having them 'run the streets' for awhile. There is a huge turnover in women, which would explain the 5+ number better. It represents a sort of "raid array" of hookers - a redundant array of unreliable sex workers. Which is not really surprising, since the life of a sex worker is fraught not only with the unpredictable rewards of the group, but with the hazards of the sex trade including customers and police harassment. The 'drop', after the 'cop' acquisition, means to let them go, or see them disappear, when they've done work for you, the pimp. The "pimp book" appears to be a collection of best practices of how to manage a stable of prostitutes, how to collect, how to handle them when they cause trouble, and so on. Iceberg spends much of the early part of the book attempting to discover these rules by finding established pimps and testing out his methods.

A Cult of One?

One thing that struck me in the book was how it seemed to echo something I'd read about cults in another book. The pimp game is seemingly a kind of sex-cult in which the cult leader (pimp) makes all the money, while the followers exhaust themselves in fund raising (sex) for the leaders benefit.
Recruiting new members is a constant problem in cults, and in the pimp game as well. The women attempt to recruit other sex workers into the sex crew, as well as women lovers. Lesbianism is mentioned a few times, twice as a means to recruit women into stables (or away from them). Which suggests that the inter-female loyalty element may be one additional element that plays into the rationale for having no less than 5 women.
In terms of the numbers game the pimp may have a hard time convincing more and more women and "in the end it will just be you and me, all these others will be left behind" so the pimp may be scraping against the problematic no-whore and too-many whores game, with the turnover increasing as numbers inflate.

'Cop and drop'? Or simply endemic transience?

What is interesting is that this book gives the impression that prostitution for many of these women appears to be relatively transient. Many of them "square up" (go straight) with husbands who may or may not have any idea of the mileage on their women. Some never really get into the life, and their career may simply be a "phase". I am reminded of the Japanese teen prostitution for expensive fashion accessories. There seems to be no pimp in these transactions, and the motivations are similar to some in Iceberg's book: easy money, flashy living. Although drugs, violence and desperation seems to be a key ingredient as well in many women mentioned.

Racial Stereotypes: Black Pimps, Black gang members, Black drugdealers

This book does not represent the apex of African American culture, but it does represent one of the symbols of African American culture that occurs repeatedly in a predominantly white controlled medium. In that sense Iceberg might be seen as doing what the more recent gangster rappers are doing: selling their image of African American self-degradation to the masses for a quick buck.
This motif of the self-exploitation of racist images occurs in Spike Lee's Bamboozled and Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle, and in other movies. Is it really racist if a black person says it/does it?

Summing Up

The book is a fun read, although much of it reads thick with dense 1940s lingo that is not all fully translated in the index. This gives it something of the quality of reading A Clockwork Orange although Burgess is a much better writer. I'd recommend it for the sense of peering into a generation of America that knew WWII, shortages, outlawed homosexuality, and life without television or video games.

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
Pimpin'
o ain't easy 29%
o is vile, disgusting and sub-human 33%
o yo mama 37%

Votes: 27
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by thugsonfilm


Display: Sort:
A Review of Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim | 43 comments (24 topical, 19 editorial, 1 hidden)
+1 FP my pimp hand be way strong (2.00 / 3) (#12)
by Troll Hard on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 07:03:37 AM EST

on this one.

--------
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it! Mind over Matter Fringe Science for the win!
my friend's older bro (none / 1) (#13)
by buford on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 08:21:57 AM EST

did his masters in BIG PIMPIN'

if a man zeros you, he is a spastic with the scroll wheel, and should be pitied.
A "PhD" is more common (none / 0) (#22)
by thugsonfilm on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 04:00:25 PM EST

"Pimpin' Hos Degree"

[ Parent ]
Contrary to popular belief (3.00 / 2) (#23)
by Booger on Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 05:48:19 PM EST

pimpin' is easy; it's a survival skill for those who've hit rock-bottom socially and economically.   Sure, it's difficult the way livin' on the streets is difficult, but pretty much anyone can be at least a "failed pimp".  Hell, even Charlie Brown could pull off a decent job at it.

-

I did think of a derogatory term for white people--RICH. Call some white guy RICH and it doesn't matter how much money they have, they'll start squealin about how oh they wish they were rich.--tdillo

I see.... (none / 1) (#24)
by Blond Treehorn Thug on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 08:56:35 AM EST

So, the voters have relaxed "on an interesting subject and well-written" to "on an interesting subject" when it comes to deciding where the bar is?

I am amused by the simplicity of this game. Bring me your finest meats and cheeses.
Shakespeare would be appalled ~ (none / 0) (#28)
by thugsonfilm on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 12:03:44 PM EST



[ Parent ]
So impressive (1.50 / 2) (#25)
by kbudha on Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 11:36:26 AM EST

being a person who exploits other ppl. A wolf preying upon little lambs.

Ya homey you got game.

Always amusing watching niggers thump their chest like gorillas on the discovery channel.

Here's an idea. If you want to be a badass, go hit up an armored car or a really big bank.

Lots more money, and I would respect you more for it than manipulating weak-willed women into sexual slavery.
Like you said, pimpin is like a cult. And what kinda ppl join cults?
.

It is, I think, a myth that 'weak' people (none / 1) (#32)
by thugsonfilm on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 02:41:21 PM EST

join cults. This is akin to blaming the victim. What is more important, I think, is the sophistication of the tactics used by the cult.

A really good cult can, I think, recruit almost anyone.

The Aum Shin Rikyo cult (the gassers in Tokyo) had wealthy and very well educated members.

[ Parent ]

Not sure about that (none / 1) (#37)
by jnana on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 09:11:55 PM EST

Do you have any reasoning behind your belief that a really good cult can recruit anyone, other than the Aum Shin Rikyo anecdote?

The fact that they had wealthy members shows that there are some wealthy people who are foolish or stupid or have mental problems or lack critical thinking skills. Ditto for well educated. There are plenty of stupid and gullible people with degrees, and some of them have a lot of money too.

You also have to consider that some organizations misrepresent themselves to their prospective members, and in some cases, almost nobody in a similar position would be able to tell initially that the organization is an evil cult. But somebody joining an organization and quitting when they realize it's a cult or that it's an evil organization bent on murdering people is a very different thing than joining the cult and eventually being one of the people delivering the bomb or sarin gas.

If you mean that a really good cult can get almost anybody in the first sense above, then I disagree a lot less strongly, but then it's a pretty trivial statement. And if you mean it in the second sense, then it's absolutely wrong, because there are plenty of people who are generally skeptical, emotionally mature, have critical thinking ability, and have no interest in the standard cult enticements.

Perhaps you mean that a really good cult could trick a majority of the people into joining initially, and could indoctrinate them sufficiently so that they would at least do some things they formerly would have considered wrong. In which case I'd probably agree, but that's a far cry from what you said.

[ Parent ]

It is a myth, I think, that cults recruit (none / 1) (#40)
by thugsonfilm on Sat Sep 08, 2007 at 10:25:33 AM EST

'the weak'. And it is this myth that keeps cults effective. We can simply blame cult members, post-hoc, for being weak, and assume that we are not 'the weak' and are therefore not susceptible.

It is similar to the reasoning that says propaganda is lies, that it is easily identifiable (because it is a lie) and therefore only stupid people fall for propaganda (and we are not stupid people).

Do you have any reasoning behind your belief that a really good cult can recruit anyone, other than the Aum Shin Rikyo anecdote?

I think that a single example, or even a single member, that shows an "atypical" type proves that no one is immune to cult recruitment.

The fact that they had wealthy members shows that there are some wealthy people who are foolish or stupid or have mental problems or lack critical thinking skills. Ditto for well educated. There are plenty of stupid and gullible people with degrees, and some of them have a lot of money too.

I think part of my reasoning comes from the seduction literature. If the seducer is good enough, it is not a matter of the woman 'falling for it', but a matter of the approach being so smooth, so clever, so indirect, so deceptive at times, and perhaps intriguing at times. It is like saying that "smart people won't like a well composed song" realizing that it is designed to evoke an emotional effect in them. A cults message is designed to draw you in, like a story, and have you play a part. That it is, in the long run, not to your advantage, is something that is to be determined from a perspective that is probably going to be not obvious (except to the outsider, or former member).

You also have to consider that some organizations misrepresent themselves to their prospective members, and in some cases, almost nobody in a similar position would be able to tell initially that the organization is an evil cult. But somebody joining an organization and quitting when they realize it's a cult or that it's an evil organization bent on murdering people is a very different thing than joining the cult and eventually being one of the people delivering the bomb or sarin gas.

Absolutely. So it is not a matter of 'stupid people joining a cult', but of some level of deception. Is anyone so smart, so together that they cannot be lied to?

If you mean that a really good cult can get almost anybody in the first sense above, then I disagree a lot less strongly, but then it's a pretty trivial statement. And if you mean it in the second sense, then it's absolutely wrong, because there are plenty of people who are generally skeptical, emotionally mature, have critical thinking ability, and have no interest in the standard cult enticements.

I said that anyone could be recruited, not that everyone, at any time, could be recruited. But I think you are again playing into the stereotype that (to reverse you statement) 'trusting, immature, uncritical' people who 'are interested in the standard cult enticements' are the ones who fall for it. Cults come in all flavors: sex cults, political cults, religious cults, money-making cults, you name it. Each one appeals to a different kind of person in a different kind of way. My position may be a stretch, but I think it's safer than the opposite (only stupid people fall for cults). It's akin to saying "only stupid careless people get bitten by snakes". It may be true that these kind of people are more likely to get bitten, but anyone can be bitten is a safer assumption. Everyone has their weak moment, their careless moment, their "uncritical" or "immature" moment.

Perhaps you mean that a really good cult could trick a majority of the people into joining initially, and could indoctrinate them sufficiently so that they would at least do some things they formerly would have considered wrong. In which case I'd probably agree, but that's a far cry from what you said.

I suspect that most cults don't induce people to do wrong things most of the time. It's when they've reached their breaking point - the Branch Davidians, etc. - that they implode and it becomes obvious. Most of the time they are simply closed, time-consuming, money-consuming, groups that concentrate too much power &c. into one or a few hands. A very sophisticated evil will always maintain some level of good to keep a level of doubt about them.

[ Parent ]

One of my Favorite Books (3.00 / 3) (#26)
by Ninjak on Thu Sep 06, 2007 at 12:41:37 PM EST

Good summary of one of my favorite books. One thing that you didn't mention though is that the book is actually fiction (just read the disclaimer on page one) and not an autobiography of Iceberg Slim. I have no doubt that Iceberg knew many pimps during his day and he probably combined their experiences to write this great novel. Some of the events in the novel were almost certainly made up. In particular I have doubts about the part where he's sexually assaulted by a female in his youth and later the girl Iceberg picks up that turns out to actually be a guy.

Even though it's fiction, Pimp is still a great novel. What struck me most is how backward our modern-day definition of "pimping" is. You see rappers these days talking about "pimping", meaning cruising around in expensive cars, buying thousands of dollars worth of junk, sleeping with dozens of women, and eating in expensive resturants sipping Crystal champaign. In reality all of these things have nothing to do with pimping. Pimping is the practice of extracting money from women by any means necessary, but mostly through charm. If the girl already has wealth then you try to plunder it for yourself. If the girl has good looks then you have her work the streets. Pimping is about one thing only and that's making money.

Another thing I got out of Pimp is the concept of "reverse game". We all know tricks pay hoes for sex and comfort. So why do hoes pay pimps? For very similar reasons. What seperates a pimp from a trick is that the pimp has reversed the game. Instead of paying hoes for sex and comfort, hoes pay him for sex and comfort. As the great rapper Too $hort once said, "pimps aint nothing but hoes".

If you haven't read Pimp yet then what are you waiting for? It's more than worth the $8 it sells for on Amazon. Another book in the genre that I recommend is Black Players: The Secret World of Black Pimps, a non-fiction academic study of the pimp game. The author Christina Milner actually got a job as a stripper to get the inside scoop on the world of pimps and hoes for her Sociology doctorate at UC Berkeley. Too bad the book is so hard to find today. Also The Game by Style is a great read, even though it's about seduction and not pimping.

Fiction (none / 0) (#33)
by thugsonfilm on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 03:19:37 PM EST

The wiki entry suggests that it is biographical:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iceberg_Slim

but who knows except Iceberg, eh?

As for The Game, I offered up a 'review' here on k5 not long ago.

As for 'reverse game' can you please elaborate?

[ Parent ]

So? (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by Big Sexxy Joe on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 12:28:03 AM EST

It's just a regular old book about being a business man.  Well, there are two important differences.  He is in an unusual business and that serves to suspend "common sense" acceptance of his actions and emphasize the Machivellianism of it all.  Also, he's black so it's easier for white readers to see that what he is doing is wrong.

I'm like Jesus, only better.
Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
Yes, the black pimp has acquired (none / 0) (#30)
by thugsonfilm on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 02:30:07 PM EST

something of a fixture of racial stereotypes in US media.

Non-black pimps are simply less well 'publicized' (e.g. brothel owners, 'massage parlor' owners, etc.).

[ Parent ]

All machiavellian actions... (none / 0) (#43)
by jd on Wed Sep 12, 2007 at 02:38:14 PM EST

...are invariably destructive to all others involved and will lead to the destruction of those who invoke it. Indeed, it is this conclusion that Machiavelli points out in his writings, not some supposed benefit.

There is no "common sense" here, beyond the fact that evil perpetuates evil. I don't give a damn about who has what colour - leave such thinking to the feeble-minded, it has held no place in society since 1770, the year that the British House of Lords abolished slavery and all human trafficking, freeing all slaves who were in Britain or were shipped through British waters.

(I won't point out which colony of the time chose to retain slavery over and above honoring all fellow humans, or how they chose to refer to their act of refusing others their rights as humans.)

Frankly, I don't even care if someone is abusing a legitimate business, an illegitimate one, or some grey area between the two. Nor do I care what the business is doing or who it is abusing. Only the petty and the childish would get upset because of a subject area. The abuse is ultimately the crime against the individuals concerned, not the storefront sign.

It would make no difference to me if the book covered ultra-nationalist white supremacists, RIAA businessmen from Miami, or cat breeders at the north pole, if it accurately portrayed crimes against other living people. This isn't Cludo, it really doesn't matter if it was Professor Plum in the Library with the Candlestick.

Then what does matter? The abuse itself. What else could matter? Their brand of hair gel?

A regular book about being a businessman? Maybe so, maybe not. Does it matter? If civilization cannot survive without feeding off the misery and despair of others, maybe we'd be better off without it. If businesses can only live on the suffering of others, maybe we don't need their kind.

The line of business is unimportant. What matters is what you do with it.

[ Parent ]

I don't know what bothers me more (none / 1) (#29)
by jd on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 12:50:33 PM EST

That there are so many light-hearted comments to the effect of abuse is cool, or the reality that so many people in the world actually believe that abuse is cool, or the fact that both groups of people are the first in line to complain loudly when they themselves feel abused.

The other side of the debate is equally disturbing - if a journalist wants to investigate or report, I expect to see something more substantial than soundbites and unprovable claims. Nonetheless, it becomes believable by default if books that are presumably intended to disturb are actually considered a how-to guide for life.

The existence of pimps has been observed (none / 0) (#31)
by thugsonfilm on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 02:36:27 PM EST

in the Dutch 'loverboy' who pimps women for their legal prostitution (which was, ostensibly designed to eliminate the pimp).

http://fleshtrade.blogspot.com/2006/02/loverboys-and-modern-pimps.html

I don't think this is a good guide to life.

[ Parent ]

An interview with Iceberg Slim (none / 0) (#34)
by thugsonfilm on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 03:40:46 PM EST

circa 1973:
http://www.popsubculture.com/pop/bio_project/sub/iceberg_slim.1.html

what next (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by circletimessquare on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 04:45:16 PM EST

someone writes a story about spinal tap? taking the band completely seriously as if they were a real band?

dear author: you're rather low iq, aren't you?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

From the interview above (none / 1) (#36)
by thugsonfilm on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 06:56:44 PM EST

"Koblin: Did you ever pursue any activities outside pimping?

Beck: No, when I was pimping, I was all pimp, unfortunately. I remember when I was a young pimp, and that's where the thrill is... when one is young enough and enforced enough and ill enough to want to be a pimp. That's where all the glory is, when one is playing Jehovah so to speak, and learning his craft. "

http://www.popsubculture.com/pop/bio_project/sub/iceberg_slim.1.html

The book is, perhaps, a 'fictionalized' account of his life, but it is - supposedly - roughly true.

It's not spinal tap by any means. Y'see, this just proves my case about you CTS (and perhaps MMM as well).

Namely comments like this ("all hail CTS")
http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2007/8/20/153820/983

to which I offered this:
http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2007/8/20/153820/983/3#3

So, is this another example of your 'kick ass'edness?

[ Parent ]

well yeah, i'm a deluded asshole (none / 1) (#38)
by circletimessquare on Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 10:25:34 PM EST

but at least i have a higher iq than you. to fall for a stupid spinal tap style prank? dude, you're just stupid

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
You still didn't read it, did ya? ~ (none / 1) (#39)
by thugsonfilm on Sat Sep 08, 2007 at 09:51:48 AM EST



[ Parent ]
zzzz (none / 1) (#41)
by circletimessquare on Sat Sep 08, 2007 at 11:26:49 AM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
You fell asleep listening to yourself? (3.00 / 2) (#42)
by thugsonfilm on Sat Sep 08, 2007 at 11:36:20 AM EST

Even you find yourself boring.

[ Parent ]
A Review of Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim | 43 comments (24 topical, 19 editorial, 1 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!