a documentary film by Joseph Mantegna


01:00:00;00    People who write books take as much punishment as prize fighters and one of them has to be a champion.  We all know that I stabbed my wife.  Norman Mailer was the hero of the age.

You are in here for life!

I'm running for mayor in the democratic primary. 


Are you really all truly idiots, or is it me?  It's you!!  Just recognize that what you're really asking for is fascism.


 When I met you, you loved to fuck...


01:01:00;00    Basically I believe in a god who tries to be all good but is not all powerful.  There is the little matter of the devil.  Yeah, let's get through the biography fast cause it bores me to talk about myself.  Some of them will like me, some of them won't.  I'm too old to sell myself!  I don't give a fuck!  What do people want to know about me for?

Narrator: Norman Mailer died of acute renal failure in New York on Saturday, November 10th, 2007.  He was 84.  He was a political candidate, a newspaperman, a movie director and a social critic.  His first Pulitzer was for non-fiction with "The Armies of the Night" in 1968.  His second Pulitzer was for "The Executioner's Song" in 1979.

01:02:00;00    Narrator: 30 books followed over the next 60 years, with a focus on the infamous and the famous, from Hitler to Marilyn Monroe.  He was married six times and had nine children.

You know, I love this country.  I hate it.  I get angry at it.  I feel close to it.
I'm charmed by it; I'm repelled by it.  And it's a marriage that's gone on for,
let's say, at least the fifty years of my writing life.

My family was staying in Long Branch New Jersey.  It was a little away from
the beach and town.

His family ran hotels there for 30 years.

He had a little notebook in which he wrote a little science fiction novel I think about men from Mars. (MEMO BOOK) He wanted to create a book!

In the fall of 1928, his parents moved to Flatbush, Brooklyn.  And then they moved to Crowned Heights.  

01:03:00;00    He was very proud of his Brooklyn roots, but it was a very sequestered environment in that it was pure Jewish. 

Oh this is on my Bar mitzvah speech, yes.  How great is my joy to become a member of the people of Israel, the people that have spread morality, love and light.  Great men like Karl Marx, Professor Einstein and many, many more.  All through the 30’s, I remember my father was out of work and things were very tough.
Barney Mailer was a gambler and he played poker games in Brooklyn.  But he did get into jams and had to be bailed it.  And it was a source of tension in the family. 

You would say he was one of the nicest, neatest men I've ever met.  And under it he was a compulsive...  No, net even a compulsive.  He was a degenerate gambler.  My mother would work her fingers to the bone to earn a little money and he would take the proceeds and gamble them away.

01:04:00;00    I like Barney, the back sheep.  Oh my god.  Gamble, drinking, whores!  And his monocle with a prosne, you know the little one.  And with a British-Yiddish accent.  I cannot imitate it, it was so unique!  And he was very nice to me, you know?  Pinched my bottom once, and he was a drunk.
He was a charming man; he would take us out and buy us toys.  He would sing to you, beautiful voice, but she would get very cross with him.  Because I think he was always doing not really what he was supposed to be doing.

His mother was the rock of the family. 

We would go to my grandmother's and we would have these elaborate Jewish meals.  She was this tiny little businesswoman, in a time when woman her age were not businesswomen.  She had a fierce loyalty for her family, she was a great cook, and I think I loved her company because she was so solid, and so direct and without guile.  And I think I just craved that.  But her son, there was nothing her son could do wrong.  I mean, he was perfect.

01:05:00;00    I grew up in a family where women were strong but very loving.  I had a mother who was terrific and I had five aunts.

    If you grow up in an atmosphere where you're that well loved, that makes for an incredibly confident child and I can't think of a better boon for a writer than to grow up thinking your every word is gospel, is brilliant. 

    He would do strange things though, talk about unconsciously sexual.  We'd go over there and he'd love to tease her.  He'd walk by the door and he'd say, "Oh darling, wasn't that a great fuck we had."  So she would hear.  And he'd say, "Oh, your cunt is beautiful."  I said, "Norman!!"  And she would giggle.  She'd say, "Oh Norman, stop that!  Stop that!"  I mean something...  I mean, my god, you don't even have to be Freud to figure that one out.  And the only woman he was ever married to was his mother.


    Born January 31, 1923, in Long Branch, New Jersey. Prepared at Boys’ High. Home address: 555 Crown Street, Brooklyn, New York, Dunster House, Advocate, literary board (2, 3) Red Book, editorial board; Phillips Brooks House, social work (1, 2); Engineering Society (1), House footbakk (2,3), Signet Society, Field of Concentration: Engineering Sciences.

I used to cry piteously to any girl who would listen.  I would say, "I'm just not good at anything.  I'm average," I'd say.  I want to be good at something.  And then lo and behold, in my first year at college I discovered that writing was an exciting pursuit for me.

As an engineering student, he had no writing courses in his curriculum.  However what he did was to take all of his electives in writing.  In his sophomore year, he applied to get on the Harvard Literary magazine, The Harvard Advocate.  (‘HARVARD ADVOCATE’) One of the stories he wrote for The Advocate, a story titled, The Greatest Thing in the World,  (‘THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD – NORMAN K. MAILER – Eight Annual College Short Story Contest Winner from Harvard) was entered into a national short story contest and it was selected as the winner.  And he always says, "That was the beginning of my literary career."

I knew I wanted to be a writer.  But reading was Hemingway, Dos Passos and Farrell.  They were heroes of mine in my freshman year at Harvard that formed the center of my world.

He met a girl in his junior year. (BEATRICE SILVERMAN – CHELSEA HIGH SCHOOL – Dean’s List 3, 4: Psychology Club 4; Sociological Society 3, 4; The Beacon 4, Book Editor; University Chorus 1,2,3; Varsity Debating 1,2; Post-War Planning Committee 4.) Norman was famous because he was able to sneak her into the dorm for the weekends.  And that was the beginning of his long career with the opposite sex.

01:07:00;00    Why do I write?  Why did I start to write?  It was the only thing I was good at, and I wanted to become more attractive to the girls.

    It wasn't really until he started playing football that he really began to mix it up.  And he took great pride in the fact that he was a football player. 

    Fanny, she would go to Harvard on visiting days.  And he said he was ashamed of her.  He would go down to the back door to let her in, and she'd go there carrying the shopping bags, carrying the kafilta fish and the bagel sandwiches.  And he said he was embarrassed by her.  He had a thing about shopping.  I was banned from carrying shopping bags. 


    We will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us god.

    As a Harvard graduate, one would have expected him to go in as an officer.  But instead he went in as a private and that's really unusual.

    I had no question in my mind what I wanted to get from the army and from the war.  Which was I was a young novelist, and I thought well maybe I have some real talent.  I want to write a novel about the Second World War and I want it to be the great novel about the Second World War. 

01:08:00;00    I thought, oh this is so good.  Not that it was good that all these people were dead, but oh it's so good for writing. 

    When I was corresponding with my wife them, Beatrice, I used to put a great many descriptions of combat and patrols and scenes like this into my letters.  "Another Japanese lay on his back a short distance away, badly burned on his thighs and groin, which was spread to reveal his scorched genitals.  They had burnt away to tiny stumps, yet his pubic hairs still remained light a tight clump of steel wool." 

    You can look at some of those letters he wrote, and you can lay them down on a page of The Naked and the Dead and you'll see them there word for word. 

    Our letters were censored, but they were censored very loosely.  And in any event, these letters obviously got through.



All during the war when I was writing to her, I'd keep saying, "We've got to go back to Provincetown."  And when the time came after the war, we actually ended up in some motel shacks out on Route 6A- actually over the line in North Truro.  And I started The Naked and the Dead there in this little motel apartment.  (“The Naked and the Dead – Norman Mailer) The Naked and the Dead came out and it had a huge success, which I was not ready for. 
It's controversial because of the obscenity.  We're using 'fug' for the other four-letter word.  (“Fug the sonofabitchin’ mud.”) That only drives up sales even more. (“The Naked and the Dead – Norman Mailer – Price $4.00)

I was, by the standards of young people, rich over night.  Because the book did very well and went to the top of the bestseller list, and there I was having more income than I ever dreamed I'd have. (“Best Sellers List – 1: The Naked and the Dead – Mailer) (“You have heard of The Naked and the Dead?”) And the success of it took away my former identity.  I suddenly moved from someone that was very modest and had a small sense of myself, other than I hoped and believed I might be talented, into someone who was a figure of American life.

01:10:00;00    Mailer went out to Hollywood in 1949, and he stayed out there for about a year and he was developing scripts.  He was also, at the same time, trying to get a film version of The Naked and the Dead made.  He was working with Burt Lancaster.  The first effort failed completely and Norman was getting nowhere in Hollywood.  He met Shelly Winters, he met Marlon Brando, he met Charlie Chaplin.  He gathered a lot of good material out there, but he didn't conquer Hollywood.  He found out Hollywood was a tough nut to crack and he finally realized, 'hey, I'm going back east and I'm going to start writing another novel.'

    Barbary Shore (“BARBARY SHORE: A Novel”) was my notion of what was going to happen.  And so there's a witch-hunt between some sort of FBI man and a former communist whose being hunted down by him. 

Oh it bombed, and that was the start of the vicious, vicious reviews.

01:11:00;00    Barbary Shore was trashed by the critics. (“Barbary Shore: Pros – Cons”) It's not really a good novel, but it's not nearly as bad as they said it was. 

    He was depressed; he didn't know whether he should continue as a writer.  (Norman Mailer: The Deer Park) Maybe he should go to Hollywood.  Indeed, that's what he did.  People who read The Deer Park today realize it's one of the best portraits of Hollywood in the black list era that's ever been written. (“This is the New Novel by Norman Mailer – The most talked about book of the decade in publishing circles is becoming the most controversial book of the year”)

    He was so confident and arrogant that it was a real shock to his system when Deer Park was rejected by so many publishers and then got such bad reviews.  He took out an ad (“A bunch of bums”) for The Deer Park where he published the negative reviews.

    When you're young, you really have to have some kind of stomach or other to keep writing after that.

I would cry at those, the way they...  They were venomous.

You did do that famous last sentence of The Deer Park.

That was on mescaline.

That was on mescaline?


And that was a gift?

Yeah, I had the feeling that it wouldn't have come without having taken the mescaline.  Of course it didn't do the book any good.  Generations of readers by now have said, "what the hell does he mean by that idiotic last line, 'sex is time and time is the connection of new circuits?'"

01:12:00;00    I probably had more of a love affair, or as much of a love affair with marijuana as any human being.  Because it was like a romance.  And like a romance it had it's high point in my life.  That appeared for a year, I lived for the next opportunity to take some marijuana.  You know, I'd work for two or three days knowing the other two or three days I could stop and have two or three days with my marijuana.     It's as if I hadn't experience anything new in a few years and now I was young again and feeling a great deal.  I was only 30 at the time.  And the most important change in my life was jazz.  Jazz became incredibly real to me.  As I started listening to the jazz, I realized that these people who were playing the instruments were speaking with at least as much intensity and dedication and as deeply out of themselves as I was in my writing. 

01:13:00;00    And then for a while I realized there was more than just looking for a way to break through so that they could recapture some of the momentum and color and lyricism of the original melody in a totally different way and as they try to do it, suddenly I said to myself, 'well it's as if they're trying to cum under very difficult circumstances.'  And then the audience applauds it afterwards.  It's as if indeed, the musician spiritually speaking had had an orgasm and so the audience as recipients of that pleasure also had something analogous to that.

01:14:00;00    The Village Voice was founded in 1955.  Mailer was one of the three principals involved in it.  (“The Village Voice”) A guy named Dan Wolf was the editor and a guy named Ed Fancher.

Dan had the idea of starting a new newspaper in Greenwich Village.  Dan and I knew a lot of artists, a lot of writers.  Dan asked Norman, who I really did not know if he would be interested in also going in.  (‘To Ed Fancher, Good partner, new friend, Norman Sept. ’55’) Norman and I each brought in $5,000 to start a new newspaper in New York. (‘The Weekly Newspaper of New York. At Newsstands.’)  In the early days, (‘expect the unexpected’) we really didn't know what we were doing, but we made calls to our friends who were writers or artists.  Norman was very busy, and so he said sort of apologetically, "I can't help you too much."  Norman said, "Well, since you guys are so busy, I will be responsible for circulation."  He said, "Oh, we can distribute it ourselves."  Norman Mailer would take the papers out to the newsstands.

01:15:00;00    The problem was that if a news dealer said, "Well, I'll take three copies."  Norman would say, "No, you'll take 20!"  And he'd get in a fight and tell them to go fuck themselves.  We had one rule at The Village Voice; we would not hire a graduate of journalism school.

    He began writing a column and it was called Quickly, a Column for slow readers, just to piss people off. (Quickly, a Column for slow readers, by Norman Mailer) And then he just attacked everybody in the village that was a hypocrite or was a phony, or you know.  And he got people writing in, he got a debate going.

He could insult as many people as he wanted to because our readers couldn't write back.  And Norman would always bring his copy in at the last minute so there was no time to proof read it back in the office and there were some typos.  And on one particular column, the phrase 'nuances of growth' came out 'nuisances of growth.' (‘The Nuisances of Growth’ ) Norman blew up and had a fight with Dan Wolf about it and decided that he would not continue the column.

01:16:00;00    What he wanted us to do is to go out with a blaze of glory.  Have the village voice become so radical, so anarchistic attacking everybody, that it would disappear.  He was angry at society; he was going to take it down.

One day I said, I'm going to do it, I want freedom.  I looked at the apartment; I put a deposit on it of 5 dollars.  Bathtub in the kitchen, I was thrilled. 

Adele Morales, who later became Adele Mailer, had been my girlfriend for about three years.

01:17:00;00    The fateful day came, and Fancher came in his truck.  He had a moving business.  My father threatened to hit him.  Mi madre querida, este chica vas a poner una puta.  If she leaves the house, I was going to be a whore.  The prodigal daughter was on her way, up I hoped.  And it was up.  I was home, and I was in bed.  At about two o'clock in the morning, the phone rang and it was Dan Wolf.  He said, 'Listen, I have a good friend up here.  His name is Norman Mailer."  And I had sort of vaguely heard of him you know.  "And he's in town, and he'd love to meet you."  I said, I'm not going to get dressed; it's two o'clock in the morning.  I said, I'm not going to trap pais up there.  He said, just a minute, hold the phone.  His voice gets on, very sexy deep voice.  He said, oh hi Adele.  He said, I’m sorry you can't come.  And he said, you know how it is; I'm tired and settled for the night. 

01:18:00;00    He said, just a minute, I want to read you something.  And he takes out this book and it's Scott Fitzgerald. And he read that and he had this sexy voice.  (‘THE GREAT GATSBY – F.SCOTT FITZGERALD’) After he finished there was a pause and I said, Ok, I'll get dressed and come up.  He says, get in a cab I'll pay for it.  I come in and he's standing in the parlor.  He's got a drink in his hand and he shuffles over and he says, hi I'm glad you could make it.  And the drinks progressed, we had a wonderful time.  Oh my god!  He was wonderful.  Just as nice and charming and sweet.  And one thing led to another.  You know, I'm a little bit shy about that part, you know?  And in a few minutes my life changed totally.  And we moved in together.  We had been together for a while, you know.  He went out to Hollywood and I get this letter.  Darling Chula.  Chula means beautiful, in a sort of Mexican slang word.

01:19:00;00    (As in note) “I miss you monkey.  Oh god how I want to hold you.  I think of you drowsing off, my hand on your round belly and you purring.  Why haven't you written me yet you lazy girl?  What scares me is maybe you've found somebody else and I get a little sick at the thought.  Only how could you.  I know it's impossible.  Who else knows all your virtues so well as me.  Oh darling, I'll bust the door down to get to you.  I adore you.  Norman.” Cause he had broken up with his wife.  They had parted and he left her in Vermont with a baby and I guess it was a separation really.  Because then he met me and that really tore it, you know?  And I wanted to get married.  Enough already, let's get married.  And I wanted a baby very, very much.  The first baby, he was very sweet.  And then, something changed after those reviews after those three books.  I watched him just come apart.  It was terrible.

01:20:00;00    He was suffering.  The drinking commenced, the pacing.  I remember the pacing.  I remember the sweating.  He was going crazy, mouth would be moving, he was saying sentences.  And up and down for hours, he couldn't sleep.  And then later on he started with the sleeping pills and he was up til 3.  He would break open the capsules and he would pour the powder in the cup. 

    I'm a real New Yorker.  New York City was popping. I started hanging out at the Cedar Tavern. (‘NEW YORK: The Wonder City’) I had been living with SUsan Sontag, the writer, but we broke up.  When she kicked me out, I went up to Provincetown to get out of New York and I had a good friend, I figured I could stay with him.  And it was Bill Ward.  Bill was one of Norman's rat pack.  And then we had the famous fight.  We went to a party that the Mailers gave.  Adele, who was his wife at the time, came over to me and said, "If you're not chicken, you'll come outside."  And I said, "What?  Don't be ridiculous."  And she slapped me in the face. 

01:21:00;00    So we went outside on the hill and we started having a knock down, drag out fight.  All the men at the party were loving it.  Norman loved it.  Norman instigated the whole thing actually.  Irene Fornes, who had been my lover, had been involved in several threesomes with the Mailers.  And apparently because she dumped them when I came on the scene, there was resentment.  That was supposedly the pretext for this fight.  We were rolling on the ground.  I'm bigger than Adele.  I ended up on top of her, I was on top of her, I was holding her down.  She tried to bite my boob.  Nobody is going to bite me there, so I punched her.  I don't think she was out for more than a second.  I was balling my head off, she was crying, everybody was screaming.  Norman was calling me, 'cancer hole.'

Certainly my writing at that time was just obsessed with cancer.  That everything in the scheme of things was seeking to give us cancer.

01:22:00;00    Because after all, what is cancer but the revolt of the cells.
    He was obsessed with cancer.  Norman was always obsessed with cancer.
I also felt that i was running into huge resistance in what i was writing.  and i thought I had to become tougher.  And so I started getting into a few fights that i would not have normally gotten into.  If there hadn’t been a search for greater machismo within myself, then i probably would have ended up a victim of cancer.  I remember once i wrote about two hoodlums that attack an old candy storekeeper. 

This is in The White Negro? (‘The White Negro – Norman Mailer)

Yeah.  And I said that from the point of view from society, they're monsters.  Absolute monsters.  From their point of view, they were daring society.  So they saw themselves as brave.  Now obviously they had no feeling for the old candy storekeeper and that’s the ugly downside of the thing.  The positive side of it, the fact that they had a positive side was what absolutely outraged people. 

01:23:00;00    It outraged people at the time that you seemed to suggest that they were existential heroes. 

    No no no, that's what the critics said.  The critics said, "Mailer says these punk killers are existential heroes."  I defy you to find any place where i say they were existential heroes.  No no no.  You end up with a literary reputation that's built by your detractors. 

What he did with The White Negro, crazy as that essay is, talking about how there's a certain courage in robbing and killing a shop keeper, that was the most scandalous statement in it, but just that sort of edginess of the hipster, the hipster hero.  He was really on to something. 

01:24:00;00    (‘The Last Party: Scenes From My Life With Norman Mailer’)
But things were very bad, very bad between us.  I had a beautiful velvet dress on, and I looked very good.  And the kids were put to bed, thank god they slept through that whole thing.  And the guests began to come.  We didn't have any stars or anything.  We had, really, bums. 

There were a lot of drunks, there were a lot of crashers.  I didn't know he had deliberately invited them in. 

I thought it was the most dangerous evening I had ever spent in my life. 

He was weird to start with.  First of all he was wearing his bullfighters shirt, with the ruffles.

At parties, I was always the bull. (‘Norman Mailer: The Bullfight: a photographic narrative with text by Norman Mailer’) I said you've got to be the bull sometimes.  He wouldn't be the bull, I always had to be the bull.  He was out of his mind that night.  Really out of his mind.

I was in a deep rage.  I had came in contact for the first time in my life with the depths of my own rage. 

01:25:00;00    Adele sort of dragged me into the bathroom and locked the door and she said, I have to tell you.  Norman made me attack you at that party. 

You know and I was hysterical in the bathroom.  I said I don't know what I'm going to do, I'm so scared and she tried to calm me down.

And I said, ok I forgive you, you know?  Now let me get out of here. 

It was probably about four o'clock in the morning.  And he had been down, punching people on the street.  He didn't know who he was, he didn't know what his name was.  He was so out of it.  It wasn't just on booze.  He was on drugs. 

Well that was one of the legends, that he stabbed her because she had been in the bathroom with me.  I don't think that's at all what happened.

And all of a sudden the door bursts open and Mailer comes in.  Like a bull.  He was running like he was a bull.

01:26:00;00    He was a mad, crazy bull.  I looked him in the face and we stared across the room at each other.  And for a moment he stood there, this aparition.  And I said, “torro.  Torro!”  Come on you faggot, where's your cajones?  I said, your ugly mistress cut them off?  I saw his body coming towards me with a rush.  I didn't see the knife in his hand, I didn't feel it going in.  And I instinctively put my hand here, and I lifted it and it was covered with blood, and I fell.  I could not stand, I just fell.  I think that one of the guys came over and he looked at me, and he said, My god Norman, what have you done? He said, don't touch her, let the bitch die.  That will be seared in my memory forever and ever.

01:27:00;00    I do remember vaguely waking up in the hospital.  Don't forget I was very doped up.  There was an intern sitting outside and he had the paper open.  I could see the headlines, you know?  Big black headlines, writer stabs wife.  My dad, he was a lino-type operator.  (‘WRITER STABS WIFE’)  He told me he was setting the type.  Can you imagine finding out about your daughter like that?  But I'll tell you he was plenty worried about my testifying.  I'll never forget he came into that intensive care.  They were watching for him because they were going to arrest him.  And he came from the back entrance and he begged me, literally on his knees. (‘To Adm. Psychiatrist: In my opinion Mr. Norman Mailer is having an acute paranoid breakdown with delusional thinking and is both homicidal and suicidal. Conrad Rosenberg, M.D. 41 Park Avenue – MU 5-19601’) Please, you're not going to testify against me, are you?  I said I won't, I won't testify. (‘Given Case Against Author Despite Refusal of Wife to Sign a Complaint’) I was so weak and out of it.  I don't know.  I couldn't even think.  He could not say I'm sorry.  Please don't testify against me.

01:28:00;00    He said, just say you fell on a broken glass.  On a bottle that broke and you fell on the glass.  And he said, baby I watched you, I watched you being wheeled in, and you never looked so beautiful.  What a crazy thing to say.  He said, I tried to save you from cancer. (‘Norman Mailer Sent to Bellevue For His Protest in Wife Knifing’) He was in the middle of a big breakdown. (‘I insist I am sane.’) Big time publishing people came in and said your husband is a great, great genius.  (‘Norman Mailer Is Found Sane’) Your husband is a great writer, you must not testify against him.  And I said I won't.

(Bellevue Hospital)

01:29:00;00    I was in no condition to bargain.  (‘Wife of Author Refuses to Sign Writ in Stabbing’) There were two kids at home, alone, their father in jail.  I don't know.  I was thinking about them too. 

You know, I'm five foot two and my mother was stabbed.  It's part of the fabric of my life.  It's part of the weave.  And as a younger child, my mother had a ribbon scar down her belly that was not the actual stabbing, but when she was stabbed, she had to have the infection cleaned so they had to open her up.  So growing up, I always thought that that was the wound, but she also said that it was an accident.  So we grew up thinking, we knew my father stabbed my mother, but we thought it was an accident.  Somehow we were able to stomach it because it wasn't an act of violence in our minds until only as young adults did we get that that was not the case.

01:30:00;00    After that he went on talk shows and said he stabbed adele to cure her of cancer.  And then he wrote that amazing book of poetry, Death for the Ladies, and there was a line in there, 'so long as you use a knife, there's some love left.' (‘So long as you use a knife, there’s some love left’) I mean that, in his view, justified his stabbing her. (‘Deaths For The Ladies (and other disasters) by Norman Mailer’) It might be true that psychiatric treatment would have deprived us of some of his crazier, more interesting obsessions. (“a recital of raw, obscene images and vocabularly which broke the limits of good taste from any point of view”)

    So the way that I have handled it, is in my art, I focus on the torso.  I guess it's my way of processing, internalizing and resolving what went on between them.  And my father always talked about- he said, some day, I'll tell you the story, but he never did.  He was not eaten alive by regrets, I don't think.  I think he carried it with him like a coat, but i don't think it pulled him down.  I think that he was just one for moving forward.

    It is the one act I can look back on and regret for the rest of my life.  It happened...

01:31:00;00    It happened out of the way I was living, there's no question about that.  I didn't stab her because of my ideas.  What happened is that I was getting into more and more of a violent edge and it happened.  More than that I wouldn't care to get in to.

Lady Jeanne was something else.  She was a big husky woman.  She was the daughter of Lord Beaverbrooke.  She had been the mistress of Henry Loose.  She was a formidable woman.

    I had been invited over from England to keep a reporting eye on him, and give you, by the way, a sample of British television, my style. 

    Well she wasn't really his type.  I mean, she was a big girl.

01:32:00;00    And her demeanor wasn't in any way feminine.  She was willing to do a lot of crazy things like marrying Norman Mailer. 

She had a kid by him, Kate.  But he couldn't overpower her, and she dumped him. (“Mailer’s daughter plays Marilyn”) But, she was an aristocrat.  She was a British aristocrat, she was loaded with money, she wasn't madly impressed by him.  They were very into role play.  I'm sure they did a lot of S&M stuff too. 

Lady Jeanne, well she was the smartest wife.  Because what she did, after the marriage was over, she signed up to write a memoir.  This was before the age of memoirs.  She took the money and bought a greek island with it and just lived the rest of her life on the greek island, and of course never wrote it.

Jeannie Cardigan, at your service.

01:33:00;00    (‘NEWS ON THE MARCH’)                   
Somewhere I read that the greatest of America is the right to protest for rights. 

    From 1955 on, he sidetracked into other projects. (‘NEW YORKER: The Best of 1959: The Birth of Racial Politics – “Mailer’s Recovery””) He started doing political reporting, he's going six different directions at once because he needs the money.  Finally in 1959, he realizes he hasn't published a book in four years.  He collects all the pieces that he's been writing over the years, he puts it all together into a book called Advertisements for Myself and he stitches it together (‘Norman Mailer: Advertisements for Myself’) with italicized sections that were very autobiographical.  (“The New Journalist” “psychic outlaw” “philosopher of hip” “A-bomb”)

    It was such bullshit, dammit, that my feeling was alright, let me try to break through all that crap.

01:34:00;00    Let me try to say that, here I'm writing a book, it's an anthology of my pieces with commentary on them.  What the devil is it, if it's not advertisements for myself.  Let's call the book that. 

    His outrageous statements about his fellow writers, you know. (William Styron: The Long March) Styron, James Baldwin, (James Balwin – Notes of A Native Son) sort of evaluation them.  That sort of stuff just wasn't done. 

    (“…but it is already certain that NORMAN MAILER’S Advertisements For Myself has received the best and the worst royal reviews of any book this season…”

    The sour truth is that I am imprisoned with the perception which will settle of nothing less than making a revolution in the consciousness of our time. 

    I think he came kind of close.  He certainly affected the consciousness and shaped the consciousness of our time.

    Mailer had been invited to hainaniss port to meet Jack Kennedy, to meet Jackie.

    Before the 1960 election, for Esquire, I came in with two prepared pieces I was going to throw at them, and I did.

01:35:00;00    (Would YOU buy a used car from this man?)

The democrats were running an ad that showed Richard Nixon, and they said underneath, 'would you buy a used car from this man.'  And it went on to say, however, if you bought the car from Jack Kennedy, you would trust him and you would buy the car, and then after you bought the car, he'd come drop by to see how it was working and he'd seduce your wife.  So Kennedy was absolutely shocked by that one, because after all this was 1960, and you didn't approach presidents that way.  Well it was one of the few times he had ever been rattled I think.  It was sort of cheeky what I was doing.  He was thinking, who is this guy, what is he up to? 

    I mean, Jackie Kennedy became a celebrity.  And Norman was really the first to see that and kind of created that by writing Superman Comes to the Supermarket. 

    (The Presidential Papers – The provocative new book by Norman Mailer…’Superman Comes to the Supermarket’)

    It came out about three weeks before the election and it was about Kennedy and how Kennedy was a new hero, and he was the person we needed to change the country.  It was published in what was one of the leading magazines in the day at the time, Esquire, and Mailer always felt that it helped Kennedy win.

01:36:00;00    Jackie had written him a letter, praising the article.  Kennedy gets elected, waves of glory!

    That was the first time anyone looked up close at any politician.  That was about the Kennedy's as people and that was new. 

    (Beverly Bentley – the Weatherama Girl) Hello, happy holiday weekend.  Well today was a great beginning.  We reached 90 degrees but you probably didn't feel it as much as you did yesterday because of the low humidity today.  It really makes a difference.

    I'm an actor, I just opened in a broadway show called The Heroine.  I went to PJ Clarks.  (The Raging Bull – Jake La Motta) At the end of the bar was Norman Mailer and Roger Donnehugh and Jake La Motta, all drunk and Roger introduced me to Norman.  Norman was getting into a little hassle with LaMotta.  They were both trying to pick me up.  I thought, if they get into a fight, Jake LaMotta will throw this man through the window.

01:37:00;00    So I thought I better save this man's life.  Jake went to the bathroom and Norman had kissed me.  It was a very sweet kiss.  Jake came out and I said, Jake, I'm Norman's date, I think you'd better go home.  And he did.  And he came home with him.  I met his two daughters, Danielle who was 6 and Betsy who was 4, and I liked the way he dealt with his children, he adored them.  He said, will you be my muse?  He asked me to marry him.  I saw this guy, and I knew he was a wonderful writer, a very troubled, vulnerable little boy inside, and I said, I'll think about it.  And I was still dating Miles Davis. 

01:38:00;00    We drove to Las Vegas.  All actors were changing their names, I told him that I had changed my name to Beverly Bentley, my name was Beverly Claire Rentz.  He went bananas and he beat me up.  He was drunk, we lost the dog, and I lost a shoe.  Evil angel had come out, it was almost like a psychopathy, in that the good angel was so tender and sweet, but still lacking a conscience.  And I was in love, I was half in love and I found out I was pregnant.  I went on with him because he was very contrite and apologetic.  I made a choice, I wanted this child and I wanted a family and a home, which I never had.  Look, if I'm going to live in the city and I'm going to raise a family, and I'm going to do that, I want some kind of normal kind of family life. 

01:39:00;00    As soon as I became pregnant, Norman started writing a novel.  He hadn't written a novel in ten years.  I gave birth, and he gave birth to his novel.

(An American Dream: A Novel – Norman Mailer)
(From Norman Mailer’s Hard-Hitting Novel: An American Dream The Movie)

    Everybody in that novel, yea sure he draws from his life.  The hero is about the same age as Norman is at the time.

    Hello?  Rojak on the line.

    They both went to Harvard.  Deborah Kelly, his wife, is based largely on Lady Jeanne Campbell. 

    No Deborah!!!

    The hero, in this very elaborate scene, kills his wife and he gets away with it, and that's supposed to be right.

    Cherry is based on Beverly Bentley to some extent, to some extent based on Carol Stevens, the two women in his life. 

01:40:00;00    I have a beautiful son, Michael Mailer who is a movie producer.  He was the first son after four daughters.  And I had my Stephen, who is a superb actor.  I brought Michael home from the hospital.  Two or three nights after I brought him home, Norman didn't come home and that broke my heart and I threw my wedding ring out the window.  He wanted to hurt me, he couldn't help himself, but he was still seeing other women.  I had a family now, and I wanted to keep it together. 

    Sick of what?  What are you sick of?

    Your not being home.

    My not being home?

    No, we're not a family.

    Beverly, who seemed to me she could get very astrepour sometimes and she start screaming.

    Break it, break it, break it.  Go on, break it!

1:41:00;00    He screwed everybody, he screwed my babysitters.  I wanted my boys to be near their father and I begged Norman, I said, you can have your life, do what you want, but stay here and help me raise these boys.  He couldn't do it..  Look, if that's it, then you never should've gotten married.  That should've been it.  Maybe you shouldn't be married, maybe I should leave.  I went ahead with the divorce.  I felt like i was on trial for murder.  I had a nervous break down.  I mean, it was too much for me to bear and I was in and out of psych wards and I finally got it back together.
Simply the Americans didn't care about Vietnam.  They didn't know where it was.  Almost no one could have found it on the map, we didn't care about it.

01:42:00;00    But we did care about the notion we had that we were proud macho, powerful Americans, (Norman Mailer: Why Are We In Vietnam? An Novel) that we were going to conquer everything, that we were the American empire, and that nothing could stand in our way.

I think that's a great book cause it's so, you know?  The premise is that we're in Vietnam because of testosterone. 

You have these corporation executives who were flying up through Alaska looking to kill grizzly, and not knowing what they're doing.

Killing is a male thing.  It's another example of when he at least had some self awareness, if not irony about himself.

He was jealous of the affection people felt for Kennedy and for Camelot.  Johnson was anything but Camelot.  For a year or two, everyone was very excited.  It looked like blacks were going to get civil rights, people who were poor were going to be taken care of, we were going to become a decent nation.  I never believed in it mainly because I didn't like his face.  I was that visceral if you will.  My feeling is that if i don't like somebody's face, then I probably don't like what they're up to.

01:43:00;00    (“Stop the rotten war now!”)
    (“Stop the war in Vietnam now!”)

The Berkley Free Speech Movement was the first involvement Norman had with anti-war protests.  He came up with this conceit that people would print out stamps of Lyndon Johnson, they would post them upside down.  And they would put them all over the place, they would post them everywhere. 
Last October he joined 50,000 Americans in a march on the pentagon as a protest against the war in Vietnam.  Mailer pushed his way through police barricades to certain arrest. (“No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger!”)

01:44:00;00    Let's say the penalty had been life imprisonment.
To take an extreme.
Well, I don't know.  You know what I would have done.  I would have been forced to go underground or leave the country or turn into an enemy of the country. 

Well, aren't you in one sense an enemy of the country. 

No sir, not yet.  Not yet.

Your notion is that you can go down there.  Get sloshed.  Say silly, abusive things, which Time magazine writes up rather accurately. 

Well no, not very drink.  First of all, Time said I was staggering.  They were wrong on that.

Time Magazine's point I think was that it wa sa very conspicuous Mailer performance.  I mean the kind of thing that people talk about for years to come.

That's funny, I realized I had become so opposed to this war that I was ready on a full hangover even, to go to jail as a protest against this war. 

01:45:00;00    (The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel - The Novel as History – Norman Mailer)

He took journalism and made it this imaginative construct that had a lot in common with the novel, but wasn't the novel.

    The greatest trouble with this country is that it's insane.  Not the people, but the social mechanisms of the country are insane.  But one of the things I felt, one of the tine things that I felt it was slightly insane about was me.  It's one thing I claim to be an expert on, is myself and my own intellectual adventures. 

    This was a totally new genre, this was a totally new thing.

    The Armies of the Night, where i got lucky.  Where i suddenly discovered that if I, at that point in my life, wrote about myself in the third person, it would work.

    I think it came naturally to him.  He's such a kind of, you know, egotist in a wonderful way that he saw himself as part of things.

    (Norman Mailer: Miami and the Siege of Chicago)
He follows up the success of that with Miami and the Siege of Chicago, which is written with just as much force and intelligence and insight into the events, but Mailer isn't as much of a participant in them.  He's often aside.

01:46:00;00    Alan, I saw him in New York, we had drinks about six months before and he said, 'I don't like the idea of that convention in Chicago one bit.  I really don't like it, I'm scared.'  Al is not one to go around saying he's scared.

    So I'm not going to march formally as a yippie.  I'm going on the mobilization march as an individual but not as a leader of yippie, and I don't know if I'll march from here if it looks like a blood bath scene.

    I don't think there was anyone there at that convention who didn't consider that there was a possibility that they would get killed before it was over.

    Norman was also in the convention halls and in sort of the back rooms, reporting on the wheeling and dealing that went behind choosing a candidate and then he's also outside with the protesters.  I mean, a journalist is typically detached and has to be a little bit.  So I mean, he's able to write about it while being part of it.

    Bobby Kennedy was the spirit of the 60's.

01:47:00;00    All of our fellow citizens and people who love peace all over the world...  And that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight.

    The two most powerful politicians in terms of arousing the love of the people were Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and they were both of them, assassinated in that terrible year 68.

(The World of Norman Mailer 1968….”He does it again! Another unconventional document by Norman Mailer – Miami and the Siege of Chicago: An Informal History of the Republican and Democratic Conventions of 1968’…Norman Mailer’s WILD 90…Grove Press present Beyond the Law – A film by Norman Mailer)

(Norman Mailer – In – BEYOND THE LAW)

 I did three cinema verite films, (‘WILD 90’) I was associated at the time with some documentary photographers, notably Ricky Lee Cockin and Don Pennybaker.  They were making some of the best documentary films in America.

Those films are great relics.  And sure Maidstone, you know, sure that's a great document of the 60's, but that's also like a weird thing.

01:48:00;00    He did a film Maidstone, (Maidstone – by Norman Mailer) and we came that weekend and we were privy to things that we shouldn't have been privy to.  There was a lot of sex, there was a lot of drugs, there was a lot of salacious, outrageous happenings.  I was 12 at the time and he was with Beverly.  But he had his ex-wife Jeannie there and my mother was there for a while and a slew of mistresses.  It was just, you know, a Norman Mailer fantasy.   

Let's push the envelope here, let's push it with the women, let's push it with the men.  We've got heterosexual, we've got gay.  I'm sure there's lesbian undertones.  There's drugs, there's drinking, there's fighting.  It was the summer of 68.
I don't get it, you know, that Adele, Beverly and Lady Jeanne were all in this.

The marriage with Beverly was I think pretty much, like, over.  I think that he was with Carol Stevens during that movie. 

She was a night club singer.s

01:49:00;00      Carol Stevens was his mistress I think partly with Adele, Jeanne Campbell and me.  And I met her.

The whole atmosphere of the thing was, you know, very free wheeling. 

The film had no ending, no climax, it was a lot of foreplay.  Menace was in the air, there was talk about assassination and killing. 

I trust everyone here completely.

And you know, Rip Torn attacks him with a rubber hammer.

I can't even watch that, I just start crying.  Like the tears just spring out of my eyes when I watch that because I'm just transported right back to that trauma. 

(The Silences of an Afternoon)

Rip and I were talking and he kept saying, "This film has no ending."  and he said, "I've got to sort of come forth in some way."  and he looked and took this hammer and he put it in his bag. 

01:50:00;00    What dad said is that he has always been indebted to Rip Torn because he felt the film wasn't really going anywhere and Rip felt that, so he decided to shake things up.  So I don't think it was scripted, I really don't.  I don't think my father had any clue that he was going to have his, literally have his head smashed open with a hammer.

    You're supposed to die.

You bastard!

Norman - Kingsley, you must die now.

Fuck you!

Not Mailer.  I don't want to kill Mailer, but I must kill Kingsley in this picture.

And then he bit Rip Torn's ear off.


You're going to hell.  You're going to hell.

No baby, no baby.

You know you trust me, you trust me, you trust me, you trust me, you trust me, come on.

I'll trust you if you trust me.

You promise?           


Promise, ok.  Here I go.


01:51:00;00    Ok, I'm sorry Dad.  I'm sorry.
Well, son please get off me.
Now, let me kiss you.
No, no.  Hey!  Will you cut this out?
I couldn't believe that Pennybaker was standing there filming it.  Cause they could have- he could have killed Norman.  It was pretty bad there.  The choking, I know.

The way the camera and sound men were there, they didn't seem worried that someone might get hurt there, so I didn't worry.  That was why I didn't interfere right away. 

Oh Shit!  What is this?  What is this?  What is this?  What have you done?  What have you done you motherfucker?  Get off of him you son of a bitch!  What have you done? 

01:52:00;00    I saw an actual spurt of blood, like a tiny geyser and I thought, wait a second, something is going wrong here. 

    Norman, Norman, Norman.

    I'm not hurt.  He's hurt worse than me.

    Norman, your head is bleeding!

    Yes, he hit me with a hammer, that asshole.

    I called it Norman, I really did baby.

    It wasn't a toy hammer, I know that it wasn't.

    It should have been a toy hammer and it should have been performing.  Rip was performing and Norman was completely thrown by it.

    I had to do that, you know that. 

    Look what you did to my kids! 


    It's ok fellow.

    Daddy, are you going to be fine?

    My kids, my boys, my daughters, it was madness, the whole film.  He was mad as a hatter.

    We trusted.  We trusted and I do know that this is what I had to do.

    No baby!

    Get out of here!  Get out!

01:53:00;00    The kids are here and there ain't going to be no fucking fight.  I'll kill you.  I'll kill you.

    But anyway, you're just a fraud aren't you?

    If I'm a fraud, then you're a cocksucker.

    Oh no, you're the cocksucker.

    We came by a small lake, with all his might he took the small hammer and threw it in the middle, and I said to him, "you know that tool shed is right over there.  You could have just hung it up on the hook and no one would ever know that that was the particular hammer you used."  So he looked at me and he said, "you knew."

That wasn't one of my father's wisest moves to have us on the scene.  But he wanted his kids around.  Again, he's this family man with this wild life and he wanted to bring the two together.  I mean, I think his intentions were good, but I don't think he was really thinking about us.

01:54:00;00    Do you meet violence with your own violence?  Or do you try to avoid it? 

If you fight violence with violence, it's just going to make more violence. 

Can't hear you buddy.

If you fight violence with violence, it's just going to make more violence because soon the artillery, you know, will get involved and it will be, you know. 

So you disagree with Mark.

Well I don't really disagree but, I don't know.  You know, it's not-

I don't think that you should-

Wait, he's talking.

It's not good to fight, cause you know, I don't like to fight at all.  But if it's necessary, you have to.

And I think one of the reasons we have this huge amount of violence in America now is because we're such a plastic country.  Children grow up sucking on this stuff.  Think of it, they finger it, there's nothing.  Your fingertips feel nothing.  If you touch glass, you feel a little bit, if you touch wood, you feel quite a bit.  But when you touch this, nothing comes back.

01:55:00;00    Well I think it deadens people, and of course with deadening people, violence increases.  If you live in a way where you can't feel your senses, then you'll have to go in for more and more extraordinary actions, and violence is one of them.           

Hello, I'm Norman Mailer and I'm running for the democratic primary in June, 1969.  I'd stick out my hand, they'd give me their hand and I'd put mine on top of it, then say, "I hope you'll vote for me."  Now I did that a thousand times and I got to enjoy it.

His desire to be actually engaged in the experiences he was writing about.  He was writing about politics, but instead of just being the observer, the journalist, the guy on the bus, the guy on the press core, you know, he took it that step further and became a campaigner, and active campaigner. 

It wasn't a crazy campaign at all.  I mean, he did a lot to shoot himself in the foot, but that's Norman all the way.

01:56:00;00    (New York – I Run to Win, by Jimmy Breslin – MAILER-BRESLIN SERIOUSLY?)

    (“The other guys are the joke.” “Mailer Breslin” “No More Bullshit”)

He would have liked to have won the mayoral election and become the mayor of New York and maybe gone to have even greater political aspirations.  I think his idea for making New York City the 51st state, the City-State, was a brilliant idea.

Become the 51st state! 

Now in the Village gate he was really drunk, there's a great picture of him with a glass of bourbon and just sort of reeling.  And he started abusing his campaign aids.

Listen, the results are not all in yet, but we can hardly claim victory.

Now wait a minute.  We all seem to be standing.  Couldn't help noticing that you failed to shake hands with one of my guests. 

I guess I forgot.

01:57:00;00    I don't know how drunk he was.  He did say he had been to several, what he called, watering holes. 

We were friends last time we saw each other, which was about two or three years ago, and since then we've been doing nothing but writing atrocious things about one another.   

(‘The Dick Cavett Show’)

He talk about, 'sometimes in my life, i need to cut an, what I call' he said, 'an existential caper.'  And he cut one on my property, didn't he.

He does re-bear himself like the Phoenix, and what the next incarnation will be, I don't know. 

Where you seem to have me figured out as the next reincarnation for me is going to be Charles Manson. 

Well you let yourself-

Why don't you read what you wrote Gore?

You let yourself in for it and I will tell you, I'll give a little background here-

We all know that I stabbed my wife nine years ago, we do know that Gore, you were playing on that.  Now come on.

Oh I'd love to forget about it.

No you don't want to forget about it.  You're a liar and hypocrite, you were playing on it.

But that wasn't a lie a hypocrisy, I wasn't going to talk about it.

01:58:00;00    The fact of the matter is that the people who read the New York review of books know perfectly well, they know all about it. 

    What I detest in you, a constant friend despite this, but your violence, your love of murder, your celebration of rage of hate.  American Dream, what was the dream, a man murders his wife and fucks his woman afterwards to celebrate an American man's dream.  This violence, this knocking people down, this carrying on is a terrible thing.  And you said I compared you to Charles Manson?  I said Henry Miller, in his way, Norman in his, and Manson in his far out mad way are each reflecting a hatred of women and a hatred of flesh.  And frankly, if I may say so...

    The Miller, Mailer, Manson man, or M3 for short has been conditioned to think of women as, at best, breeders of sons, at worst objects to be poked, humiliated, killed.

01:59:00;00     He was a real enemy of feminism. 
So I'm not here to say that every woman must have a child, or every woman must have a vaginal orgasm or that any woman must conceive in any way that I lay down.  Anyone who says that about me just doesn't know how to read my sentences. 

He was an easy target and a lot of people, a lot of women could get behind Norman Mailer being the enemy, and he kind of radicalized some of them in a way that they wouldn't have been radicalized.

Are you ready to apologize?

I would apologize if it hurts your feelings, of course I would.

No, it hurts my sense of intellectual pollution.

Gore of course is more than his equal in verbal dexterity.

Well I must say, as an expert, you should know about that.

Yes, well I've had to smell your works from time to time and that's helped me to become an expert on intellectual pollution. 

Well, I was going to say-

How can you men insult each other, not only in public, but you act as if you were in private.  That's the odd way.

02:00:00;00    If you make history here by punching a lady. 
I won't have it, I won't have it!
Before the show, I learned later from Gore, and as Norman writes it almost accurately in that book.  He said, "I felt his gentle hand on my neck in the green room and I looked up and it was Gore, (“MAILER AND VIDAL: The Big Schmooze”) and I butted him in the head." and he said, "Gore whacked me back."  and I was quite amazed.  I remember Gore saying afterwards, "I'm bigger than Norman and he knows that." 

I guarantee you I wouldn't hit any of the people here because they are smaller. 

In what ways?

02:01:00;00    Intellectually, intellectually smaller.
Let me turn my chair and join these three over here.  Perhaps you'd like two more chairs to contain your giant intellect. 

Why don't you look at your question sheet and ask a question?  Hey, could I talk to the audience?

Why don't you fold it five ways and put it where the moon don't shine?

I'm going to talk to this audeince, because this audience has been curiously hostile to me from the word go.  Now I want to ask all of you something.  Are you really all truly idiots or is it me?

It's you!!!

You know, something crazy like Norman Mailer said women should be locked up in cages.  He got put into a position where he was kind of seen as the anti-feminist. 

02:02:00;00     Although, he was for the feminist movement.  What he was taking issue with was the idea of look you can't go from male dominance to female dominance and expect anything to be better.  We're all shits, ultimately.  We've got to do the best we can together.             

I really was spoiled by women, I have one sister who has always been a terrific, close friend.  We've always been close.  No, I love women and I've made the mistake of thinking that because I had these sick, splendid relations with women, that I could say anything I please to women because they understood, they knew I was on their side, they knew I loved them.  What a fool!

People have written about it, especially in you know, queer studies and academics.  This thing of if I sleep with a woman who’s slept with this man, indirectly, I am sleeping with this man.  So you have Adele who was involved with Jack Kerouak, who Norman saw as a rival. 

02:03:00;00    Beverly who was involved with Miles Davis, you know, super stud and Norman definitely has this thing about black males being particularly intimidating.  And Carole Mallory who had slept with all these Hollywood stars and Norman wants to hear about that over and over again.  Tell me more about sleeping with Warren Beatty.  He was into that.  I don't know if you call that homosexuality, but it's definitely some kinds of thinking about homosexuality going on.  

    (The Homosexual Villain by Norman Mailer)

He came in and he stank of perfume, cheap perfume.  Ah, you look like hell.  And I was very angry, I said, "God damn it, where were you?"  And he says, "calm down, I got to tell you." he says, "you've got to hear this story."  This beautiful, gorgeous black woman came over, you know, and propositioned him.  When he got to her place, you know, and she started doing it, she had a penis.

02:04:00;00    And I said, remember, I didn't want to ask that 64 dollar question, which I did.  He says, "I fucked her anyway."  And I tell you, I thought I was going to throw up.  I thought, is there no end to this?

I used to have firm prejudices against gay people.  I really was very opposed to the whole notion entirely.  By now it’s all laise e fair. 

He loved women so much, I mean probably more than anything in the world, he loved women.

No, I think he was bi.  He liked making love.  I think if he hadn't fought it, maybe he would have been worse, or he would have been better off. 

I thought he was gay and that he should let these guys fuck him up the ass and get it out of his system.

He was looking for a fight, always he'd fight.  I think it's an expression of- I think it's the way he expresses his homosexuality.

02:05:00;00    Norman is a macho guy who, you know, always wanted to box with people. 

My father was talking about boxing and he says, "Ok fellow, let's put on the gloves."  And Norman was really- oh he was into it.  He loved it!           
I had a father in law years ago who had been a professional fighter.  He used to come over, when he'd visit he'd say, "Let's put on the gloves."  So I learned how to box, boxing with him.  At the time I was about 30, or 32 and he was 55. 

All of a sudden, I heard my mother, "Oh my god!  Norman's on the floor, daddy knocked him out!"  So I said, "what did you do daddy?  What did you do?"  And he said, he said, "He'll get up.  I didn't hurt him."  You know, but he was out for a couple seconds. 

The interesting thing is that Jose Torres has also written a book about Muhammad Ali called Sting Like a Bee. 

I teach him a little about writing and he'll teach me a little about boxing.

02:06:00;00    For what reason might you not finish?

    (The Fight – Norman Mailer)

The Fight was probably the best book ever written about boxing.

I want the man!  Yeah, when I get to Africa we're going to get it on because we don't get along.  I don't like him, he talks too much.

Hell, I think Ali was scared and he knew he was going to be very scared as he got closer and closer to the fight.  Before the fight, Ali's dressing room was like a morgue and at a certain point Ali said, "why is everyone so unhappy?"  Because they all believed that he was going to be defeated and they were terrified.  He said, "I'm gonna dance!" 

Back up sucker!

02:07:00;00    He said, "Yes, I'm gonna dance and dance, and that man is gonna be bewildered.  I'm gonna dance and dance."

    (Norman Mailer – On the Fight of the Century – “King of the Hill”)
And Ali is getting the people to chant!  Ali and Foreman ready, we're waiting for the opening bell.  Here we go, Ali quickly across the ground.  Round 1, Ali bouncing around, shifting left to right. 

A right hand lead, which means you throw your right first, you throw it like a jab, but you throw it like there.  That has to travel that extra distance across the shoulders.  Nobody had thrown a right hand lead on Foreman in two years and in training camp, none of his sparring partners for $50 a day was going to start throwing right hand leads at him.  Because it's a great insult to a top professional.  It suggests that he's slow enough that you can hit him with it.  And instead, Ali figured out that the one punch Foreman is not prepared for is the right hand lead, he's expecting me to dance.  It was such a classic performance, and so beautiful that at the moment Ali hit the knock out punch, Foreman began to go.

02:08:00;00    Ali followed him around.  Ali had his right cocked back for one more punch, but he never threw it.  It's as if he didn't want to ruin the aesthetic of this man going down with a clumsy punch on the way down.  He did it, he's champion again, we couldn't believe it.  My agent called me up one day and he said, "You've been offered $50,000 to write a preface to a book of photographs about Marilyn Monroe."  It was supposed to be 10,000 words and it quickly became 25,000 words and so I called my agent and told them you better tell them to prepare for a book.  (Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller) Miller was writing Death of a Salesman and I was writing The Naked and the Dead.  We lived in the same house in Brooklyn and it was a brownstone.  He had the bottom two floors, I think he had a duplex; the bottom two floors and my parents lived on the third or fourth floor. 

02:09:00;00    We'd meet- I was staying there right after the war with my parents and we'd meet downstairs for the mail and chat a little bit, then go upstairs.  I know each of us was thinking, gee that other guy, he's never going to amount to much.  Well, Miller and I were never close.  When he married Marilyn Monroe, he was living about five miles away from me in Connecticut and that I never forgave him for because there he was with Marilyn Monroe and he never invited me to dinner. 

We get a call from Arthur inviting us over for drinks.  And of course, I was very excited and Norman was cool you know, but he was excited too, you know?  We drive over there and get there and we see Arthur sitting on the porch.  And he said hi and greeted us.  And he said, "gee!" he said, "Marilyn had to go into the city, she left."  The look on Norman's face, I'll never forget.  He was so pissed off.

02:10:00;00    And so we went inside and we had a drink and I went into the bathroom and her bathrobe was on the hook and I touched it.  Oh god, I'm as bad as they were.  I don't know, I sat- and I'm sitting on the toilet seat, I said, 'my god, she's had that beautiful ass on this toilet seat."

Miller had excellent instincts.  What I had in her mind was, if I meet her, I'm going to steal her. 

He was in a rage at Arthur.  She didn't like Norman; I think she was scared of him or something.  She was in the bedroom upstairs, hiding.  She didn't want to meet Norman.

He said, "Oh guess who was in class today?  Norman Mailer!" and I said, "Oh my gosh, I just got this book Marilyn.  Maybe I can come over and get my book signed and meet him."  It was a different experience, I was a divorcee living with one small son living alone, and then when I met Norman, I suddenly became stepmother to 7 other children.  I was skinny and I had these big platform shoes on which made me about 6 foot 3.

02:11:00;00    He got up and walked across the room and said, "How do you do?" and I said, "Oh, how do you do Mr. Mailer?" and he turned and walked out of the room.  Well that's my hubby, that's what he looked like when I met him.  Wasn't he cute?  And then he invited me to come visit in New York and while I was here, he said, "Why don't you just stay?"  Lately, I've just been taking care of the baby and writing and I'm also appearing in an off-Broadway play at the moment. 

Gilmore was a mad who had been in jail for more than half his life. 

This is my life and it's my death.  It's been sanctioned by the courts that I die and I accept that.

When he came out, he fell in love with a girl.  And in the three months, from the time he came out of jail, he killed two men and was caught.  The title of the book is The Executioner's Song.  (The Executioner’s Song – A True Life Novel by Norman Mailer) The hinge of the book is the violence and so the violence is central to the action of the book.  There'd be no story without those murders.

(“I love you more than life my angel, yours”) His letters were very loving, I love you's that took up a whole page. 

His letters are the most powerful writing in the book, why should I try to top him?

02:12:00;00    If I was to look from the other side and see another man with you.  I believe I would seek to have a way to have my soul, my very being, extinguished forever from existence.  I had a debt to Abbott that was sizable.  Mr. Abbott helped me a great deal with The Executioner's Song.  I came to understand Gary Gilmore better because of the letters that Abbott wrote to me.  I showed his letters to other people, they were wonderful letters, and then there was a book for it.  Random House actually.  (The Belly of the Beast – Jack Henry Abbott) And he got out through the efforts of a number of writers, myself most prominent.  Then his book came out about four weeks after he had come out of jail.  Six weeks after he came out of jail, he killed a guy with a knife on the street and I, of course, was the one most directly responsible for it.  Because he had been in jail for so much of his life, that he had absolutely no habits from the outside.

02:13:00;00    Norman, he had a nine year affair with Carole Mallory.  She's the one who sent the sex tapes to Harvard.

You're very sweet and I love you very much and I miss you.

I miss you.

When am I going to see you?

I met Norman in New York in 1983.  I read in the paper that he was going to be speaking at the Thalia.  So I went with hopes of arranging a meeting with Norman to read my manuscript.  I wrote a note propositioning him for a cheeseburger.  He agreed to it.  I had heard very bad things about Norman and I was surprised at how sweet he was.  And when we left, he kissed me on the lips outside.  I was shocked.  I didn't think that this overweight 62-year-old man could have affected me this way, but he did.  For nine years this went on.  We'd play all sorts of doctor, plumber, who knows.  I mean, I'd wrap myself up as a present, you know?  I insisted on a writing lesson before sex.

02:14:00;00    Harvard called, she came down, she cared about my archive.   She offered me a fair price and I said, (“Mailer’s lust goes to Harvard”) "fine, you've got a deal," and that's how it happened.  Deer Park, for Carole, who is the worst fucking gold digger I have ever met.  Cheers, nice lady, Norman.  That's at Harvard; I gave that- I sold that to Harvard.  (“Mailer’s ex-lover writes it down”)

The fact that you have to read about your father's infidelities in the newspaper when normally as a child you might be protected from that if that were the case.  Not only are you privy to it, but the whole world is privy to it.  That, that, that's tough.

I was the seventh wife of Norman Mailer!

He made it very clear that he wanted to be in a monogamous relationship with me, that he was tired of cheating and lying and sneaking around.  And he was tired of being guilty and he wanted to see how deep into a relationship he could go with a woman and he wanted it to be me.   And I think for many years he was true to me, and that maybe lulled me into some kind of neverland place where I didn't think he was ever going to do it.

02:15:00;00    Why did Norris, this stunningly beautiful woman from Arkansas stay with him?           

The way I talk about it is like: all the experiences you have together are threads that make these cords that bind you together and you can't just take a knife and cut all these cords and say, "I'm leaving because you cheated on me."

One of the joys I had in this town over the years was filming Tough Guys Don't Dance, a movie I had made from a novel I had written. 

My husband, he's having an affair with your wife.

Oh man, oh god, oh man, oh god, oh man, oh god.

I happen to be very fond of the movie, there are a good many people who don't think too much of it.  So that's parlous, let's say.  The movie's either as good as I think it is, or it's not. 

02:16:00;00    Norman Mailer is here, at age 84, he has a new novel.  It is called The Castle in the Forest. (Castke in the Forest – Norman Mailer)  It tells of the early life of Adolf Hitler.  With this novel, his first in ten years, he says he'd finally wrote the book he's been talking about for the last half century.  I am pleased to have him back at this table.  Are you proud of this one?

Yeah, this is one of the big ones. 

Is it really?

Well big in the sense that it's only five hundred pages, which is not big for my idea of length.  No, but it's one of my major novels I'd say.  Absolutely. 

Oh yea, yea.  I came down with cancer in, well 2000 I had my first surgery.  He had hip surgeries, he had heart surgeries.  I had seven or eight surgeries.  You know, it was a hard ten years, the last ten, but we- you know there were some good times in there too. 

When my mom got sick with cancer, it was bad.  It was very scary.  But then one moment when he- he didn't say I understand, go lay down and cry, go do this. 

02:17:00;00    He said, no, be a man, stand up, compartmentalize, get your work done.  And that's really what it means to be a man, is to take on all the emotional pain, and to work through all you've got to work through with the people you like, while at the same time getting your business done.

I write long hand with a pencil and I've got a marvelous assistant named Judith McNally and she will type it up the next day and I go over it.  And since at my age, you begin to forget things very easily, it's marvelous because I hardly remember what I wrote the day before and now it's typed as if someone else wrote it and I'll go through it and say, "who was the idiot who wrote that stupid sentence?"

Dwayne Raymond: He would tap that desk and feel the rhythm of everything that was going through his head.  He'd find the internal rhythm of whatever symphony it was he was creating.

I'm a great believer in writers treating themselves, to some extent as equivalent to hounds with conditioned reflexes.  They walk into a room, their room, their desk and they should start salivating.

02:18:00;00    There's something monastic about writing.  You could walk into this room, and before you've sat down, the first words will come to you.

He's got nine children, and we're a polite bunch.  It's almost our crusade, we're almost on a crusade to prove to the world that the man that everyone thinks is this wild man tyrant really wasn't in the home life. 

Oh the kids are all supportive of each other, it's just an amazing family.  We have nine children, ten grandchildren, all the spouses, and everybody does something different and everybody does something exciting. 

I think men who end up with large families are secretly terribly vein and believe that there should be a great many of them on earth. 

He would take a month off and we would get up every morning and we'd hike, we'd rock climb.  He was driven.  Like we'd get to the house and before we'd even unpack we'd have to scale the roof and jump off the deck.  And so from the oldest to the youngest, we would participate in these, sort of mad cap adventures.  One of them was the sailing.

02:19:00;00    In fact in the mornings we'd be in bed and we'd hear him say, "drop your cocks, get out of your fart sacks you bastards!" and that was our wake up call.  He was a difficult father, he was narcissistic at times, he was demanding and unreasonable, but within that he was also highly supportive, both literally and sort of psychicly, and he was devoted.  He was the tree and we were the birds that flew between the, you know, the branches.

I guess when you grow up in a family like this, it's the family job to be an artist of some kind.  It's like, you know, if you grow up in a pro football family, you throw the ball around.  If you grow up in our family, you write. 

We all boxed, we all learned the dance, we all were encouraged to put the gloves on and punch him.  And in the evenings we'd do the lobster bake and we'd retire and read The World According to Garp, or whatever book had caught his fascination, we'd analyze.  He seemed to have a bottomless amount of energy to do those things, which is really remarkable because he got us all involved in these things that otherwise most teenagers would turn their noses up to.

02:20:00;00    His children are all very decent and kind and sort of forthcoming.  I just- you know.  I think about each sibling and that's what comes to mind.  We're a loyal bunch and that had to come from somewhere.   

He had this joke he used to tell whenever he would start a lecture.  It was about karma and reincarnation. 

I don't think god is all-powerful.  I think god is a god among gods all over the universe. (On God: An Uncommon Conversation – Norman Mailer with Michael Lennon)  I believe in reincarnation.  Why?  Because if god is an artist, which is my fundamental notion and that we're his material.

So I die and I go up to the gates and I see Gabriel and he says, "What would you like to be reincarnated as?"  He says, "well you know, I'd like to be a black athlete."

We're god's experiments if you will.  And when we fail, or even when we succeed, god's very interested in having us reborn precisely to see if he can do better the next time out. 

02:21:00;00    We have you down for cockroach, but you're going to be the fastest cockroach on the block.

We ain't perfect.

Before we start, I've got to be able to hear you so I'm going to move forward.  (Norman Mailer, Author)

Let's get cozy.


The very funny thing in this current issue of the Polish Review.

You have to talk to me.  All right, listen, let me say something to the audience.  This may well be one of the very last times I appear in public because old age is catching up with me.  I'm afraid that's the unhappy news.  I'm getting deafer every damn day.  My eyesight is such that I'm always asking for the lights to go down and I have a terrible time hearing. 

02:22:00;00    It's like an ache that doesn't, doesn't bring you out of sleep at three in the morning, but it's sort of ever present.  It's a loss that I could never have imagined. 

I learned a lot about discipline from him.  That if you say you're going to write the next morning, then you better do it. 

I can't imagine what the 50s, 60s and 70s would have been like without him.  He's the most important writer of the second half of the 20th century. 

He was a fireball from the beginning.  He was a literary rock star before Mick Jagger, before Sinatra. 

(Rolling Stone: The Last Buccaneer)

He wasn't a snob, which I adored about him, you know?  And the fact that he was very nice to my family.

He had his finger on the pulse of, you know, what our culture was doing for good or for bad. 

It's very funny.  Andy Warhol once said to me, "Norris, you should tape your life."  And I'm like, "are you kidding me?"

02:23:00;00    And he's like, "No, you just get a belt and you put a tape recorder on it and every hour you change the tape because every word that comes out of Norman's mouth is so important." 

And even if you don't agree with everything he said, he made you think.

Norman was a hell raiser.  I mean, he was really such a personality.  He was a rock star!

Just that sort of iconic face with the Paul Newman blue eyes and the Jewish afro which was so great, that's what his hair was like!

Those who were lucky enough to know my dad know that he was one of the funniest guys who ever lived.

What I choose to remember and what I choose to focus on is the part of him, the humanity of him. 



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