Biographical Notes For Iceberg Slim AKA Robert Beck
Iceberg Slim, also known as Robert Beck, was
born as Robert Lee Maupin in Chicago, Illinois on August 4th, 1918.
He spent much of his childhood in Milwaukee and Rockford, Illinois before
returning to Chicago as a teenager.
His father having abandoned them, Slim's mother
supported the family by working as a domestic and operating a beauty shop.
He credits his mother for having prepared him for the pimp lifestyle by
pampering him during his childhood.
Iceberg attended Tuskegee Institute briefly in the
mid 1930's, at the same time Ralph Ellison was there, however they did not know one
At 18, Robert began his initiation into "the
life", adopting his nom de guerre, "Iceberg Slim" and remained
a pimp until age 42, predominantly in the Chicago area. He was
incarcerated several times in conjunction with his crimes, including a
stretch in Leavenworth and spent a 10 month prison sentence in
solitary confinement at Cook County House of Corrections in 1960. It was
this last stretch that finally motivated Iceberg to "square up",
and take to writing about his life experiences rather than pursuing a life
Slim moved to California in the 1960's to pursue the
a normal life, and changed his name to Robert Beck, using the last
name of the man his mother was married to at the time.
He published his first autobiographical novel, Pimp:
The Story of My Life in 1969 published by Holloway House. He found his book being shelved next to
other black authors of the angry 60's like Eldridge Cleaver's Soul
On Ice and Malcolm X's The
Autobiography of Malcolm X. As the climate shifted to the more
militant black political movements in the 1970's, Slim had an opportunity
to meet Huey Newton and other members of the Black Panther Party, whom he admired greatly. He
considered his success as a pimp as a blow against white oppression. The
Black Panthers, however, had little mutual regard for Slim, considered his
former profession as little more than the exploitation of his people for
Slim's books were met with great success and
immediately garnered widespread attention. The film rights to Pimp
were purchased by Universal Pictures following the success of The
Godfather, however the project was considered "too hot" and put on
hold indefinitely. However, in 1973 Trick
Baby was made into a film
directed by Larry Yust. The cast included Kiel Martin as "White Folks";
Mel Stewart as "Blue Howard"; and Ted Lange as "Melvin the Pimp".
[NEWSFLASH: I just found out that this was recently released on video
- check your local (cool) independently owned video store, or buy
There have been rumors that a film based on Pimp
is now in production, with both Ice-T and Ice Cube vying for the leading role. By the way, both
"Ices" cite Iceberg Slim as an early inspiration, and paid homage to him
by adopting his name. UPDATE: It looks like Ice Cube has gotten the part
for the upcoming film, check out this article
from MTV.com, though since this is dated May 2000, the production may have
been postponed. Here's another (undated) blurb
from Rolling Stone.
Iceberg Slim passed away April 28, 1992 at age 73.
One of the more entertaining aspects of Slim's books are
the glossaries in the back which define key terms of " the life ".
These glossaries have become important sources for dictionaries of slang
and studies on black English, in which he is cited repeatedly as a source.
These definitions come from Pimp:
The Story of My Life.
bottom woman: pimp's main woman,
breaking luck: a whore's first trick
of a working day
chili pimp: small-time, one whore
square up: to get out of the
to pull someone's coat: to inform and
Iceberg Slim may seem like an unlikely success,
however his gritty depictions of the life in the mean streets of Chicago
in the 40's and 50's have a virtually universal appeal. To date, Slim's
books have sold more than 6 million copies making him one of the most
successful black American authors in history.
Ironically, despite his commercial success, and his
status as a "local hero" to kids on the street, he remained an outsider in
the "square" black community, leading him to comment: "I am a loner to the
extent that I put my own shadow outside the door and lock it out."
His novels, however, were included in a literature
course at Harvard
University called "The Rogue Novel". Despite his criminal trade, and
his now politically incorrect attitude towards women, his rags to
riches story remains uniquely American, full of jazz age color and
His books, translated into German, Spanish and
French have captured the imagination of European readers as much as they
have in America.
Archived Articles on Iceberg Slim
1972 interview of Iceberg Slim from the Los Angeles Free Press.
1973 interview of Iceberg Slim from the Washington Post.
October 1992 article about Iceberg Slim from Esquire Magazine.
1992 article from The Guardian (UK) on Slim's death.
undated (probably 1992) article about Slim's life from Cash Box. (A
coin-op music trade magazine.) (Has several factual
of First Chapter of Dr. Peter Muckley's Iceberg Slim Biography from
Iceberg Slim, The Life as Art (Forthcoming
be published by Dorrance.
online resources for Iceberg Slim
Possibly the best, most complete analysis of Iceberg Slim.
Unfortunately, it's in German.
written by "Tosh" on Iceberg Slim and posted in the Miskatonic.org RARA-AVIS archives,
which are devoted to the discussion of hard-boiled and noir fiction.
on pimping from Africana.com.
Holloway House, Iceberg Slim's publisher, steps into the 21st century
with this website, currently under construction (7-17-99), but I have
high hopes... In the mean time, check out http://www.hollowayhousebooks.com/.
Another foreign site on Iceberg Slim, http://www.liberation.fr/livres/98juil/980709slim.html,
this one is in French. The funny thing is, I think the author cribbed
from this page, but maybe not, my French is pretty rusty.
http://www.pimpsup.com/: The official
site for "Pimps
Up, Ho's Down" a 1998 documentary featuring profiles of several
pimps. I haven't seen this yet.
Hustlers, Pimps and Their Johns: Internet Movie Database link for
this 1993 documentary (not much there...) Weirdly enough this is
credited to the same director as To
Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar
The Black People's Prison Survival Guide. Enough said.
site for Payback Press, the UK publisher of Slim's work, as well as a
number of other great titles.
Old School Books site. This imprint is an excellent source on other
black authors, including Robert Deane Pharr, author of Giveadamn
Brown as well as numerous other black authors such as Donald
Cooper, Jr., and Chester
Alan Friedman's tribute to Iceberg Slim at the WMFU site. www.wfmu.org/LCD/21/ice.html
Pictures of Iceberg Slim's burial place. Forest Lawn Memorial
Park, Glendale (Los Angeles County), California.
Homepage for "Iceberg Slim 1998" an Arizona band formerly known as "Jedi
Mind Trick". Uh oh guys, watch out for those copyrighted names....
newsflash: They have gone back to using Jedi Mind
: official homepage for "Iceberg Slim", a white wrestler. I hope someone
kicks this fat fuck's ass. Apparently part of his gimmick is to bleed a
lot. It's obviously fake. The very existence of this person using
Iceberg Slim as a stage name just pisses me off.
'Iceberg Slim': a "pro" wrestler
Bibliography of Iceberg Slim
don't forget to check out
the amazon.co.uk Iceberg
(also on video!)
White Con: The Biggest Score of His Life!
Soul of Iceberg Slim: Robert Beck's Real Story
Black Widow: A Story of the South's Black Underworld
Willie and Me: The Story of Six Incredible Players
Wish: A Story of the Mafia
The Game For Squares (Unpublished. This incomplete
manuscript was Slim's final project before he passed away.)
Fox was written in 1978 but not published until October of 1998.
Glad to see this finally in print. This may or may not be a version of
The Game For Squares. I have no information on this either way.
Iceberg Slim in
Pimp: Memorias de un Chulo: 1998, published by Anagrama, Barcelona, Spain. (Trans. Eduardo Fuentes; Intro.
Dr. Peter A. Muckley)
Trick Baby: 2000, published by Anagrama, Barcelona, Spain.
(Trans. Eduardo Fuentes; Intro. Dr. Peter A. Muckley)
Related Secondary Texts
Pimp: Hughes Brothers' documentary, supposed to be excellent, though
I haven't seen it. (by the Hughes Brothers directors of Menace
II Society, Dead
Presidents, and From
Hell) Available on DVD.
Up, Ho's Down: Originally, part of an HBO documentary. Available on
DVD. Also check out Pimpology
Uncut: The Movie.
Writing In the 20th Century by H. Bruce Franklin. This contains an
excerpt by Slim from The
Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim, as well as dozens of other incarcerated
Blaxploitation!: by Darius James: A fantastic source book on the entire blaxploitation film genre, including one of the last
interviews with Iceberg Slim (1990) and information on Trick Baby AKA
Double Con, a 1973 film
release, which was recently release on video.
Life : The Lore and Folk Poetry of the Black Hustler : by Dennis
Wepman. An ethnographic analysis of the 'toast' (now called 'rap') of
incarcerated black hustlers, including Iceberg Slim, kept in print by Holloway House, of course.
Pimp's Bible: Sweet Science of Sin
Pro: A Guide to Sex Work for the Ambitious and the Intrigued Written
by an ex-hooker.
Mustang Ranch and Its Women Interesting look at the life of the
whores in Nevada's legal brothels.
Tricks and Cops Inside look at the relationship between law
enforcement and prostitution, written by an ex-vice squad cop.
On Whores, Hustlers and Johns Published by Prometheus books, known
for their upfront, no holds approach, no subject too racy. In other
words, buy this book.
Brothel Bible: A small press "tell-it-like-is" book about the
Light: Inside the Sex Industry: A fancier book, aesthetically
pleasing, lots o' glossy photos. Almost too slick for the subject
Art of Mackin': Tariq "K-Flex" Nasheed. Apparently a bit more
humorous than biographical.
Pimp's Rap: A True Story: by The Master Pimp. Well, the cover
The Story of a Black Pimp: A tell-it-all book by Randolph Harris,
originally published in the early 80's.
Players: The Secret World of Black Pimps : by Christina Millner.
Black Players is an out of print book which I believe has a section
devoted to Iceberg Slim in it, at any rate it is of corollary interest.
I've never been able to find it.
Short: Shorty the Pimp at the Player's Ball (1992) : Rap star
Too $hort, live at the Player's Ball.
Author: Patrick Deese