You may not know who Iceberg Slim was, but you definitely know his likeness and his legacy.
Born Robert Lee Maupin in 1918, Iceberg Slim was the badass pimp that shaped modern conceptions of what a pimping really is - no-nonsense and even ruthless at times, pimping was definitely not easy. Under the name Robert Beck, Iceberg Slim's books chronicled his experiences on the streets of Chicago and let outsiders see into the violent, gritty world of sex, drugs, and hustling.
It's difficult to grasp his influence upon popular culture, although the documentary Portrait of a Pimp helps tell his story. As a 1930s pimp-turned-cultural icon, here's how Iceberg Slim changed the pimping world.
He Was Sexually Abused By A Babysitter When He Was Three Years Old
In his memoir, Pimp: The Story of My Life, Iceberg Slim recounts the first time he was taken advantage of sexually. When he was just a toddler, a babysitter named Maude forced his head in between her legs. According to Slim, "I remember more vividly the moist, odorous darkness and the bristle-like hairs tickling my face and most vividly I can remember my panic, when in the wild moment of her climax, she would savagely jerk my head tighter into the hairy maw."
This experience shaped the young Robert Lee Maulin's views of women as he grew up. His hatred of women, according to one prison psychiatrist, was tied to this event.
He Beat His Sex Workers With Wire Hangers If They Got Out Of Line
During his time as a pimp, Iceberg Slim wasn't opposed to using violence to punish and scare the women into doing what he wanted. Slim learned how to treat his sex workers from one of his mentors, "Baby" Albert Bell who he calls "Sweet Jones" in Pimp. Sweet Jones's instructions to Slim were simple: be a "cold-hearted bastard." To be that bastard, a pimp needed to put a "foot in her ass hard. If that don't work, take a wire coat hanger and twist it into a whip."
Jones explained his rationale for not simply beating his "whores," instructing Slim that sometimes fists and feet were no long enough to move "that young whore anymore. She's a freak to them... that coat hanger will blow her or straighten her out. It's better to have no whore than a piece of a whore."
Slim took the advice and used a wire hanger on Phyllis, also called "Runt," in Pimp. Runt, his first sex worker, refused to walk the streets so he whipped her. According to Slim, the whip "whistled a deadly lyric as I brought it down again and again across her back and butt. I saw the awful welts puffing the black velvet skin." When it was over, "she whispered, 'I don’t need any more whipping. I give, Daddy. You’re the boss. I was a dumb bitch.'"
He Got His Workers Hooked On The Game - And Sometimes On Drugs
As common as violence was in the pimping world, drugs were just prolific. Iceberg Slim wrote about how raw his nose was from doing cocaine and how he just wanted to do drugs and be left alone - that was one of his rules for pimping: a pimp was his own best company. When he he took his workers' money, he rationed them drugs in return; keeping them on drugs kept them loyal.
Slim called heroin a drug for "chumps bound for the graveyard" but it didn't stop him from getting hooked and spending a lot of money on it.
Iceberg Slim Started Pimping At The Age Of 18
Icebert Slim met the first woman he pimped when he was just a teenager. He met her in a bar one night and decided to try to "cop" her as his first after she sent him a drink.
According to the bartender, the woman was a sex worker who had been through three pimps in a month and made a lot of money. Slim, in his fancy suit, sent her a drink in return and then approached her, making a move to go back to her place. When they got there, he beat her, forced her to give him all of her money, and then had sex with her - effectively making her "his whore."
He established the rules between pimp and prostitute from the outset with Phyllis, as he called her in Pimp, something he maintained with all of his working women.