Friday, November 6, 2015

Norman Mailer, Maidstone

Thirty years ago, I stumbled upon a book about the movie Maidstone at the university library. The movie was made by Norman Mailer and it sounded incredibly stupid.

I finally saw the movie on Fandor. Made in 1970. Filmed with multiple cameras. They shot 45 hours of footage cut down to 110 minutes, and it still stunk.

Mailer plays a brilliant movie director named Norman Kingsley. (Kingsley was Mailer's middle name.) Kingsley's father was a Russian immigrant named Raymond Kingsley. Yeah, that sounds Russian. They didn't say what his patronymic was.

Kingsley is planning to run for president. He's also filming a sex movie set in a unisex brothel and it doesn't occur to anyone that this might hurt his chances in the election.

The dialog is improvised. The actors take way too long to say very little. Norman Mailer is obnoxious and sometimes speaks in an English accent.

And there's a government organization called PAX which stands for "Prevention of Assasination eXperiments". (Experiments?) PAX is deciding whether to murder Kingsley themselves.

I don't think I've ever read anything by Norman Mailer. I have seen film of him humiliating himself on the Dick Cavett show. Judging by the movie, if he ever wrote anything good, it was a complete fluke.

I'll mention one other thing. Charles Bukowski's novel, Hollywood, tells about an encounter with Norman Mailer. The movie Barfly, written by Bukowski, and Mailer's Tough Guys Don't Dance were produced by Golan-Globus at about the same time. The two went to a birthday party for Menachem Golan and almost got into a fight. Bukowski had embarrassed himself by mistaking another guy for Golan. Mailer sat there smirking at him until Bukowski asked if he wanted to make World War Three out of it.

According to a biography of Bukowski, this really happened. They were both pretty old. Mailer said that Bukowski's health was declining and Mailer was ready to fight him.

Elsewhere, the book told about another incident. Bukowski went to a reading by William Burroughs. He got mad because he thought Burroughs snubbed him. He was fuming to Harold Norse. He said, Look at him---I could knock him down with one punch. 

Norse said, Yeah, but you'd be dead because he'd shoot you.

Burroughs was known for carrying guns.

The point being that Mailer and Bukowski, tough as they acted, were physically no match for frail William S. Burroughs. I would have admired Burroughs for that if he hadn't shot and killed his wife.

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