By Gregory Crofton
When he ran a game on you, his eyes flashed wide open to make a point. They opened so wide they looked like they were bulging out of his head. Iceberg Slim did that, the most famous pimp in the world.
Later on he had another life and did other things. He worked as an exterminator: “We Murder Roaches – Inch by Inch” was his slogan. It was his wife who got him on the track and into writing books. He would dictate the story to her, acting it out as he told it. She scribbled it down and typed it up.
Watching “ICEBERG SLIM: PORTRAIT OF A PIMP” on Tuesday night at the Nashville Film Festival was a stone gas. The audience clapped at the end. They clapped for the laughs, for the cool soundtrack, and for its fitting collage, split-screen edit style. Images enter deep from within the screen almost like 3-D. Of course they clapped for story too. At times it looks a little rudimentary, but really it’s made perfectly for a film about a pimp.
What the “ICEBERG SLIM” doc does well is show how and why Robert Beck (Iceberg’s real name) got into the pimping game but then transitioned, with his wife’s help – and a bridge of stability created by his exterminator business – to become a famous writer.
The publishing world was strange and new, and ironically, it ended up treating him the way he had treated women. Holloway House, a publishing house in Los Angeles that featured black writers, is accused in the film of not delivering anywhere near the full amount of royalties owed to Iceberg, the author of a handful of international best sellers. His best-selling book is “PIMP: THE STORY OF MY LIFE.”
Partly because he and his wife Betty hadn’t been paid fairly, Iceberg returned to pimping (seemingly not in a hardcore fashion like he once did) and drug use. Betty wouldn’t put up with that kind of life. She took their three daughters and son and moved out. There’s plenty of drama in the doc. The only real disappointment in the film was a couple of stiff, poorly photographed interviews, especially one with an English professor. Regardless, don’t miss this entertaining documentary when it hits home video.