‘It’s not just the game, it’s the pain of the game’
By LAPACAZO SANDOVAL | 7/11/2013, 1:45 p.m. | Updated on 7/11/2013, 1:45 p.m.
The contemporary documentary “Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp” is an unique and uncomfortable glimpse into the world of Robert Beck, aka Iceberg Slim, a famous Chicago pimp of the 1930s and ’40s. His life was like a car wreck; you simply can’t look away.
Directed by Jorge Hinojosa, this brilliant documentary makes brilliant use of animation, graphics and music. You are transported into Beck’s gritty world. Powerful graphics aside, it’s the interviews that make you want to stay; these are real people who have survived the lessons of the streets.
Beck was born in 1918, when being Black came with a list of limitations longer than the New York City phone book. The bright, young man grew up in the ’20s and ’30s, and his educators to the game of life were prostitutes, con men and pimps.
His first sexual experience was at the hands of a female pedophile. He was at an age so tender that it’s heartbreaking to think about, and it’s true to what shaped his opinion and subsequent treatment of women.
The vivid details of Beck’s early days as a petty criminal, drug addict and hardcore pimp (along with his multiple prison sentences) before he hit rock bottom in the early ’60s are all covered. The look is stylish and slick, and the truth is alluring.
The film has key commentators on Black culture ranging from Snoop Dogg to Quincy Jones to Ice-T to Chris Rock. However, it’s the jaw-dropping interviews from Beck’s first wife, Betty, that makes this a must-see experience. Stripped bare to the bone, the film is part confession and part plea for personal understanding. The poorly dressed, barely coherent and chain-smoking Betty tells on Beck as only she can.
The pimp named Iceberg Slim is legendary and often referenced and revered in pop culture. The nickname was earned when Beck—blazed out on cocaine—didn’t flinch when a bullet tore through his hat. He didn’t bat an eyelash. He was cool like a an iceberg, and so the name stuck, and the mythology was born in that long-forgotten bar.
Beck repeatedly stressed that his book “Pimp: The Story of My Life” was not a celebration of thug life, but a cautionary fable about what he described as “my ghastly life.” Beck said over and over again that it was only prison and drug addiction that saved his life. In his words: “A lot of people think top pimps are dummies. That’s not true; they’re just perverted.”
In the film, Rock shares that he gives the book “Pimp: The Story of My Life” as a crew gift on all of his productions. You’d be surprised as to the reason behind the gesture. It makes watching “Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp” a possible family-viewing experience.
Phase 4 presents “Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp,” opening in limited release on July 16.
“Iceberg Slim” is directed and executive produced by Hinojosa and executive produced by Ice-T. It is produced by Danny Bresnik and Jeff Scheftel.
For more information, visit http://icebergslimmovie.com.