Comfortable and Furious

Abusive Flesh Peddlers: Part One

I’ve got a theory that a fair few women fantasize about being hookers. Like most of my theories, it’s probably shite, but I’ve always been fond of airing my ignorance. I really should get a Twitter account. So, anyway, why do I think some women daydream about loveless, monetised sex with strangers? Because so many actresses at or near the top of their game choose to play tarts. They’re in a position to go for any script they want and yet plump for harlots. From Jane Fonda in Klute and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman to Charlize Theron in Monster and Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour, it’s astonishingly common for leading ladies to try their hand at being bad girl sex machines.

Now you might argue that actresses, thriving or otherwise, do not form a representative sample of women per se, but… but… Oh, my theory right there is fucked. Anyhow, all I’m trying to say is that successful actresses are in a position to pick roles that appeal.

So, now I’ve unequivocally proved my point, only one question remains: do men fantasize about pimping? Would we love to be in charge of a non-unionized stable of half-dressed, sexually liberated crumpet that we can both dip into and relieve of their hard-won earnings?

Hmm, think I’ve answered my own question…

In the pretty good 1999 doco American Pimp a plethora of real-life, money-obsessed parasites are interviewed. None express a moment’s regret about their exploitative occupation, let alone embarrassment or shame. Their lack of self-awareness in their hyper-masculine, ultra-competitive world is even occasionally funny, such as one pimp explaining it’s important to be a ‘man of principles, of character, of integrity.’ Some have become flesh peddlers because it was learned behavior i.e. their dad was in the game while their mum was a hooker. Others coveted what the neighborhood’s flashy pimp was wearing or driving around in. Not unexpectedly, they didn’t have too many good role models growing up.

Many pimps believe the impulse for hooking comes from the women themselves. “We ain’t making hos do a goddamned motherfucking thing,” one insists. “We’re just introducing them to this shit and making sure they do this shit right.”

Surprisingly, the pimps don’t appear to grasp their misogyny. Sure, women are bitches and hos, violence is reluctantly doled out as a means to control and in response to disrespect, but none see themselves as hateful leeches that spend week in, week out dripping acid on the souls of their girls. Instead, they believe they’re a kind of labor-based lubricant. These dudes possess a different mindset in which they are blind to their overwhelming failings. Still, at least they feel bad when their girls occasionally get murdered by johns.

However, they do think hookers are hapless thickies in dire need of direction. Manipulation is the key. “If she don’t get no instruction,” one pimp says, “she’s gonna be heading for self-destruction!” Another implies that without him looking after her financial affairs, she’d just fritter all her cash away on clubs, clothes and weed. “By the next weekend the bitch is starving and the rent due again,” he says. Christ, it’s almost as if these bloodsuckers have convinced themselves they’re business managers looking after the girls’ best interests.

Thankfully, American Pimp also gets the girls’ side of things. “He’s more than a pimp,” Spicy from Hawaii confirms in a slightly dreamy voice. “He’s an entrepreneur, a financial manager, as well as a companion. He’s there to bail you out when you go to jail. He’ll console you when something bad happens.”

Oh, hang on, maybe some of these whores are thick after all.

All the pimps interviewed talk a good game but we don’t get to see them do a lot, apart from offering some pretty basic advice and guidance. Plenty are adamant that pimping is not easy, but explain little about the work involved. Buying some dresses? Covering the rent? Paying a medical bill now and again? Big deal. We just see them driving around, chatting on the phone and generally being up their own arses. Or as one tells an employee while lounging in a barber’s chair: “The only thing you do, bitch, is just go to work, handle my business, get my money, don’t give me no problems and everything’s gonna be all right.”

What is clear, though, is the typical pimp is a materialist that loves to flaunt. Money is far more important than the sex. One is happy to make known his girls bring in up to three grand a day. Another admits taking 2-3 hours to get dressed in the morning. They love to show off photos of themselves standing next to celebrities like Trump or Al Green. All bang on about their snakeskin shoes, chunky bling and designer suits. They’re players, you know?

After half an hour of American Pimp, their hideously straightforward take on things comes across loud and clear. It’s a doco that refuses to dilute or sanitize any aspect of their behavior. This unapologetic bunch of motherfuckers really do believe that taking a ho off welfare is making a contribution to society. Apart from a short segment in which ordinary folk condemn pimping, directors Albert and Allen Hughes otherwise voice no objections or criticisms of their subjects. They don’t place their activities in any wider moral framework. Instead, they allow the pimps to shoot their mouths off, an approach that results in ever deeper holes being dug. For example, any guy in an ordinary relationship with a woman is seen as a ‘square’, a quite extraordinary dismissal of the average man. American Pimp proves an unsettling watch, especially whenever the pimps try to underline their integrity with statements like: “I don’t steal nothing but a bitch’s mind.”

Oh, and as for my grand theory, did I mention one gentleman in this doco confirming it? “Every bitch in their life has thought about hoing at least once,” he says. “I don’t care if it’s your mama, your sister, your cousin. You might not wanna accept it, but every woman has at least thought about it one time.”

Shit, I think like a pimp. Guess I got nowhere to go but the movies to see how it’s done.

Willie in Willie Dynamite (1973)

The pimp is a blaxploitation staple to the point that a full on, faintly ludicrous flick like 1974’s Truck Turner is happy to offer two murderous flesh peddlers. Dynamite differs in that Willie is essentially not too malicious. Yes, he still lives off women, rules them with a verbal rod of iron and occasionally doles out a backhander, but he appears much more interested in strutting around Manhattan as its most flamboyant man rather than breaking a ho’s arm. This lighter, initially comedic approach is reflected during the upbeat theme song in which we’re told Willie has seven women in the palm of his hand. ‘It’s magic how he runs his game,’ the impressed singer warbles during a bit of dubious PR, ‘never treating two women the same.’

Willie (Roscoe Orman) is a proud capitalist that wants to be the pimping top dog. His silk and satin-clad girls are on a production line, selling a sexy dream to fat cat clients. “You’re making these chumps believe they’re getting the thrill of their lives,” he tells one underperforming ho during a pep talk. “You’re not only burning a chump’s body, you’re setting fire to his brain. He’s in the big town on big business. You gotta make him feel like he’s balling the Statue of Liberty!”

Things start to get heavy, though, when he resists a business proposal from the city’s number one pimp, Bell (Roger Robinson). This fur-clad dude wants to collectivize and establish territories to counter growing police pressure. Unfortunately, Willie’s too much of an individualist and egomaniac to go for a more cautious, democratic approach to whoring out his girls. “I can deal with any heat,” he maintains. “Also, the bitches I run are selected to win. I mean, I’m controlling some tough, aggressive, mean-looking animals. Now can I tell them they can only run in one part of the jungle?”

I’ve got a lot of time for Dynamite, a very competently put together movie that could’ve just as easily been called Dick TNT or Roger Bang. Things to enjoy include Willie’s ever-changing array of ridiculous outfits, his equally outrageous purple and gold pimpmobile, a fatal catfight, and the camp, self-affected turn by Robinson. We also get a former hooker turned crusading social worker who’s got the girls’ interests at heart. She’s a ballsy, well-written character that forces Willie to think twice about his lucrative livelihood. Mysteriously R-rated, Dynamite becomes unexpectedly thoughtful in its final third and is a good, gentle introduction to far nastier pimp outings.

Goldie in The Mack (1973)

I always thought art reflected real life and not the other way around. However, I might have to rethink after sitting through this whoring classic. Coz I tell you what, those good folk in American Pimp all seem to be acting this movie out. It’s like they long ago adopted it as their bible.

Newly released con Goldie (Max Julien) is tired of gun violence, drugs, being fucked over by racist cops and praying in church with his doting mama. Still, he doesn’t seem like ideal pimp material. For a start he’s somewhat languid, lacking in the arrogance and motormouth departments. He’s also not mean enough. Then again, he’s willing to lap up advice like this juicy nugget offered by a blind former boss: “A pimp is only as good as his product. And his product is women. You got to go out there and you got to find the best ones you can find. You gotta work those broads like nobody’s ever worked them before. Never forget: anybody can control a woman’s body, but the key is to control her mind.”

Goldie’s in and keen to learn. First into the stable is part-time ho Lulu (Carol Speed). Not that she needs recruiting as she virtually begs for direction and support. “A lot of the pimps are down on me because I won’t choose,” she tells him. “I need a man, you know. I need somebody in my corner, not just because I’m paying him but somebody to be there. Help me, Goldie. I’m tired of being by myself.”

Fucking hell, sister, ain’t you heard of women’s lib?

Despite having been close childhood friends, Goldie doesn’t think twice about bedding her and then sticking her pussy out on the street, especially as it’s clear she wants to be exploited. He knuckles down to work and soon he’s got the requisite hat, the gold-topped cane, the flamboyant clothes and a thirty-grand pimpmobile. As for the gold at the end of the rainbow, he wants to ‘walk off with the whole pot.’ He’s even nice to the awestruck neighborhood kids, telling them to stick with school and try to be doctors and lawyers instead of anything like him.

Then you get to see him grooming girls and everything becomes a lot ickier. Still, the hos are thick and servile so fair enough. “I’m gonna be everything to you,” he tells one gorgeous, candy-brained dreamer. “I’m gonna be your father, gonna be your friend, gonna be your lover, but you gotta believe in me. You gotta believe that everything I tell you to do is for the best.”

There’s no force at all. It’s just smooth talk, manipulation and pie in the sky. Then Goldie reveals his mean streak by putting his foot up those pretty feminine arses. Elsewhere, his fellow pimps lounge around a barber shop talking about the game, being a player, hoarding money, putting bitches on the track and their overweening ambition. Fuck, it’s eerie how American Pimp echoes this flick, right down to the squabbles over who owns which ho and the Pimp of the Year competition.

I often make fun of blaxploitation, partly because it’s so trashy and poorly put together that it can be difficult to sit through. Then again, I also dig it because it’s distinctive, politically incorrect and fun. Sometimes I find an entertaining gem like Coffy or a bleak anti-corruption cop drama like Across 110th Street. The Mack, however, might be the best of the lot. It’s a well-written, hard-edged 110 minutes. In fact, it’s so good it comes close to transcending the blaxploitation label and should be considered on its own merits. The staples are all there such as corrupt white cops, black hustlers, racism, poverty, drugs and religion, but The Mack never feels tired. It maintains tension throughout and is consistently inventive. Just catch the wonderfully surreal scene where an unseen Goldie is sitting in a planetarium’s control booth, issuing booming instructions to a group of potential bitches that want to join his ‘illustrious family.’

“The whole world is our stage,” he tells them as they stare up at the vastness of the starry sky. “In this organization there is a president, a director and a teacher. All of these offices are held by me. In this family there is no room for confusion. Anyone and anything opposing my will must be, and will be, destroyed.”

Honestly, it’s like he thinks he’s God. Or the Wizard of Ass. Pay no attention to that mack behind the curtain.