Saturday, November 10, 2007

The naked and the dead (oh, like you weren’t expecting that…)

Pulitzer-prize winning author Norman Mailer has, as you’ve no doubt heard by now, shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 84. I mean no disrespect to Mr. M, but aside from reading Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song I really didn’t know too much about the man other than he stabbed his second wife, Adele Morales, with a knife at a party in 1960, and while directing Maidstone (1970), broke actor Lane Smith’s jaw in a dust-up (and bit Rip Torn’s ear). Oh, and he fervently supported In the Belly of the Beast author Jack Abbott’s successful bid for parole in 1981…and never batted an eyelash when Abbott killed a waiter a day before the New York Times published a rave review of Beast on July 19. 1981. (Definitely not one of Mailer’s finest hours.) So I’ll point you toward my very good friend Tom Sutpen, ringmaster at If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats, who gives Mailer a better send-off than I could ever hope to do. (Tom reads a lot, you know.)

However, I was not aware that author-screenwriter Peter Viertel has also gone to his rich reward until I knocked on the front door of the spacious ranch house belonging to Bill Crider and his Pop Culture Magazine. Viertel, who passed away at age 86, was renowned for his memoirs White Hunter Black Heart (which became a film in 1990 starring Clint Eastwood) and Dangerous Friends: At Large with Hemingway and Huston in the Fifties, and also collaborated frequently with director John Huston on films like We Were Strangers (1949), The African Queen (1951) and Beat the Devil (1954).

R.I.P., Messrs. Viertel and Mailer. You will be missed.

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