Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Sister Mailer

Academic journal article The Mailer Review

Sister Mailer

Article excerpt

SHE WAS SINGING THE BLUES WHEN I FIRST MET HER, literally, belting out country folk blues one New Year's Eve, in the middle of a snowstorm that bound all of us to the Brooklyn Heights apartment on Columbia Heights, likes of Barbara Walters and Harold Conrad.

I don't recall the song now, lost in that snowy night almost thirty years ago, but in the tradition of the best blues belters--Sarah, Ella, Nina, Big Mama Thornton--Sister Mailer, as I began calling her, understood the song, understood that it had to be growled not from lyrics but up from some deep source of love, hurt, forgiveness, hope.

She really understood the blues. That they were both painful and joyful: "I lived, loved and hurt--but I'll love again."

Before the loving again, there was the living and loving. So there she was by Norman's side, at a reception I was hosting in Beverly Hills for Russian poet Yevtushenko, trailing the Champ like the "whisperer" on the shoulder of Roman generals, cautioning the hero, "All glory is fleeting, fool!"

But he crashed on in, hearing the whispering voice, sat down next to the feminist filmmaker working on a film based on his Henry Miller script, and then was heard to shout across the room, "Women think I'm a sexist pig, but look at the woman I'm with! I'm pussy-whipped, I'm pussy-whipped!"

He may in fact have been. Sister Mailer certainly towered over him and sang better, and certainly understood the blues more deeply. …

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