Magazine article The Spectator

Dangerous Comedy

Magazine article The Spectator

Dangerous Comedy

Article excerpt

New York

Michael Mailer, son of Norman, is someone I admire greatly. Intelligent and good-looking, Michael was captain of the Harvard boxing team, and once fought a final in the Golden Gloves that in its ferocity reminded me of the fabled Graziano-- Zale slugfests. He is also a winner with the fairer sex. I first noticed him in the Hamptons when, still wet behind the ears, he seduced the American version of Zuleika Dobson, a beauty by the name of R. (To my great annoyance, I had a date with R on the night of 23 July 1984, but spent the night in jail after being busted at Heathrow.) To my even greater annoyance, Michael's success with beautiful women has not diminished. When he came cruising with me on my boat in Greece he brought over a Californian number who made me regret being heterosexual. The Californian stripped down to her birthday-suit as soon as we weighed anchor, and I (not to mention the poor crew) had to suffer for a whole week. The captain finally told me that unless she covered up the crew would mutiny, followed by a gang rape.

Michael is a very talented writer and producer, and last week he invited me to the premiere of his new film, Black & White. Upon arriving at the glittering event, I was met with hundreds of young protesters carrying signs that read 'Free Robert Downey Jr'. Downey, the star of the film, is doing a Taki in a California nick for drugs and weapons-related offences. (For some strange reason no one protested when I was in Pentonville. In fact people cheered.) Things got off to a fast start when Bijou Phillips, another star of the picture, proclaimed to the hacks that she was in love with Michael and that they were having an affair. In view of the fact that Michael's present squeeze, Marla Maples, was also part of the cast and had come to the premiere with him, Bijou's comments were, to say the least, embarrassing.

But not as embarrassing as my reaction to Black & White. Michael told me that the film was a reflection on the theme of 'The White Negro', his father's great 1957 essay about the hipster. Briefly, Norman Mailer argued that a new kind of American existentialist had come into being. Norman called it 'the psychopath in oneself'. The Negro, with his sensuality, his jazz and his centuries of discrimination, had developed an outlaw mentality, and along with the Negro, the bohemian and the delinquent the hipster was born. …

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