“At different points in his life Mr. Mailer was a prodigious drinker and drug taker, a womanizer, a devoted family man, a would-be politician who ran for mayor of New York, a hipster existentialist, an antiwar protester, an opponent of women’s liberation and an all-purpose feuder and short-fused brawler, who with the slightest provocation would happily engage in head-butting, arm-wrestling and random punch-throwing. Boxing obsessed him and inspired some of his best writing. Any time he met a critic or a reviewer, even a friendly one, he would put up his fists and drop into a crouch.”
From time to time there are bios that are so outrageous you just can’t make them up, which thrills me to no end. I love reading about an actual person who lived such an incredible and productive life that it is like a work of incredible fiction. I’m hoping to point them out here as I come across them (and hopefully my few readers will point some out to me in the comments).
First off: George Plimpton. When I was a kid my mom and dad gave me the movie The Paper Lion (VHS!) so I had some idea of who he was. But after VCRs went the way of buggy whips he slipped from my radar. Until the other day, when I came across plimptonproject.org, which is trying to get a statue of Plimpton erected in New York city.
For a quick read on a fantastic life, hit up wikipedia’s summary of his career. Here are some bullet points to wet your interest:
- first editor-in-chief of the Paris Review
- credited with helping wrestle Sirhan Sirhan to the ground when Robert Kennedy was assassinated
- pitched against National League Allstars in 1960
- went to training camp (for research) with 2 NFL teams and actually played quarterback in a preseason game
- spent some time as a high wire circus performer
- the host of Disney Channel’s Mousterpiece Theater
- tried to get Lisa Simpson to throw a spelling bee
- he was the Fireworks Commissioner of New York
- wrote the libretto to an opera
- the namesake for an asteroid