Thirty Books and Six Wives
“We try to be good, there is a God but still a devil,” quote by Norman Mailer
Norman was born on January 31, 1923 in New Jersey where his father ran a group of motels along the shore. His mother was the strong woman and believed Norman could do no wrong. His belief and love in woman could have started when he knew he could get away with anything with woman – and ended up with six wives and nine children.
One would find it hard to believe, as Norman aged, retired to a home on the Cape, all of his wives and their children spent summers together, and according to one daughter, they were like one big family.
Norman wrote thirty novels, ran of the Governor of N.Y., worked as a newsman, movie director and critic. He was what we would laugh about today, the “Ever-running man whose battery never ran out.” He tried everything, lived most of his life in NYC, but took a chance on Hollywood a few times. His heart, he said, “belonged in Brooklyn.”
His family moved to Brooklyn N.Y in 1928, he was five years old. His daughter said, it was the time when he wrote in a notebook, in the first grade, a science fiction story called “The Man from Mars.” His teacher noticed his talent for writing at this extremely young age.
In the thirties, his father was out of a job, and he went from place to place to make ends meat – yet Norman, older, started down a different road, one of gambling, drinking, and parties. He would spend the families’ money – and promised his mother when she found out he would return it the following day. Still, his mother was his biggest supporter, and believed in Norman. She also knew he loved to charm the women; he grew up surrounded by sisters.
When Norman was in his first year of college, a major in Engineering, he knew he wanted to become a writer. He was brilliant, and attended Harvard, now with electives in Literature. His first article published in Harvard Magazine, “The Greatest Thing in the World.” In Norman’s heart his hero was Hemingway. Writing would not be the only change during his time at Harvard – he played football – but he also loved the women. His first wife would sneak into his dorm and spend weekends with him.
When World War II broke out he enlisted as a private – and people believed he should have had higher credentials being a Harvard Graduate. He told them, “I can write about the war by being there, not to see people dead, but for the writer it was in the details.” When Norman wrote letters home the Government censored each letter, Norman’s letters were too detailed. Following the War, he began the novel, “The Naked and the Dead,” which made it to the top of the best sellers list. He told the press he went from being like any other man to a success, and left for Hollywood, leaving his wife in N.Y.C. to try writing scripts while he peddled his book for a film, but got nowhere. His biggest excitement would be to meet the actors, Brando, Chaplin, and so forth – he learned, “Hollywood, was a tough nut to crack.” He left Hollywood and returned to N.Y.C., and returned to his wife.
In N.Y.C., he began his second novel, “Barbara Shore.” Norman’s book, received bad reviews, this made him depressed. He purchased ads for his new creation, but he said, “Time is the connection of new circuits.” Norman now in his thirties, loved his writing no matter what the critics said – and he also loved his marijuana. He started to focus on Jazz, he heard a life, and voices in the music.
Norman moved to the Village in the city in 1955 – Norman now invited to become a partner in the “Village Voice.” His part in the partnership would be to contact his friends to write, and artists to deliver illustrations. He also would distribute the newspaper to newsstands. He had his own column, for the average reader, he said, “Ernest Hemingway – thinking – what windy writing.” He never wanted to go by literary standards – so his column broke into debates as readers wrote to him, and he loved it. He never would proof read since he supplied his copy at the last minute, he believed the errors in writing were psychologically right, and mistakes – should be left unchanged. He learned – he became a partner in the Village Voice where he would become a radical, he was angry at the world, society, and all the rules.
He was now on his second wife, Adele, whose parents did not want Norman a part of their family, but Adele loved Norman. He would spend hours reading Scott Fitzgerald to her. At the time his first wife, and daughter Susan were living in Vermont; they divorced. Adele admitted she wanted to marry Norman and have his child. She watched Norman change during the time he wrote three books and began to drink heavily, pace floors, never sleep, and started on sleeping pills.
Norman had something he wanted to share with his women; he needed them to be strong perhaps like his mother, and particularly one of his six sisters. He met a woman in the Village who lived with the writer, Susan Sontag, but during this time, Harriet and Susan broke up their Lesbian Love Affair, and Harriet moved to Provincetown Mass.
In the village Norman was known to have his own rat pack, and he was with Adele, married, when they visited Harriet in Provincetown, and Norman made Adele fight with Harriet in the high dunes along the shore. When he was asked why he made his wife fight with another woman his answer was to rid her of cancer. To Norman, everything in life that was bad, was a cancer.
He began writing an essay called, “The White Negro,” about robbing – and killing a shop keeper.
Adele reported to the press the last book he wrote during their marriage was called “The Last Party.” The book based on a real party, when Norman invited street people and bums into his home, and when he learned about his own rage. He told the world he was so drugged so bad he had no idea who he was and was out of his mind when he stabbed Adele, his second wife, in the bathroom, but he did not kill her. The next morning the news brought Norman to the headlines, “Writer Stabs Wife.” The reporters wrote Norman suffered with a case of acute paranoia, suffered a breakdown and was delusional, thinking homicidal thoughts and suicide according to Conrad Rosenberg, MD. When the press interviewed Norman, asking him why he stabbed his wife, he said, “to save her from cancer.”
Adele never testified against Norman; he told her to say she slipped on broken glass. Adele believed he was having a breakdown, and it occurred at a time when big publishing companies knew her husband was a genius. Adele’s daughter now repeats the story, thinking it was an accident, as her mother told her about the wound, and her father accidently stabbed her.
Following the stabbing of his wife Adele, Norman appeared on talk shows and talked about ridding his wife, once again, of cancer.
Norman was a great poet, and his book of poetry, “Deaths of the Ladies,” now published. He began hanging around with other poets in the Village, and Ginsberg was a good friend. At this time, the end of marriage number two – and enter number three, Lady Jeannie Campbell – who reported the news in the foreign country – Britain. Everyone knew this woman was not his type, she was far from beautiful but he married her and had a daughter – one thing she did have was money. A strange part of this short marriage was Lady Jeannie took money from Norman, telling him she would be writing a memoir instead she purchased a Greek Island.
Norman began political reporting while he wrote the book, “Advertisements for Myself.” It would be four years of political reporting and not writing a novel – so he took his written material and put together what he called an autobiographical book – including his political writing and commentary – he wanted the world to know about the times we were entering, and the differences. It was the beginning of the sixties when protests over Cuba, the blacks, and the election of Kennedy – became a household name. Norman met the Kennedy’s before he was President. The meeting brought about the story, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” which concerned Kennedy before the election, published in Esquire. Everyone believed he was attracted to Jackie, and the President, he thought made a great catch.
Enter wife number four, Beverly Bentley whose job was a weather girl, acting on Broadway. It would take Norman a few short weeks to ask Beverly to be his muse – he asked her to marry him. The birth of his son – Norman’s first son, and he was thrilled. Before his son arrived in the world, Beverly, pregnant, left him and moved to Las Vegas. Norman met her in Vegas and beat her up, then stated he was sorry and he wanted a family and home. This would be the beginning of his next book, “The American Dream.” The book is based on the hero killing his wife. Now, Norman was blessed with four daughters and one son. Beverly wanted to keep their marriage strong, she did a great deal of screaming which Norman enjoyed, now with a second son, she told him to remain at home and raise their boys. They were divorced and she was in and out of Psychiatric wards, one being Bellevue.
Enter Vietnam – Norman knew most people did not care about the war until the draft became a part of Vietnam. He believed killing was a male thing but at the same time, almost in the same breath he was the lover of women and was always envious of Camelot having Jackie. Concerned with his own self image, Civil Rights, and protesting the war with Allen Ginsberg. Allen would one day tell Norman he was afraid for Bobby Kennedy, he thought someone would do away with him.
Norman appeared in an interview with “Buckley” about hippies – protesting at Berkley when he joined fifty thousand Americans who were against the war. He told Buckley, “I may be forced to leave this country.” He continued telling the reporter he would go to jail first, he would not stop protesting this war. This is when his next book came to life, called, “The Armies of the Night.”
By 1968 he believed the country was insane, “Not the people,” he stated, “but the social mechanisms’ of it.”
He attended the Presidential Convention in Chicago in 1968 with Allen Ginsberg, and during this Convention people were talking about the safety of Robert Kennedy. He knew Ginsberg, and he remembered what he said in the past. Norman reported on the Convention from inside while Allen protested on the outside. One thing which is wonderful about being a Journalist, Norman said, “Is your detached so you can write about it and still be part of it.” At this time, Norman was writing “Miami and the Siege of Chicago.”
Norman believed Bobby Kennedy was the Spirit of the Sixties and one of the most powerful people in the world along with Martin Luther King; both assassinated in 1968. Norman made the cover of Newsweek “The World of Norman Mailer 1968.”
This was the time when Norman became the hippie he wrote and talked about, although he was living the life style for many years, now he wanted to film a documentary. He wanted his families, including his wives to be part of the documentary, and his hippie friends. The name of the film is “Maidstone.” He managed to have with him Beverly, Lady Jeannie, and Adele with their children. While filming he had a few women on the side, used all kinds of drugs, drank from morning till night, and had open sex, this was his summer of 1968.
Since the marriage with Beverly ended, he became attracted to Carole Stevens during the filming of his documentary. He believed it was the real reality of life – with all his kids in the movie, violence with others, swearing, and he wanted America to see the truth. He knew children were growing up with all this stuff. Norman is quoted, “When you deaden people you can’t feel senses and violence is nothing.”
His next adventure took a turn – and in 1969 – he was a candidate for the Mayor of New York City – shaking hands, asking people to vote for him, and believing he could make a difference, he ran on the democratic ticket. What did him in, he believed, was his belief that New York City should be a state. When he lost it was reported he abused his campaign aids because it was their fault. After the loss he appeared on the Dick Cavett Show with the winner, they never shook hands, but they had it out live, on television, when his opponent said his next reincarnation would be Charles Manson. The New York Review of Books said, “Norman is filled with violence, rage, hate – and the American dream was to murder your wife.” They believed he had a hatred for women. Norman simply loved women, but had a difficult time enjoying one.
His second wife, Adele, her father was a professional boxer – and he took up boxing with him and one of his best books was published during this time, “King of the Hill.” Another book he was proud of was “Marilyn.” Norman was getting ready to meet Marilyn with Adele in Conn. where Arthur and Marilyn were living at the time. They were invited for lunch and when they arrived, Arthur said, “Marilyn had to leave,” but all the time she was hiding upstairs because she was afraid of Norman. Norman was furious. This was how the book, “Marilyn,” came to be. Books not mentioned which were hits, “The Executioners,” and “In the Belly of the Beast.”
Enter wife Susie, while he had a mistress for 9 years – Carol Mallory. She would read his manuscripts since she too was an author. This was when a movie was adapted from a book “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” and at the same time, he was writing “The Castle in the Forest” about Hitler.
Norman underwent many surgeries most because of heart disease, which he called his cancer. Unfortunately, Susie, his wife – and their son had another disaster to deal with, his wife did have cancer – and he told his own son, “Be a man – your mom has cancer.”
When Norman talked about his writing life, he told the world he held a pen and then someone would type up his writing. He believed he would enter his space where he wrote, and all the words would just come from within.
His children, all nine, would be honest, trusting, and excellent adults who loved their families – meaning all the wives and children. They all got along with one another, and their love for their father was so strong, he could do no wrong.
As Norman did settle down, he would have all of the children, wives, back home and they did everything as one big family. He raised children to be kind and he told the press, “I have a loyal bunch.”