Norman Mailer Loved Getting Punched In the Face

Jonathan Gottschall in The Daily Beast:

ScreenHunter_1308 Aug. 12 19.45It’s difficult to choose my favorite Norman Mailer fight.

There was the time he head-butted Gore Vidal in the green room of The Dick Cavett Show and then—swaggering on stage truculent with drink—got himself verbally mauled by Vidal, Cavett, Janet Flanner, and a hooting studio audience (video below). Or maybe my favorite Mailer fight was his 100 percent vérité tussle with Rip Torn in his experimental film Maidstone (capsule play-by-play: Torn taps Mailer twice on the head with a hammer; Mailer tries to bite off Torn’s ear; they go to the ground; getting the worst of it, Mailer negotiates a fake truce; Torn relents, Mailer attacks; again getting the worst of it, Mailer is saved by his ferocious wife; Torn and Mailer exchange verbal haymakers; Mailer whiffs; Torn lands). Or there was the time Mailer drunkenly fought—or tried to fight—nearly every man he invited to a party, arguing with many and stepping outside at least three times to throw dukes on the sidewalk. Later that same night he stabbed his wife twice with a pen knife after she called him a “little faggot” with no cojones (not one of my favorite Mailer fights; she almost died).

This is going to take too long. Suffice it to say that, going by J. Michael Lennon’s biography, Norman Mailer: A Double Life, Mailer seems to have mixed it up—verbally or physically, playfully or in dead earnest—with most of the men he ever met. The book alludes to around 20 punch-ups, the last of which occurred when, at 74, he slugged the publisher of Esquire over a review he didn’t like.

More here.