Posts Tagged ‘Norman Mailer’

When Norman Mailer ran for mayor in 1969

November 9, 2011

In 1969, New York was on a precipice. Crime was going up, teachers headed out on strike, a snowstorm crippled the city, and there was a sense that things could get a lot worse.

Enter pugnacious author and Brooklyn resident Norman Mailer. Using the campaign slogan “no more bullshit,” Mailer threw his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for mayor.

It wasn’t a joke. Columnist Jimmy Breslin signed on as his running mate, vying to be City Council president.

Their ideas? “I’m running on a platform of ‘Free Huey Newton and floridation,” Mailer told a crowd at the Village Gate. “We’ll have compulsory free love in those neighborhoods that vote for it, and compulsory attendance in church on Sunday in those that vote for that.”

They also advocated that New York City become the 51st state (which wasn’t a novel idea). They pledged the construction of a monorail, a ban on private cars in Manhattan, and monthly vehicle-free Sundays.

When primary day came, Mailer ended up fourth out of five candidates—and John Lindsay won reelection that November.

[Photo: Breslin and Mailer conceding the race, from Dissent magazine]

New York City: a separate sovereign nation?

November 18, 2009

Sound crazy? Maybe, but secession has been proposed several times over the years.

In 1969, when writer Norman Mailer and columnist Jimmy Breslin ran for mayor and city council president on the Independent Party ticket, one of their ideas was to make New York City the 51st State. 

And in 2003, City Council member Peter Vallone introduced a bill that would allow the city to cut the state loose—because upstaters were sucking out too much of the city’s revenue.

But perhaps the closest New York City came to actually becoming sovereign was in 1861. The Civil War was pretty unpopular here because the city stood to lose so much money, since New York manufacturers wouldn’t be able to continue importing cotton from the South.

So Mayor Fernando Wood (looking dapper at left) proposed that the city form a city-state called Tri-Insula—that’s Latin for “three islands”—composed of Manhattan, Long Island, and Staten Island.

With Tri-Insula its own entity separate from the Union and the Confederacy, the Southern cotton trade wouldn’t have to stop.

In the end, it was just too radical an idea even for New Yorkers to accept.

Writer murders writer in the East Village

March 4, 2009

Jack Henry Abbott was a career criminal who had spent the majority of his life in prison. But in the late 1970s, he made one important connection on the outside: Norman Mailer. 


Mailer and Abbott corresponded though letters. Mailer, impressed with Abbott’s writing style, agreed to help him publish In the Belly of the Beast, reprinting those letters detailing Abbott’s life behind bars.

In the Belly of the Beast met with critical acclaim. Soon after it was published, Mailer and other literati sponsored Abbott’s early parole. Mailer gave Abbott a job as his research asisstant, and Abbott moved into a halfway house on East Third Street. He was partying it up with writers and Barnard coeds.

He wasn’t free to party for long. Just six weeks later, on July 18, 1981, he stopped in for breakfast at Binibon, a 24-hour cafe and artists’ hangout on Second Avenue and Fifth Street. 


 Abbott got up to look for a rest room, but a 22-year-old waiter, Richard Adan—son-in-law of Binibon’s owner and an aspiring writer—told him that customers were prohibited from using it.

Abbott began arguing with Adan, and the two went outside, where Abbott stabbed Adan to death.

Caught in Louisiana a few weeks later, Abbott was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life. He committed suicide in prison in 2002.

Mailer later said he felt “completely responsible” for Abbott’s actions. 

Now the Madras Cafe, this was Binibon in 1981, at 79 Second Avenue