The Time Tunnel: Others Might Cry Insanity

16.01.04 - By John Garfield, courtesy of In the late 60's, I went to the old Madison Square Garden to see a main-go between two Latin fighters. One a Cuban, the other, Puerto Rican. So, the Garden is a tinderbox; any spark will set it off. The main event is very hotly contested, and could go either way. When the decision was announced, the losing side--already spoiling for a fight--started attacking the winner's fans. Then everybody started to rain beer bottles into the ring. Fighters, seconds, and TV people dove for cover under the ring.

Then the crowd started heaving broken furniture and everything else they could rip loose. The whole main floor of the arena was being shelled with debris--shrapnel flying in every direction. It was a war zone.

Lunatics up in the cheap seats yanked the red fire spears off the walls and flung them down. They looked like tracers in the middle of the maelstrom. Anybody struck would have been killed.

I hugged the ground, and could just barely see from the space under my seat.

Then, from one end of the arena, came a stocky, curly-haired figure in a suit, walking purposefully--not rushing-- through this deadly barrage of missiles and glass. No other life form dared move.

As he got closer, I recognized the pugnacious set of his shoulders-- the sort of John Wayne bucking-the-wind walk: it was the world-famous novelist Norman Mailer. He never ducked, flinched, blinked or avoided anything walking to the other side of the arena. Metal and shards and jagged hunks of things crisscrossed every inch of him until he exited the arena.

A game of Russian Roulette with no empty chambers.

What would possess him to do it? A man with his intellect. Drink? Drugs? Both? A macho head-trip? A search for enlightenment? Or, was he like the guy that jumped off a bridge? And when asked why, said: "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

It was never mentioned in the following day's press, and Mailer's never spoken of it or addressed it in any of his work. But, finally, after more than 40 years, Mailer may have revealed why he did such a suicidal thing in a sentence about his philosophy of life in his latest book THE SPOOKY ART: "...he has had the courage to be bold where others might cry insanity."

Article posted on 16.01.2004

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