Pimp is just a four-letter word

These parasites don’t deserve to be elevated to pop-icon status

Mick Farren is a contributor to the Los Angeles Citybeat, where this essay originally appeared. He blogs at Doc40.blogspot.com

“You don’t get me my money TONIGHT, I’m gonna put that young girl of yours out on whore’s row.”

—Youngblood Priest

Yo! (And I use the word advisedly.) Isn’t it way past time for the pimp thing to be laid to rest? When the corporate communications giant Vonage is running the slogan “pimp that phone,” you know the concept is out of control and must cease. I have nothing against whores, hookers, or any other subdivision of sex workers, but pimps are something else.

While I’m well aware that laboring in adult entertainment can—in a bad-case scenario—be degrading, demeaning, or harmful to one’s health, I also know the same can be said about waiting tables, mining coal, or sorting mail at the post office. The freedom to do what you want with your own body essentially makes these career choices none of my business. Pimps, on the other hand, merit no such defense. They are parasites, pure and simple, and no mink-lined Lincoln Continental should disguise that, or ever qualify them for elevation to pop-icon status.

If pimps are chic, society is in fundamental trouble. Why? Because, deep down, the pimp is a nutshell microcosm of capitalism at its most raw and unfettered. The pimp philosophy is that, for a small initial outlay, the investor is entitled to live idly off the sweat of the ho in perpetuity, and any challenge to this given certainty will be met with escalating violence. Perhaps not a million miles from the corporate creed that outsources, breaks unions, and allows the nation to go to hell as long as short-term profits are maximized.

The last great outbreak of pimp chic was on Nixon’s watch in the early 1970s, when Black Pantherism was replaced by bling and blow: Big hats and fur coats ruled, and white people actually read Iceberg Slim novels. The angry young men of the time were seduced away from the romance of revolution to the easy-lay fantasy of coke and hos. The movie Superfly even provided a whiny player’s rationale: “It’s a rotten game, but it’s the only one The Man left us to play.” In the 1990s, as the radicalism of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” degenerated to Cheech’s “Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong,” and was then extended to the present as MTV (a division of Viacom) decided “pimp” was the coolest word in the lexicon and began peddling it via the cultural stupidity of Kid Rock.

We can only hope, though, that when New York magazine ran a cover story in its July 19 issue on “King of All Pimps” Jason Itzler and his partner and product, Natalia, “New York’s #1 Escort,” the current cycle of player-obsession might be close to an end. Mark Jacobson’s breathless piece read like the greatest catalog of consumption since Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho—“titanium business cards,” “a $5,700 full-length fox coat from Jeffrey,” “the $50,000 sound system,” “my $2,800 rabbit-fur-lined sweater,” “a $200 bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue a day,” “26 antique crystal chandeliers at $3,000 apiece”—but neither the vast shopping list, nor even Itzler’s pompous propensity to quote Ayn Rand, could disguise how this pimp was as dumb—if not dumber—than his colleagues in the hood.

Itzler’s NY Confidential escort agency was grossing an average of $25,000 a night. Then, after Itzler’s boasting to the New York Post that he had “cops on my side,” NYPD Vice dropped on him from a great height. With assets frozen, and unable to make his $250,000 bail, Jason Itzler now sits in Riker’s, proving that the shelf-life of any pimp is short and suggesting that the fad for lionizing pimpery may also be on its way out.