Others Might Cry Insanity



50th st & 8th Ave. NY NY

Neighborhood: Midtown

In the late 60’s, I went to the old Madison Square Garden on 50th St. to see a main-go between two Latin fighters. One a Cuban and one a Puerto Rican.

So, the Garden is a tinder box; any spark will ignite it.

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. The fighters, the seconds and the TV people dove for cover under the ring.

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

Lunatics up in the cheap seats ripped the eight-foot fire spears off the walls and hurled them down. 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. And 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 referred to 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 writes: “…he has had the courage to be bold where others might cry insanity.”

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