Armstrong, Bob 1942–
Armstrong, Bob 1942–
PERSONAL: Born 1942.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Carroll & Graf, 245 W. 17th St., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10011-5300.
CAREER: Writer. Has worked as a book salesman, DVD reviewer, and freelance writer; founder, Zen Escort Service. Military service: Served in the military during the Vietnam War.
Vanilla Slim: An Improbable Pimp in the Empire of Lust, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including the San Francisco Chronicle.
SIDELIGHTS: After coming home from fighting in the Vietnam War, Bob Armstrong earned his living in a variety of ways. Among his occupations were traveling book salesman and freelance writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and adult magazines. Addicted to speed and other drugs, he then decided he needed to earn more money, and the idea came to him that he should become a pimp. Founding Zen Escort Services, Armstrong, a white man in his fifties at the time, easily located willing prostitutes by placing an advertisement in the SF Weekly. Calling himself Vanilla Slim—"Slim" in honor of a famous black pimp named Iceberg Slim, and "Vanilla" because he was white—Armstrong arranged the appointments and drove his girls to their waiting men; when they were done, he collected 150 dollars per hour and the girls kept 350. The easy money did not last long, however, and Armstrong soon found himself in prison, which is where his memoir, Vanilla Slim: An Improbable Pimp in the Empire of Lust, begins.
Reviewers of Vanilla Slim noted that Armstrong is obviously a well-read and intelligent person; however, many critics went on to complain that the author comes off as a very self-satisfied, egotistical man who never reveals whether or not he has a conscience about what he is doing. This mix results in some self-indulgent prose that critics often found unpalatable. Baltimore City Paper contributor Jessie Reeder, for example, commented that Armstrong "suffers from an inability to rein in his often-expository dialogue and the most nauseating of linguistic indulgences," adding that "it becomes clear that he is all too pleased with himself for being a Pimp Who Reads." Lincoln MacVeagh, writing for the New York Press, similarly observed, "The story of Vanilla Slim is essentially a comic one. It's the comeuppance of an aging blow-hard, and in the right hands it could make for a witty novel. But the story isn't in the right hands. It's told by the blowhard, and Armstrong doesn't see himself as a clown." MacVeagh continued, "He has a nice eye for the absurdity of other people and as long as he's gazing outward he can be very entertaining." Nevertheless, a Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that "Armstrong offers funny, pungent lines interspersed with self-examining digressions, producing a funny read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armstrong, Bob, Vanilla Slim: An Improbable Pimp in the Empire of Lust, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2006.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2005, review of Vanilla Slim, p. 1167.
Publishers Weekly, October 10, 2005, review of Vanilla Slim, p. 46.
Baltimore City Paper Online, http://www.citypaper.com/ (February 8, 2006), Jessie Reeder, review of Vanilla Slim.
New York Press Online, http://www.nypress.com/ (March 1, 2006), Lincoln MacVeagh, "Pimp Mongering," review of Vanilla Slim.
Portland Mercury Online, http://www.portlandmercury.com/ (January 12, 2006), Scott Moore, review of Vanilla Slim.