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On the Same Page with Norris Church Mailer

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Norris Church Mailer recently sat down with Kane Webb and discussed her new book A Ticket to the Circus: A Memoir. Mailer, Barbara Jean Davis, was the sixth wife of Pulitzer Prize winning-writer Norman Mailer.

A Ticket to the Circus paints a portrait of her life from her early beginnings in a small Arkansas town and the struggle to find her way in the world. She writes of her instant attraction to Norman Mailer after meeting him at a party in Russellville with hopes of obtaining his autograph inside Marilyn, a biography by the controversial writer in 1973.

Mailer shares many anecdotes of her 32-year marriage to Norman including his death in 2007.  Mailer currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and has penned two other novels, Windchill Summer and Cheap Diamonds.

TRANSCRIPT

WELL, TODAY ON THE SHOW, HOW ABOUT A MEMOIR? HOW ABOUT A TRUE STORY FROM A GIRL FROM SMALL-TOWN ARKANSAS WHO GROWS UP TO MEET AND MARRY ONE OF THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL AND ONE OF THE MOST CELEBRATED AUTHORS IN ALL OF AMERICAN LITERARY HISTORY? HER NAME IS NOR RIS CHURCH MAILER. THIS IS HER BOOK, "A TICKET TO THE CIRCUS" AND RIGHT NOW SHE'S ABOUT TO BE INTERVIEWED BY KANE WEBB ON "ON THE SAME PAGE." WEBB ON "ON THE SAME PAGE."

NORRIS CHURCH MAILER, WELCOME BACK TO ARKANSAS.

THANK YOU, KANE. SO HAPPY TO BE BACK.

YEAH, AND WHAT BRINGS YOU BACK IS YOUR NEW MEMOIR, "A TICKET TO THE CIRCUS", WHICH HAS ONE OF THE BEST TITLES I CAN IMAGINE, 33 YEARS OF LIFE WITH NORMAN MAILER.

WELL, IT SEEMED KIND OF APPROPRIATE. I WAS LOOKING FOR A TITLE FOR THE BOOK, AND NOTHING LEAPT OUT AT ME. ONE DAY I WAS TALKING TO MY GIRLFRIEND ABOUT MY LIFE AND SOME OF THE THINGS THAT HAPPENED, AND I SAID, WELL, I BOUGHT A TICKET TO THE CIRCUS. I DON'T KNOW WHY I WAS SURPRISED TO SEE ELEPHANTS. AND WE LOOKED AT EACH OTHER AND WE THOUGHT THAT'S A PRETTY GOOD TITLE, SO I WENT WITH IT, AND I THINK IT'S PRETTY GOOD TOO.

WELL, THE BOOK'S BEEN OUT A LITTLE WHILE NOW. IT SEEMS TO BE JUST ABOUT EVER EVERYWHERE. I SAW IT IN THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE YOU WERE INTERVIEWED, IN THE NEW YORK BOOK REVIEW SECTION, YOU GOT A RAVE REVIEW THERE. I'VE SEEN IT IN VANITY FAIR. HAVE YOU BEEN A LITTLE SURPRISED TO THE REACTION?

I HAVE. I'M THRILLED, OBVIOUSLY. I WAS HOPING FOR GOOD REACTION. YOU ALWAYS HOPE FOR IT. I'VE HAD A COUPLE OF NOVELS ABOUT IT BEFORE THAT HAD DECEN DECENT, BUT NOTHING LIKE THIS, SO I'M STILL KIND OF JUST FLABBERGASTED.

I AM GOING TO GET RIGHT TO THE POINT HERE AND READ A SECTION FROM THE VERY FIRST PAGE OF THE PROLOGUE IN WHICH YOU SAY NORMAN HAS COME DOWN AND SAYS WHEN I'M GONE AND YOU WRITE ABOUT ME, I WANT YOU TO SAY, AND YOU WRITE, I WOULD INVARIABLY INTERRUPT HIM. I AM NOT GOING TO WRITE ABOUT YOU. I'LL NEVER WRITE ABOUT YOU. NOBODY WOULD BELIEVE IT. AND YET HERE I AM.

HERE IT IS.

WITH YOUR BOOK. YOU WROTE ABOUT HIM. NOW, WHAT BROUGHT THAT ON? WHAT CHANGED YOUR MIND?

I TELL YOU, IT'S KIND OF CRAZY BECAUSE I REALLY NEVER WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT HIM, AND WE DID HAVE THIS DISCUSSION MANY TIMES. AND AFTER HE WAS GONE, IT WAS LIKE, YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU'RE LYING THERE AT NIGHT AND YOUR MIND STARTS TO GO, IT'S LIKE MY LIFE KIND OF STARTED PLAYING OUT IN MY HEAD LIKE A MOVIE, AND I DON'T KNOW. I JUST FELT LIKE I WANTED TO WRITE SOME OF IT DOWN. AND IN THE BEGINNING, IT WAS GOING TO BE VERY DIFFERENT. I WANTED TO WRITE KIND OF A CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN KIND OF BOOK BECAUSE I HAVE -- WE HAVE NINE CHILDREN, AND WE USED TO SPEND SUMMERS TOGETHER IN MAIN MAINE, YOU KNOW, ALL THE FUNNY STORIES THAT HAPPENED, COOKING, AND ALL THIS STUFF. AND THEN I REALIZED IN SHORT ORDER THAT I DIDN'T HAVE A CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN KIND OF LIFE. THAT'S WHEN I DECIDED TO JUST WRITE IT, AND IF I WAS GOING TO WRITE IT, I WAS GOING TO TELL THE TRUTH. I WAS GOING TO EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED. BECAUSE AS I SAY IN THE BOOK -- I DON'T HAVE ANY SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET. THEY'VE ALL BEEN IN THE PAGES OF THE NEW YORK POST. SO IT'S ALL IN THE BOOK, FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE.

YOU TELL IT, AS WE SAY IN THESE PARTS, WITH THE BARK OFF. IT DOESN'T SEEM AS IF YOU LEAVE ANYTHING TO CHANCE OR ANYTHING OUT.

THERE'S NOT MUCH. MAYBE A TINY LITTLE DETAIL OR TWO, BUT NOT MUCH.

WHEN I INTERVIEWED YOU OVER THE PHONE BEFORE THIS INTERVIE INTERVIEW, YOU SAID SOMETIMES I WORRY IF I TOLD TOO MUCH TRUTH.

UH-HUH, YEAH.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

WELL, DID I GIVE TOO MUCH OF MYSELF? DID I LAY MYSELF OUT THERE TO BE JUDGED AND TO HAVE THE TRUCK RUN OVER ME? YOU KNOW?

YEAH.

IT'S LIKE I DON'T KNOW. BUT I JUST DIDN'T FEEL LIKE I COULD TALK ABOUT MY HUSBAND AND HIS PECCADILLOS AND THE THINGS HE DID IF I DIDN'T SAY THAT I WAS, YOU KNOW, I HAD SOME TOO. I AM NOT A PERFECT PERSON. I DON'T KNOW WHO IS. MAYBE THERE ARE A FEW, BUT IF I WAS GOING TO TALK ABOUT HIM, I WAS GOING TO TALK ABOUT ME, SO THAT'S WHAT I DID.

IT ISN'T JUST NORMAN. I MEAN, THIS IS YOUR LIFE TOO. IT STARTS -- FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO DON'T KNOW, YOU ARE FROM ATKINS, ARKANSAS, AND YOU GREW UP THERE, AND THEN WERE LIVING AND WORKING IN RUSSELLVILLE AT ARKANSAS -- WERE YOU AT ARKANSAS TECH?

NO, I WAS AT RUSSELLVILLE HIGH SCHOOL. I WAS TEACHING ART.

OKAY, WHEN YOU MET NORMAN. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU MET HIM, THE CIRCUMSTANCES AROUND THAT. YOU WERE 26 YEARS OLD AT THE TIME. HE WAS 52.

HE WAS 52. I'D BEEN DIVORCED FOR A COUPLE YEARS AND HAD A YOUNG SON, MATTHEW, WHO WAS THREE. AND I WAS REALLY HAPPY. I HAD A GREAT LIFE. MY MOM AND DAD WERE HERE, AND WE WERE VERY CLOSE. I'M AN ONLY CHILD. I LOVE MY JOB, AND I LOVED ARKANSAS, AND I'D GO TO, YOU KNOW, SORT OF PLACES LIKE WAR EAGLE AND DO PENCIL PORTRAITS AND THE ART CENTER. I WAS NOT IN A HURRY TO LEAVE. IT'S NOT LIKE I WANTED TO CATCH THE FIRST GUY OUT OF NEW YORK AND GET OUT OF HERE. THAT WASN'T THE CASE AT ALL. BUT I HAD KIND OF ASPIRATIONS TO WRITE AS WELL. I'D BEEN IN BC HALL'S CLASS AT ARKANSAS TECH AND HAD STARTED A BOOK, ACTUALLY, WHICH I WAS CALLING LITTLE MISS LITTLE ROCK AT THE TIME IN HIS CLASS.

WHICH YOU WERE.

WHICH I WAS, WHEN I WAS THREE THREE.

IN FACT, IS THIS PICTURE OF YOU IN LITTLE MISS LITTLE ROCK?

IT WAS ABOUT THE SAME TIME.

HOW OLD WERE YOU? THREE OR FOUR?

I WAS THREE WHEN I WAS LITTLE MISS LITTLE ROCK. I LIVED IN LITTLE ROCK AT THAT POINT. I MOVED TO ATKINS WHEN I WAS ABOUT THREE OR FOUR. BUT ANYWAY, THERE WAS ANOTHER TEACHER NAMED FRANCIS IRBY GWALTNEY, WHO HAD BEEN IN THE WAR WITH HIM AND THEY KNEW EACH OTHER WELL. I HAPPENED TO BE AT TECH THAT DAY WITH MY SENIOR CLASS GOING TO ANOTHER FRIEND'S CLASS IN FILM ANIMATION. THIS WHOLE THING WAS A STRING OF THINGS THAT IF THIS HADN'T HAPPENED, THAT HADN'T HAPPENED, I WOULD NEVER HAVE MET NORMAN, BUT NORMAN WAS NEXT DOOR IN FRANCIS'S CLASS, SOMEBODY TOLD ME, AND I SAID WOW, I JUST GOT THIS BOOK, MARILYN, AND LET ME GO GET MY BOOK SIGNED. I DID NOT THINK ABOUT ROMANCE. HE WAS OLDER THAN MY FATHER. I KNEW THAT. BUT WHEN I WENT WITH MY BOOK TO GET SIGNED, I TOOK A LOOK AT HIM, AND HE DIDN'T LOOK SO OLD. YOU KNOW, HE LOOKED KIND OF CUTE. JUST ONE OF THOSE LIGHT BULB THINGS WENT OFF. I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU CAN PUT IT ANY BETTER THAN THAT.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THAT STORY IN THE BOOK IS YOU WERE A MEMBER OF THE BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB; RIGHT? AND YOU USUALLY GOT A POEM, YOU FILLED OUT YOU DIDN'T WANT THE BOOK, AND YOU GOT MARILYN.

I KNOW, I WOULD NOT HAVE BOUGHT THAT BOOK. IT WAS $20. YOU CAN'T AFFORD A $20 BOOK WHEN YOU ARE A TEACHER.

SO YOU READ IT AND WERE INTRIGUED BY THIS WRITER, AND YOU THOUGHT HE WASN'T ANYTHING LIKE HIS REPUTATION.

I KNOW. I THOUGHT, OH, THIS MAN MUST BE SENSITIVE. HE MUST REALLY UNDERSTAND WOMEN. YOU KNOW?  [LAUGHTER]

AND I GUESS HE DID TO A CERTAIN EXTENT.

HE DID. HE LOVED WOMEN. HE LOVED WOMEN. HE WAS NOT A MISOGYNIST.

YOU WRITE IN THE BOOK -- AND I LIKE THIS A LOT -- AND YOU ALLUDED TO THIS. YOU WEREN'T LOOKING TO LEAVE ARKANSAS. YOU LIKE YOUR LIFE HERE AND PLANNED TO STAY HERE; RIGHT?

YEAH.

WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED HAD YOU NOT MET NORMAN MAILER?

YOU KNOW, I THOUGHT ABOUT THAT MANY TIMES. THERE'S A MOVIE CALLED SLIDING DOORS. I DON'T KNOW IF YOU'VE SEEN IT. IT'S GWENITH PALTROW. SHE COMES TO THE SUBWAY, ONCE THE DOOR SLAMS IN HER FACE, SHE DOESN'T GET ON THE TRAIN. THEN THEY PLAY THE STORY OVER AND SHE DOES GET ON THE TRAIN. SO IT'S TWO DIFFERENT STORIES. I DON'T KNOW. I PLANNED TO GO BACK TO COLLEGE, I LOVE RUSSELLVILLE. I STILL LOVE RUSSELLVILLE. EVERY TIME I GO BACK, THERE'S A LITTLE HOUSE I SEE AND SAY IF I HAD MONEY, I'D BUY THIS HOUSE AND MOVE BACK HERE PART-TIME. I'VE NEVER REALLY LEFT IT IN MY HEART.

YOU LIVE STILL LIVE IN BROOKLYN?

YEAH, BROOKLYN.

YOU MET NORMAN, MOVED TO NEW YORK. WHAT WAS THE REACTION IN ATKIN ATKINS? HE HAD A REPUTATION AT THAT POINT.

I THINK PART OF ME WERE SORRY FOR HIM AND PART OF ME WERE SORRY FOR THEM. I DON'T KNOW. PART OF THEM THOUGHT OH, SHE'S GOING TO COME TO HER SENSES AND MOVE BACK. IT WON'T LAST LONG. LET HER GET THIS OUT OF HER SYSTEM. I DON'T KNOW. SOMEHOW IT LASTED 33 YEARS.

SO YOU WERE 26 AT THE TIME.

YEAH.

WERE YOU JUST INCREDIBLY NAIVE TO THINK YOU COULD MOVE TO NEW YORK WITH NORMAN AND MAKE A LIFE, OR WERE YOU THAT BRAVE TO DO IT AND SURE OF YOURSELF?

I THINK IT WAS A LITTLE OF BOTH. IT WAS PRETTY NAIVE, BUT I HAD TAKEN CARE OF MYSELF. I WAS SUPPORTING MY SON. I DIDN'T GET CHILD SUPPORT. I WAS TAKING CARE OF HIM AND M ME, AND WE HAD OUR LIFE, AND I FIGURED WELL, IF IT DOESN'T WORK OUT IN NEW YORK, I'LL COME BACK HERE, GO BACK TO TEACHING, OR I'LL DO SOMETHING ELSE. IT WILL BE AN ADVENTURE. IT WILL BE FUN.

IT WAS AN ADVENTURE.

IT WAS, YEAH.

WHEN YOU SAT DOWN TO WRITE THIS MEMOIR, HAD YOU KEPT NOTES OVER THE YEARS? HAD YOU -- DID YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WERE GOING TO SAY BEFORE YOU SAT DOWN AND DID IT OR JUST KIND OF FLOW OUT, THIS IS MY STORY, HERE IT IS?

YOU KNOW, IT KIND OF WAS A GIFT. IT JUST KIND OF FLOWED OUT. I DIDN'T HAVE AN OUTLINE. I DIDN'T REALLY HAVE A LOT OF DIARIES. THERE WERE A FEW THINGS I NEEDED TO CHECK DATES ON, BUT I FOUND -- LIKE I FOUND THE OLD TICKET WHERE I FIRST CAME TO NEW YORK, IT WAS STUCK IN A BOOK.

OH, MY GOSH.

SO I HAD THAT DATE. BUT NO, IT'S REALLY -- IT REALLY IS A MEMOIR. IT REALLY JUST CAME OUT OF MY MEMORIES. FOR BETTER OR WORSE, I HAVE A LITTLE FORWARD WHERE I SAY MEMORIES TREACHEROUS, AND I THINK EVERYTHING IN THIS BOOK HAPPENED. AT LEAST IT'S REAL TO ME.

WHAT DO YOU THINK HE WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF THE BOOK?

I DON'T KNOW. I THINK THERE'S PART OF IT HE WOULD BE REALLY UPSET ABOUT AND PART OF IT HE WOULD LOVE, AND I THINK HE WOULD TELL ME IT WAS REALLY WELL WRITTEN AND HE WAS PROUD OF ME FOR THAT. SO THAT KIND OF WAS THE BIG THING. IF IT'S WELL WRITTEN, IT'S OKA OKAY.

DID HE -- NOW, YOU WROTE A FEW THINGS THAT YOU LET HIM SE SEE.

OH, I LET HIM SEE THEM. BUT I NEVER LET HIM SEE THEM BEFORE THEY WERE PUBLISHED.

REALLY? YOU WOULD NOT LET HIM EDIT?

NO.

BECAUSE YOU KNEW HE WOULD CHANGE ANYTHING?

YES. WHEN WE FIRST GOT TOGETHER, WE WROTE A LOT OF LETTERS, SOME OF WHICH WERE IN THIS BOOK, AND THE FIRST LETTER I WROTE TO HI HIM, I SENT HIM THIS LITTLE POEM, AND HE SENT IT BACK TO ME RED PENCILLED.

OH, MY GOSH.

THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A CLUE. BUT HE COULDN'T KEEP HIS HANDS OFF OF SOMETHING. IF HE WAS READING IT, HE HAD TO BE MARKING ON IT.

HE COULDN'T RESIST?

YEAH, SO I WAS AFRAID TO SHOW HIM ANYTHING.

HOW DID HE WRITE? DID HE HOLE HIMSELF UP FOR DAYS AT A TIME? DID YOU SEE HIM? WHAT WAS HIS PROCESS?

IT WAS LIKE AN OFFICE, KIND OF. WHEN WE LIVED IN NEW YORK, HE HAD A STUDIO HE WENT TO EVERY DAY OUTSIDE THE HOUSE. THEN IN PROVINCETOWN HE HAD A STUDIO ON THE TOP FLOOR, BUT HE WOULD GO UP AND WORK FOR A THROUGH- OR FOUR-HOUR CHUNK -- THREE- OR FOUR-HOUR CHUNK, BUT HE WAS A PROFESSIONAL. I LEARNED FROM HIM HOW TO BE A PROFESSIONAL. IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE A WRIT WRITER, YOU HAVE TO DO THE JOB. YOU HAVE TO GO AND SIT DOWN AT 2:00 EVERY DAY IF THAT'S YOUR CHOICE OR 6:00 IN THE MORNING, WHATEVER YOU LIKE, AND JUST SIT THERE AND, YOU KNOW, PULL YOUR WORK UP. I WORK ON A COMPUTER. HE WROTE LONGHAND.

HE DID?

UH-HUH.

HE NEVER KEYED IT IN?

NEVER. NOT ONCE.

HE HAD SOMEONE ELSE KEY IT IN?

HE TYPED, BUT AFTER THAT, HE HAD A SECRETARY. HE NEVER DID IT AGAIN.

DO YOU FEEL THE WRITER WAS BETTER LONG-HANDS, DO YOU THINK?

HE DID, YEAH.

DID YOU READ HIS WORK BEFORE HE WOULD SEND IT?

OH, YEAH. HE LET ME DO IT. HE WAS GOOD ABOUT LETTING ME COME IN. OCCASIONALLY, HE WOULD EVEN TAKE A SUGGESTION. NOT VERY OFTEN.

WERE YOU A GENTLE EDITOR, OR DID YOU TELL IT LIKE IT WAS?

NO, I WAS TOUGH. I WAS MEAN.  [LAUGHTER]

WHEN YOU WERE MARRIED TO NORMAN, DID YOU GET BACK TO ARKANSAS WITH HIM MUCH, AND WHAT DID HE THINK ABOUT IT?

OH, SURE. WE CAME BACK EVERY YEAR, AT LEAST A COUPLE TIMES A YEAR. HE LOVED IT HERE. HE USED TO COME BACK AND VISIT FRANCIS ALL THE TIME BEFORE HE MET ME, SO HE ALREADY HAD A LOVE FOR THE STATE. AND WE HAD LOTS OF FUN. WE WENT TO EUREKA AND WENT TO --

AND YOU STILL HAVE FRIENDS THERE, YOU SAID?

YEAH, I HAVE FRIENDS THERE, WHICH I LOVE. I GO SEE THEM LIKE EVERY YEAR. HE FELL IN LOVE WITH BUBBA'S BARBECUE. WE WENT TO THE PASSION PLAY. WE LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT IT.

DID HE EVER WRITE ABOUT ARKANSAS AT ALL? WAS HE TEMPTED?

NOT HEAD ON I DON'T THINK. HE ALWAYS SAID HE WANTED TO TAKE MY LITTLE HOUSE I GREW UP IN AND COME BACK HERE AND WRITE FOR A WHILE, BUT IT'S SOMETHING WE NEVER DID.

YEAH. BUT HE WAS A NEW YORK BOY ALL THE WAY; CORRECT?

YEAH, HE WAS. HE WAS.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE MAILER BOOK? AND DID YOU TELL HIM I LIKE THIS ONE BETTER THAN THAT ONE?

OH, HE KNEW. HE WAS HAPPY WITH MY CHOICE, I THINK. I LIKE -- I LOVE A LOT OF THEM. MY FAVORITE OF ALL THE BOOKS, I THINK IF I HAD TO PICK ONE, IS ANCIENT EVENINGS, WHICH ALMOST NOBODY'S READ, BUT IT'S SUCH A MAGICAL, WONDERFUL BOOK. I READ IT EVERY FEW YEARS JUST FOR FUN, AND THERE'S ALWAYS SOMETHING I'D FORGOTTEN OR THAT LEAPS OUT AT ME I DIDN'T REMEMBER. YOU GO AND YOU LIVE IN THIS STRANGE LAND, ANCIENT EGYPT FOR A WHILE, AND IT'S KIND OF WONDERFUL. I LOVE OSWALD'S TALE, EXECUTIO EXECUTIONER'S SONG IS WONDERFUL. I MEAN, SO MANY.

YEAH, YEAH. WHAT ABOUT LIFE WITH NORMAN WHEN HE WASN'T WORKING, THE PARTIES AND THE LITERARY SCENE IN NEW YORK, WHICH YOU TALK ABOUT QUITE A BIT IN THE BOOK.

I DO. I DO. YEAH, WE WENT OUT A LOT. WRITING IS A SOLITARY ACTIVITY, AND HE WANTED TO GO OUT AT NIGHT, SO WE'D GO TO DINNER PARTIES AND WE GAVE A LOT OF PARTIES, AND WE HAD THE FAMILY OVER.

YEAH.

SO IT WAS ACTION ALL THE TIME AT NIGHT.

WAS YOUR APARTMENT IN BROOKLYN -- WHERE YOU STILL LIVE.

YEAH, I STILL LIVE IN THE SAME PLACE.

IS THAT KIND OF GROUND ZERO FOR THE LITERATURE SET?

IT WAS, YEAH.

TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE PART IN THE BOOK WHERE YOU DESCRIBE ONE PARTY AND I THINK IT HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH COLESLAW, AND THEN THERE'S HUN HUNTER S. THOMPSON, WHO IS PASSED OUT THE NEXT MORNING.

IN OUR HAMMOCK.

YEAH, GIVE US A LITTLE RECAP OF THAT, WHICH IS HYSTERICAL.

THIS IS THE FIRST BIG PARTY WE GAVE TOGETHER AS A COUPLE, SO THIS IS KIND OF OUR DEBUT. WE DON'T HAVE A BIG PLACE. IT HOLDS MAYBE 50 PEOPLE IS A LOT. AND I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE CAME, A HUNDRED OR TWO, AND THEY WERE CRAMMED IN THERE. WE WERE ALL KIND OF TRYING TO EAT. I'D MADE -- NORMAN TOLD ME THAT HE MADE THIS GREAT COLESLAW, AND I WAS LIKE COLESLAW? WELL, WHAT -- FOR A PARTY? THE PARTY STARTED AT 10:00 AT NIGHT, WHICH I WASN'T USED TO. I SAID PEOPLE ARE GOING TO WANT TO EAT COLESLAW AT 10:00 AT NIGHT? OH, YEAH, THEY'LL HAVE EATEN HOURS AGO. THEY'LL BE HUNGRY AGAIN. I THOUGHT OH, OKAY, I'LL MAKE A HAM BECAUSE I MADE HAM.

THE SOUTHERN GIRL.

BEANS, CORNBREAD, I DON'T KNOW, I MADE THIS WHOLE BIG SPREAD THAT NOBODY TOUCHED. AND WE HAD THIS BILL OF COLESLAW, WE SPENT ALL DAY LONG SLICING COLESLAW. IT WAS A TUB THIS BIG, A BIG THING OF IT. IT WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TABLE. I DON'T GUESS TWO PEOPLE TASTED THAT COLESLAW. AND THE PARTY WENT ON AND ON AND ON. I WAS JUST HALF DEAD WHEN IT WAS OVER, LIKE 6:00 IN THE MORNING OR SOMETHING. I THOUGHT LET ME GET THIS COLESLAW OUT OF HERE SO I DON'T HAVE TO FACE IT. I PICK THE THING UP, START GOING TOWARD THE KITCHEN, AND DROP IT ON THE RUG.

OH, MY GOSH.

AND IT BREAKS AND COLESLAW GOES EVERYWHERE. IT WAS LIKE OH, NO, I WAS SO TIRED.

WHERE WAS NORMAN? WAS HE ASLEEP?

HE WAS IN BED. HE HAD GONE TO BED. I WAS SCRAPING UP COLESLAW, BROKEN POTTERY, CRYING. I GOT THE THING KIND OF CLEANED UP, THE DOORBELL RANG, AND IT'S HUNTER THOMPSON. HE'S LIKE -- HE COMES IN, HE'S PRETTY ROUGH, AND I SAID HUNTER, THE PARTY IS OVER. HE SAID CAN YOU JUST MAKE ME SOME BACON AND EGGS? I SAID OKAY.

DID YOU MAKE THEM FOR HIM?

I MADE THEM. I MADE HIM BACON AND EGGS.

DID YOU HAVE A FLASH-BACK OF OKAY, I'M THIS GIRL FROM ATKINS, ARKANSAS, I'M HERE IN NORMAN MAILER'S APARTMENT MAKING EGGS --

MAKING EGGS AT 6:00 IN THE MORNING FOR HUNTER THOMPSON. WHAT AM I DOING HERE? WE ARE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE. AND HE ATE THE BREAKFAST, THEN WE HAD A HAMMOCK THAT WAS KIND OF SLUNG OVER -- OUR HOUSE, PART OF IT IS AN A-FRAME, AND HE CLIMBED UP INTO THE HAMMOCK, JUMPED INTO THE HAMMOCK, AND HE LAY THERE AND FELL ASLEEP, AND HE SLEPT THERE ALL DAY LONG.

THIS IS THOMPSON?

YEAH. ABOUT 3:00 IN THE AFTERNOON, HE KIND OF FLIPPED OUT OF THE HAMMOCK AND SAID THANKS FOR A GREAT PARTY, NORRIS, AND WALKED OUT THE DOOR, YOU KNOW, LIKE HE DID THAT EVERY DAY.

DID YOU EVER GET USED TO THAT KIND OF LIFE? THERE'S STILL A PARTY --

I'VE NEVER BEEN STAR STRUCK. YOU KNOW, I'VE NEVER BEEN LIKE, OH, MY GOD, THERE'S BOB DILAN OR SOMEBODY. I WASN'T LIKE THAT. BUT YOU NEVER QUITE GET USED TO HAVING HUNTER THOMPSON UP THERE IN YOUR HAMMOCK. ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW TO GET USED TO.

WE ARE TALKING ABOUT "A TICKET TO THE CIRCUS" BY NORRIS CHURCH MAILER, ALSO KNOWN HERE LOCALLY AS BARBARA JEAN DAVIS, AND YOU ARE STILL BARBARA DAVIS WHEN YOU RETURN TO ARKANSAS; RIGHT?

I'M BARBARA DAVIS FOREVER.

FOREVER. TELL US THE STORY ABOUT HOW YOU GOT THE NAME NORRIS CHURCH MAILER, BECAUSE THAT'S AN INTERESTING LITTLE ANECDOTE.

IT'S KINDS KIND OF A BORING LITTLE STORY. I HAD MARRIED A BOY NAMED LARRY NORRIS, MY FIRST HUSBAND. WENT TO NEW YORK AS BARBARA NORRIS. WILL ME IN A THOUGHT IT WAS A REALLY BORING NAME, BARBARA NORRIS, NOT MUCH OF A MODEL NAME, SO WHY DON'T YOU JUST BE NORRIS, LIKE EMON OR APOLLONIA, OKAY, THAT'S GOOD. I'LL DO THAT. THEN I REALIZED YOU CAN'T GO THROUGH LIFE WITH ONE NAME. YOU NEED DRIVER'S LICENSE AND STUFF. SO NORMAN AND I WERE SITTING DOWN SAYING WHAT GOES WITH NORRIS IF THAT'S GOING TO BE MY FIRST NAME? HE SAID, WELL, YOU ARE A GOOD BAPTIST, WENT TO CHURCH THREE TIMES A WEEK, WHY DON'T YOU CALL YOURSELF CHURCH. I WAS LIKE OKAY. IT WAS JUST THAT SILLY, AND IT WAS. AND REALLY, IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER, I PROBABLY WOULD NOT HAVE DONE THAT, BUT IT'S MY NAME, AND THERE IT IS.

A BIG PART OF THIS BOOK IS DEVOTED TO FAMILY.

YES.

YOU KIND OF TIE TOGETHER THIS HUGE, INTRICATE MAILER FAMILY. YOU MENTIONED YOU THOUGHT ABOUT A CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN TYPE OF APPROACH TO IT. WHAT WAS -- WHAT WAS THAT EXPERIENCE LIKE TO KIND OF BE THE -- ESSENTIALLY THE MATRIARCH OF THIS FAMILY WITH SO MANY DIFFERENT BRANCHES? HOW DID YOU KEEP IT TOGETHER?

WELL, IT COULD HAVE TURNED OUT SO BADLY, AND IT TURNED OUT SO BEAUTIFULLY. MY OLDEST STEP-DAUGHTER IS MY AGE. I AM SIX MONTHS OLDER THAN HER. THE NEXT ONE IS -- THEY ARE KIND OF LIKE MY SISTERS AND KIND OF LIKE MY FRIENDS, AND THERE'S NINE OF THEM ALTOGETHE ALTOGETHER. JOHN, WHO IS HERE WITH ME TODA TODAY, IS OUR YOUNGEST. HE'S THE ONLY ONE THAT NORMAN AND I HAD TOGETHER. THEN MATTHEW FROM MY FIRST MARRIAGE WAS WITH US. THEY WERE JUST GREAT KIDS, AND THEY HAD -- ESPECIALLY THE OL OLDER ONES HAD BEEN THROUGH SO MANY DIFFERENT MARRIAGES, AND THEY WERE I WOULDN'T SAY SHATTERED. THAT'S NOT THE WORD BECAUSE THEY WEREN'T SHATTERED, BUT THEY WERE -- IT HAD BEEN HARD FOR THEM TO HAVE DIFFERENT STEPMOTHERS AND DIFFERENT PLACES TO LIVE AND STUFF. I MEAN, NORMAN WAS MARRIED FIVE TIMES BEFORE HE MET ME, AND I THINK HE LEFT EACH OF THOSE CHILDREN BEFORE THEY WERE SIX. SO IT WAS REALLY HARD ON THEM. AND I WAS YOUNGER, AND WE PLAYED. YOU KNOW? I WASN'T TRYING TO BOSS THEM AROUND OR BE THEIR MOTHER. I MEAN, THEY HAD MOTHERS, SO I COULD BE THEIR FRIEND. AND WE JUST HAD FUN. WE HAD A GREAT TIME, AND WE STILL DO.

YEAH, THE PORTION OF THE BOOK IN WHICH YOU FIND OUT ABOUT HIS INFIDELITIES AFTER YOU'VE BEEN MARRIED FOR A WHILE, THE FAMILY SEEMS TO RALLY AROUND YOU.

YEAH, THEY DID.

AND NOT NORMAN.

YEAH, WELL --

THEY HAD REACHED A POINT WHERE THEY WERE PUT OUT WITH HIM?

THEY WERE A LITTLE ANNOYED AT HIM, YEAH, I WOULD SAY THAT.

WHY DID YOU STAY WITH HIM IN THE END?

YOU KNOW, EVERYONE ALWAYS ASKS THAT. HE CHEATED ON YOU. WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST LEAVE? IT'S -- IT'S NOT A GOOD THING TO CHEAT, AND I WOULDN'T RECOMMEND IT AT ALL, BUT THERE'S OTHER -- THERE'S OTHER THINGS WHEN YOU BREAK UP A MARRIAGE. WE'D BEEN TOGETHER AT THAT POINT 16 YEARS. WE HAD THE KIDS. I'D HAD THIS RELATIONSHIP WITH MY FAMILY. I LOVED MY LIFE. I LOVED THE KIDS. I LOVED OUR SOCIAL LIFE. I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT -- I LOVED HIM. AND WHEN YOU BREAK UP A MARRIAGE, YOU JUST LEAVE ALL THAT. YOU JUST -- YOU JUST LIKE AMPUTATE A LIMB, AND TO GO OFF AND START A WHOLE NEW LIFE WITH A WHOLE NEW SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES IS HARD. IT'S NOT SO EASY.

AND HE CLEARLY --

ESPECIALLY WHEN HE DIDN'T WANT ME TO LEAVE. IF HE HAD ACTED DIFFERENTLY, IF HE HAD SAID I'M NOT GIVING UP THE WOMEN, YOU KNOW, FORGET IT, THEN I WOULD HAVE LEFT. I COULDN'T HAVE STAYED UNDER THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES. BUT HE DIDN'T SAY THAT. HE WANTED TO GIVE UP THE WOMEN. HE WANTED TO BE JUST -- YOU KNOW, JUST THE TWO OF US AGAIN. FOR A VERY LONG TIME AFTER WE GOT TOGETHER, HE WAS TRUE. HE WANTED TO BE MONOGAMOUS. THAT WAS PART OF THE PLAN WHEN WE GOT TOGETHER. HE SAID I'M TIRED OF CHEATING. I'M TIRED OF RUNNING AROUND. I JUST WANT TO HAVE A FAMILY LIFE. AND WE HAD A GREAT ONE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, AND I GUESS THAT'S WHY I GOT LULLED INTO THIS -- YOU KNOW, THINKING EVERYTHING WAS FINE, AND IT WAS SUCH A SHOCK BECAUSE PEOPLE SAY WHY WERE YOU SO SHOCKED? WELL, I WAS. I WAS SHOCKED.

IT SEEMED AS IF YOU REPAIRED THE MARRIAGE A LITTLE BIT THROUGH LETTERS. YOU STARTED WRITING TO EACH OTHER. WHICH YOU HAD DONE WHEN YOU FIRST -- AND I GUESS THROUGHOUT YOUR MARRIAGE; RIGHT? YOU ALWAYS WROTE BACK AND FORT FORTH.

WE DID. WE DID. EVERY TIME I HAD SOMETHING SERIOUS TO TALK TO HIM ABOUT, I'D WRITE HIM A LETTER BECAUSE WHEN YOU SPEAK TO SOMEONE, THEY DON'T REALLY LISTEN TO YOU. THEY ARE THINKING ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE GOING TO SAY NEXT OR SOMETHING. AND THEY DON'T ABSORB WHAT YOU ARE SAYING. BUT IF IT'S THERE IN BLACK AND WHITE, ESPECIALLY TO A WRITER, THEN THEY GET THE NUANCES.

HE APPRECIATED THAT TOO, I GUESS.

HE DID, YEAH. THE FIRST THING I DID WHEN I FOUND OUT ABOUT THE INFIDELITY WAS WRITE HIM A LETTER AND FAXED IT TO HIM BECAUSE HE WAS STILL IN PROVINCETOWN, AND THE FIRST THING HE SAID WAS WELL, YOU'RE REALLY A WRITER. I SAID ARE YOU TRYING TO FLATTER ME? AND HE SAID YES.  [LAUGHTER] I SAID WELL, I'M FLATTERED, BUT NEVERTHELESS.

WAS THERE A PART OF THIS MEMOIR THAT WAS ESPECIALLY DIFFICULT TO WRITE, THAT YOU WANTED TO FUDGE A LITTLE BIT OR PULL YOUR PUNCHES OR MAYBE SMOOTH OVER? SINCE HE WAS GONE, WHO WOULD KNOW? YOU KNOW?

I REALLY WASN'T TEMPTED TO DO THAT.

YEAH.

BECAUSE I HAD DECIDED TO TELL THE TRUTH. AND I'M KIND OF WEIRD ABOUT THAT. I JUST -- I DON'T LIKE TO -- I WOULD NOT HAVE FELT GOOD ABOUT MYSELF IF I HAD LIED.

YEAH.

WHICH IT WOULD HAVE BEEN.

AND HE WOULD HAVE KNOWN IN SOME SENSE.

HE WOULD HAVE KNOWN.

WHAT ARE YOU UP TO NOW BESIDES THIS TOUR, WHICH I'M SURE IS GOING TO EXTEND FOREVER SINCE YOU'RE GETTING SUCH GOOD PRESS?

THE TOUR KEEPS GOING ON AND ON. I'M ACTUALLY WORKING ON ANOTHER PROJECT. WHICH KIND OF CAME OUT OF THE BLUE. I'M NOT -- I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT TOO MUCH YET, BUT IT'S KINDS OF --

A WRITING PROJECT?

IT'S A WRITING PROJECT, YEAH. I'M GOING TO WRITE IT AS A SCREEN PLAY FIRST AND MAYBE AS A NOVEL.

YOU'VE WRITTEN TWO NOVELS BEFORE THIS MEMOIR. DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER BOOK NEW, DO YOU THINK?

YEAH, I THINK THIS ONE COULD BE A NOVEL. AND I'M GOING TO DO IT AS A SCREEN PLAY FIRST. I HAVE SOMEONE WHO TOOK AN OPTION, SO.

THAT SOUNDS GREAT. WHAT ABOUT YOUR PAINTING? I KNOW THROUGHOUT THE BOOK --

I WANT TO GET BACK TO THE PAINTING. IT'S SO HARD TO FIND TIME.

YEAH. YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ALSO ABOUT YOUR PLACE IN PROVINCETOWN THAT MEANT SO MUCH TO YOU GUYS. YOU ALWAYS WENT THERE FOR SUMMERS. THAT'S NOW LIKE A WRITER'S COLONY; ISN'T IT?

YEAH, WE TURNED IT INTO A WRITERS COLONY. ALL THESE YOUNG WRITERS ARE GETTING TO WRITE IN THAT HOUSE. IT'S KIND OF A WONDERFUL PLACE TO WRITE. YOU WALK IN THE FRONT DOOR, AND IT'S LIKE YOU GET THIS AH FEELING. IT'S LIKE A VERY SERENE, LOVELY PLACE. IT'S RIGHT ON THE BEACH. AND PEOPLE -- THE KIDS ALWAYS USED TO LOVE TO COME UP AND WRITE THERE BECAUSE YOU JUST GET A LOT OF WORK DONE.

BUT YOU WROTE IN BROOKLYN?

I WROTE IN BROOKLYN AND PROVINCETOWN. THE LAST TEN YEARS OF NORMAN'S LIFE, WE PRETTY MUCH LIVED IN PROVINCETOWN.

YEAH. WELL, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU SAY YOU'RE IN ATKINS, RUSSELLVILLE, THEN IN EUREKA; IS THAT RIGHT?

I WAS IN ATKINS, RUSSELLVILLE, EUREKA. I AM GOING TO BLYTHEVILLE TOMORROW -- NO, LITTLE ROCK TOMORROW, THEN BLYTHEVILLE.

DOES IT STILL SEEM THE SAM SAME, ARKANSAS, OR HAS IT CHANGED A LOT?

OH, IT'S CHANGED A LOT, BUT IT'S STILL THE SAME. IT'S THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT.

DO YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS AN ARKANSAS GIRL OR ARE YOU A BROOKLYN GIRL AT THIS POINT?

I THINK AT THIS POINT I HAVE TO SAY I'M A MIX BECAUSE I'VE BEEN THERE LONGER THAN I WAS HERE, BUT ARKANSAS IS STILL ME. I MEAN, THAT'S WHO I AM.

A LITTLE BIT OF THE ACCENT WHEN YOU COME BACK.

IT'S ALWAYS THERE. THEY THINK I HAVE A REALLY HEAVY ONE IN NEW YORK.

THANK YOU, NORRIS, FOR VISITING WITH US.

THANK YOU, KANE.

APPRECIATE IT. GOOD LUCK WITH THE BOOK.

APPRECIATE IT. GOOD LUCK WITH THE BOOK.

THANK YOU.

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