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A Pimp Is Only As Good As His Product

February 6th, 2011 · 100 Comments

Promoting I’m Gonna Git You Sucka in 1988, Steve James, who appeared as “Kung Fu Joe” in the blaxploitation spoof, commented: “I always hated that label ‘blaxploitation.’ I wondered, why couldn’t there just be films with black stars? You know, you’d go around the corner from a theater showing one of them, and there’d be Dirty Harry. And nobody was calling it ‘whitesploitation.'” Right on, Steve! So in February, I’ll take a look at ten films featuring black stars from a certain era.

The Mack (1973)
Directed by Michael Campus
Written by Robert J. Poole and Max Julien (uncredited)
Produced by Harvey Bernhard
110 minutes

Helping graft the message and style of hip hop, there’s room to argue that The Mack is flat out the best “blaxploitation” movie ever made. Robert J. Poole was a convict who — according to legend — wrote a 40-page treatment for a movie on prison toilet paper. Titled Black Is Beautiful, Poole ultimately got his material to producer Harvey Bernhard. Fascinated with the concept of a street Svengali, Bernhard hired a young (white) filmmaker named Michael Campus, who’d shot a few documentaries for ABC, to direct. To play the title role, Max Julien was approached. Julien had written the screenplay for Cleopatra Jones and given the go-ahead to fill in Poole’s blueprint, got on board. Traveling to Oakland, Campus and Julien sought the help of the Ward brothers, the four men who ran the bay city’s underworld. Frank Ward agreed to take the filmmakers into his world, provided they took Ward into theirs.

In addition to being granted a cameo, Frank Ward inspired the title character as Campus and Julien fleshed out the script. Murdered during its production, Ward had the film dedicated to him. Financed by the soon to be defunct Cinerama Releasing Corp., The Mack was shot on a substantially low budget, yet endures because nearly every frame seems infused with a pure love for movies. Julien and co-star Richard Pryor bring star level magnetism to this low down dirty B-movie, while the necessities of shooting on the fly gives the film the power of a documentary on 1970s Oakland. The Mack is still a shoot ‘em up at heart and does get repetitive, but it’s also politically hip to the conflict between capitalism and the greater good of the community. If that’s too much to ponder, Willie Hutch wrote and performed nine killer tunes, including “I Choose You,” “Theme of The Mack” and “Brother’s Gonna Work It Out”.

John “Goldie” Mickens (Max Julien) and his partner Slim (Richard Pryor) shoot it out with gunmen who’ve ambushed them in a junkyard. Unable to escape, Goldie is taunted by two cops (Dan Gordon, William Watson) who debate whether to finish the hustler off or not. Enduring almost five years in prison, Goldie returns to the streets of Oakland. He visits his mentor, The Blind Man (Paul Harris) who ruminates about pimping and the opportunity there for the taking if his protégé adopts the right mental angle. Goldie runs into an old girlfriend named Lulu (Carol Speed), an “outlaw” turning tricks; she implores Goldie to manage her. The ex-con next reunites with his brother Olinga (Roger Mosley), a political organizer dedicated to black empowerment and to running the pimps and pushers out of the community.

Announcing to his brother that he’s down with self-empowerment — while keeping the true nature of his business secret from his Mother (Juanita Moore) — Goldie dedicates himself to becoming “the meanest mack who ever lived.” He reteams with Slim and with Lulu’s help, Goldie’s “professional ladies of leisure” are drilled in the finer points of shoplifting and grand larceny. To control their minds, Goldie rents a planetarium and lays down his rules under the cosmos. Rising to such success that he wins Mack of the Year honors at the annual Players Ball, Goldie spurns an offer from his former employer Fatman (George Murdock) to return to work for him. The vile cops who busted Goldie five years ago resurface next, intent on taking him down. To get out of the game with his life intact, Goldie turns to his brother for help.

What do you say?

Tags: Blaxploitation · Brother/brother relationship · Crooked officer · Cult favorite · Famous line · Gangsters and hoodlums · Master and pupil · Prostitute · Shootout

100 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Poser // Aug 18, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Where is Frank Ward’s dvd? It was supposed to be out in Fall 2011. What happened?

  • 2 Cassius // Oct 8, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Remember people the key is trained eyes frank ward would make an interesting story because it would include exploiting once agin the black cummunity by another black man flooding it with drugs

  • 3 Carlton A. King // Oct 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I want to thanks all peoples ,who help make the Mack. Frank Ward wanted out, the young people too.He want to help,The movie was he way out,he knew he would never really see the movie.

  • 4 God is first // Oct 30, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Towards the end of his life, Frank seriously thought about leaving that lifestyle behind. He actively tried to move on but a murderer caught up with him before he could make the transition. They not only killed him but also his main lady named Blanche.

    Say a prayer for their souls and ask for forgiveness of your sins tonight before it is too late

  • 5 Lynel Garder // Dec 9, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Ted, Frank and my father Bobby Gardner were as tight as a glove. My Aunt Arletha had a child with Ted Ward. Ted used to ride me around in his Excalibur a $150,000 car when I was kid. I don’t remember any other pimps in the Bay area at that time that had one. People looked up to pimps because they were able to beat “The Man” at his own game. They never forced anyone to do anything they did not want to do. They and my father would ask “Are you sure you want to do this? This life is not for everyone” Pimpa brought money back into the neighborhood economy. And that money influenced every aspect of the inner-city businesses, from baby sitting, to supporting church activities, donations to the Black Panther Party, to political campaigns and the support of the Civil Rights Movement.

    Pimps were not desperate from the black community they were part of the fabric of the black community. They were someone’s dad, cousin, brother or sister. Yes and don’t forget that their were madame’s. It was not seen as a lifestyle that was good or bad. It was a political statement and a means to get bye until something better came along. I don’t think that I ever saw anyone in the hood ever turn down the financial support of a pimp or a neighborhood mechanic refuse to take there money after fixing there car. Yes Civil Rights legislation did afford us more opportunities where we no longer had to depend on the neighborhood pimps for our sources of income but was assimilation worth the price of admission to be part of the American Dream at the cost of being ashamed of who we were and where we came from. Is it fair to project our internalized hatred on the black men of that generation on not the black middle class that abandoned those same men and who continue to abandoned there grandchildren who reside in the inner city to this day. Why? because you need the white man to love you for what you are still striving to be and not what you were.

    And stop asking about how Frank died. Use your common sense and stop watching much T.V. In the movie “American Gangster” Do you actually think that he told those writers everything? Some of the people he had come across in the past may be still alive.

  • 6 Really tho? // Dec 11, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Lynel, who are you trying to convince? The readers or yourself? The middle class didn’t abandon anyone so why blame them for a person deciding to use, abuse and ” pimp” women?

    In life we make choices. The members of the so-called middle class chose to either learn a trade, attend college, open a legit business or obtain a real job. We all have the power to make moves and better ourselves in some form or another…so keep it real.

    Pimps chose the game. There were other paths to take. other choices to make. No one abandoned them or forced them to make a living hustlin trim. This was their choice.

    Now, fast forward 40 years. Most of the people who were working regular gigs back then are baby boomers who are retired and living off their pensions. On the other hand, Most of the pimps from that time are either dead, in jail or left the game years ago in an attempt to restore their lives. Theres no future in that lifestyle & no future in your fronting.

    So when you brag about dude riding around in an Excalibur and having children out of wedlock what does it all mean now? For a fleeting moment the pimps lived well, until tragedy and karma came knocking at their door.

    Pimpin is a political statement??? Lol Laughable!

    No need to rationalize or glamorize that trifling lifestyle. The truth is buried in the outcome of these pimps and whores…nothin but tragedy, pain and disappointment. Let the truth set you free.

  • 7 Lynel Gardner // Dec 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    For those old enough to remember that the Black Panther Party did not want the Wards to film “The Mack” in Oakland and campaigned against it. Well then how did it get the green light then. The Wards made a financial contribution to The Black Panther Party and by doing that they made a political statement, while at the same time stimulating the inner-city economy, really tho.

  • 8 Lynel Gardner // Jan 2, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Ted Ward passed away of natural causes and his funeral was on Friday the 28th 2012.

  • 9 JT // Jan 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Awww man. I’m sorry to read this. Ted was in the movie with Frank as 2nd runner up as Pimp of the Year right. He passed in December? How old was he?

    RIP. Another legend gone.

  • 10 Lynel Gardner // Mar 25, 2013 at 2:20 am

    Ted could not have been no more than Sixty six. He and my dad Bobby Gardner were best friends so he had to be about sixty six. My uncle Nate went to the Funeral.

  • 11 Lynel Gardner // Mar 25, 2013 at 2:26 am

    Don’t forget that Frank and Ted were the technical advisors on the movie The Mack. Of course they couldn’t tell everything.

  • 12 Cassius // Mar 31, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Everyone say a prayer for noble dee the brother is. Fighting for his life a true Bay Area legend who laid the bricks cross country for other bay pleyer s to travel take care brother isha ALLAH all will be fine for you stay strong Nikki u got a good one

  • 13 Co co puff // Apr 1, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    fighting for his life?? what happened to Noble Dee??

    I’ll say a prayer for him.

  • 14 Cassius // Apr 3, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Noble liver is totally absent of any function his body is slowly being poisen from his liver not being able to cleanse his blood noble is a proud bro and father let alone writer he hasn’t mention his condition to none of readers but he’s been suffering from this for over five years the creator of the universe has blessed truly by keeping his woman of thirty years by his side that in itself tells me that it’s a reason for PIMPS in this world so big ups to his woman NIKKI your setting an example of how a real woman be her hoe or house wife should stick with the one that sticks with hers and theirs so agin I say pray for the brother and the world for understanding and compassion for all creation and remember the trained eye can see the universal TRUTH and not what hypocritical men and women want it appear to stay strong NOBLE DEE ISHA ALLAH u will be ok translation if it’s the will of the creator you will be ok .

  • 15 Co co puff // Apr 8, 2013 at 7:16 am

    Lol @ you using this to justify pimping.

    Anyway, I will keep Noble and his family in my prayers.

  • 16 Cassius // Apr 10, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Coco puff I thought you’ve passed the hate raid stage but some do and some don’t anyway your prayers are appreciated not just for noble dee but the entire universe for understanding keep searching and you too mite be blessed with the trained EYES.

  • 17 Co co puff // Apr 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Trained eyes???

    Funny how those trained eyes didn’t keep that liver from fully breaking down. That was the grace of God.

    Anyway RIP to Ted Ward and best wishes to Noble

  • 18 Cassius // Apr 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    The writer and my friend NOBLE dee has died he will be buried in madesto Cali along side his mother who herself passed two months ago RIP your bro and friend CASSIUS may GOD accept you into paradise .

  • 19 Keisha // May 20, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about Noble Dee’s passing. I’m also sorry to hear about Ted Ward’s death. May God be with the families of these men.

    Where’s Frank Ward jr.? Hopefully the dvd will be released soon.

  • 20 Co co puff // Jun 19, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    wow..RIP Noble Dee

  • 21 Cassius // Jul 20, 2013 at 12:49 am

    Rip fly baby another VET has passed on cherish your time with them they are truly game givers if they find you deserving of their knowledge .

  • 22 Cassius // Aug 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Rip pretty tony from the creator u came back to the creator u have returned .

  • 23 ElJack // Aug 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    Just ran across this site. Much respect to the Ward Brothers for their contributions to The Mack. Good to read that Willie Ward is still alive and that Roosevelt Taylor is preaching. RIP to Frank and Teddy. When is the bio coming out? The truth needs to be told!

  • 24 Cassius // Aug 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    The truth is already there my brother instead of using guitar players use the real players who realy played the game 4 real doe

  • 25 amron // Aug 17, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    will the real MACK please stand up do you know? just at the end of the day. stay posted

  • 26 Co co puff // Sep 12, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    the Mack came on bounce tv today. It made me think of this site

  • 27 Mr Whitaker // Sep 18, 2013 at 8:11 am

    “Cassius” stated “writer robert beck iceberg slim has been proven to be a big phony who told the stories of other people and injected himself in as the big pimp” I am the author of Iceberg Slim: the Lost Interviews. Nothing about Iceberg Slim has proven to be phony. In fact the more investigation that had been done the more has been confirmed as fact. I have personally interviewed and know members of his family, associates. The documented evidence is overwhelming too. I presented this in the book, as well as the fact that Sweet’s character was based on Albert “Baby” Bell. There seem to be a few people who like to build Iceberg Slim up to set it up so they can then take a shot, however Iceberg never built himself up to be big: as he says in the Lost Interviews several times “I was never the best among my peers.”

  • 28 S. Ward // Oct 8, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Lynel Gardner, I see that you know much about Ted. Is there anyway that I can get in touch with you outside of this site? One of Ted’s daughters and looking to connect with some family.

  • 29 Vista // Nov 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    In the movie, was his mother killed because of the pimpin or the brother trying to stop the drug dealing?

  • 30 CASSIUS // Mar 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Both b cos the powers that be hated both of them for what they were doin life can be strange in art and life itself ,so peep the message when we as a people join the fight from inside and out we can truly change thing but remember everyone don’t want to see that happen trained EYES are the KEYS .

  • 31 Bernard Johnson // Apr 9, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Does anyone know where Frank Ward is buried?

  • 32 CASSIUS // Apr 18, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    You keep what you never had coming those are actual words from albert baby bell we have done the research – it’s official Robert mauphin beck was a complete phony who wrote about the life of baby bell and injected himself in the story pull a fast one with the help of his white wife and Bentley morris if halloway house publishing so now readers you know the truth these blues singers drum players rappers ball dancers and other fakes are still hiding behind the name of pimping stop promoting these liars thank for reading the Truth seeker .

  • 33 Vista // May 18, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    It is what it is Cassius, a person can make his mouth say anything! Just keep it 100 with yourself. The truth always prevail!!!

  • 34 Stormey // Jun 10, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Bernard, the late young pimp King Kellyo used to have a website dedicated to pimpin. On that website he had a large picture of Frank Ward’s grave. If im not mistaken he is buried in Oakland…can’t name the cemetery. there are three people buried in that grave. The gravestone has pictures of frank, His stepmom/mother and another Ward brother who was killed in ’71.

    Frank’s funeral was at Beebe memorial church in Oakland. They might still have his burial info on file

  • 35 Lori B // Jul 23, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    The Actress Carol Speed from the movie The Mack wrote a book called Inside Black Hollywood, she talks about she and Frank Ward falling in love and gives an inside view to what was happening on the set and behinds of the film. Being from Oakland many of my family knew the Ward family. Ted is a born again Christian and doing well

  • 36 Stormey // Aug 29, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Hey Lori B,

    Good to hear that Ted gave his life to the Lord. Is Ted still alive? Others have reported attending his funeral back in early 2012.

  • 37 CASSIUS // Oct 3, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Ali Cohn is dead sleepy pretty tony squeeze cool aid joe Cato fly baby int l curly crooked mouth pier nowell pier rabbit head noble dee tony goshae int mike monkey D flip big easy spook big strong jones baby bell jimmy valentine Goldie McDowell Kenny Mack charming Charles barrell Mack strong johny dollor lance finlo jimmy Mack honey james Mathis duke caddillac jack king David Donny geno honerble Bradley Coffey jt seamo punchanello shanelli straw Danny curt fly mex Freddy lil moose Omaha t reskin bear JR yogi Darrel staple Sherlock Mac dlt young Brian to all the past Pssssss if u were mis u can bet u are not forgotten truth seekers life lovers knowledge knowers the IZM.

  • 38 CASSIUS // Oct 4, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Lil pimping skip died sep 1 st he’s gone to join his pimping uncle lil AL of atlanta PI until you DI .

  • 39 Ian Whitaker // Nov 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    CASSIUS you said “are actual words from albert baby bell” so I want to stand corrected by you in my research. As you know I’m the author of ICEBERG SLIM THE LOST INTERVIEWS. Send me a message I promise to keep an open mind.

  • 40 Baby Bell's Cousin // Dec 29, 2014 at 6:07 am

    My father was a second cousin of Baby Bell but claimed he never met nor knew him, only that he knew about him through conversation with Baby Bell’s mother in Omaha. Does anybody know where Baby Bell is buried, or if he had any children? I couldn’t even find a death certificate under the name “Albert Bell” in Cook County. Asking for help.

  • 41 CASSIUS the truth seeker // Apr 10, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Well cousin or shall I say Ian . Well there is a death certificate of mr bell and I do have a copy of it plus the man who challenged bell for his crown as top PIMP of chi town the writer beck named pimping poison in his book of stolen stories him and his wife wrote . Yes I have a copy of his death certificate too he was actually killed by a bullet to his brain contact me and I mite share a very very interesting story that will ROCK your very brain to its core . From a 93yr old witness and party to some of the action that took place in those time and unlike like others his body may have witherd somewhat but his memory is as sharp as a new ginzzo knife that’s where I got the truth from not some egotistical maniac lying out of both side of his and her mouths for money and briefer fame . But just for the sake of TRUTH .

  • 42 Cassius // Apr 17, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Yes I have copies of his death certificate and his 1 competition pimping poison as he was called in icebergs books . Yes I have researched and found the truth not trump up lies and I have a 97yr old eyewitness friend mr Allen who actually did those things wit some of them . The truth seeker has spoken.

  • 43 Ian Whitaker // Apr 26, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    I’m currently working on a new book and it’s got a lot of content regarding Bell. but if anyone may have something to contribute information wise please get in touch emailing me at

  • 44 Cassius // Apr 29, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Ian contact me thru

  • 45 Cassius // May 14, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Ian send ten questions only.

  • 46 Tony // Sep 21, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    I grew up as a kid in this time. My ant is a famous hustler who knew many of the people in this movie and others. That was the time and that was the way it was back then. It’s authentic for sure. Many blacks looked up to people like this cause they were like Robin hoods. Taking from the rich giving to the poor. Despite the drugs,violence ,sex. The object is a young black man making it out of the ghetto. Trying to be successful in a white based society. With the reality that this type of life style leads to destruction. Far to many smart people caught up in the system because they might have a felony record. Who just can’t live any other way. Cause they want the dinner things in life. Many fall in to this situation, because racism,lack of opportunity etc for blacks prevented them from getting g ahead. The lightskined pimp reminding us the white man glorified everything white like. This unfortunate delima making serious resentment for dark skinned blacks. Making hatred,envy,jealousy.

  • 47 Ian Whitaker // Nov 13, 2015 at 11:23 am

    Cassius I emailed you, no answer. Check junk filter.

  • 48 Ian Whitaker // Nov 13, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Baby Bell’s Cousin – email me at the address I listed above. You will find we both know things the other doesn’t. I have built up a lot of info for my next book.

  • 49 cassius // Nov 29, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Ian. Ive read your email and the strang thing is thatt we’re in the same town ala review journal .Mr allen,s here too .a little older but still sharp as ever his memory is sharp cus hes blind.

  • 50 King Ramsis // Jan 27, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Did they ever find out who murdered Frank Ward? It’s kind of a mystery because they say that one of his girls heard about the hit in L.A , but when she got to Oakland she and Frank were both murdered. It sounds like someone in his circle might have done it . God bless their soul

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