Bob Dylan Once Crashed Norman Mailer’s Christmas Party, and Hoo-Boy Did Things Get Temporarily Uncomfortable

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Photo: FRED TANNEAU/AFP/Getty Images

Bob Dylan is by most accounts a tested and true weirdo, the kind of guy who followed his bliss long before the concept was named and exhausted. But as a star, Bob Dylan's also just like us, insofar as he turns into a babbling dope within spitting distance of someone he admires. Writing for the Village Voice, Lucian K. Truscott IV penned an essay about Dylan (the two were neighbors in the '70s), and in it lies the indelible anecdote of that time Bob Dylan crashed Norman Mailer's Christmas party ... with an entourage in tow. "Suddenly it occurred to me that I was about to crash Mailer's party with the entire Rolling Thunder tour," Truscott remembers. But from there, things didn't get so much wild and crazy as mortifying and difficult to live down. From Truscott, a social interaction straight out of your nightmares, as Dylan, future Nobel Prize in Literature winner that he was, botches his introduction to the hardcore literary set:

Mailer greeted us at the door. I wisecracked that the big moment had arrived for the two most famous Jews in America. Tentatively, they shook hands, then Dylan looked up from under his flat-brim tour hat. "Nice to meet you," he said. "I really loved your first book, The Naked and the Brave." For a split second, Mailer thought he was being put on and his eyes narrowed, and then Dylan looked him full in the face and stuttered, "I meant The Naked and the Dead, man." Mailer broke into a broad grin and threw an arm affectionately around Dylan's shoulders as Dylan introduced the rest of the band. Mailer welcomed each warmly, then said, "Come with me, Bob. I'll introduce you around."

Bob!! No!! Truscott goes on to describe an increasingly name-drop-crazy scene, with Jackie Onassis, Muhammad Ali, Joseph Heller, Susan Sontag, and, in Dylan's nomenclature, "Lillian fucking Hellman" also in attendance. All of which is fine and dandy, but if you can just roll past that perfectly horrible Naked and the Brave gaffe, you are made of stronger stock than us. And look, if Dylan could get past it himself, actually managing not to spend the rest of the night replaying the moment until he ground his synapses into dust, well then, that's why he's Bob Dylan and we're not. Read the rest of Truscott's Bob Dylan recollections here.