Norris Church Mailer

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Norris Church Mailer (born Barbara Jean Davis; January 31, 1949 in Atkins, Arkansas – November 21, 2010 in Brooklyn Heights, New York City, New York)[1][2] was the widow of American novelist, Norman Mailer, and author of the memoir, A Ticket to the Circus, and of several novels.

Before her relationship with Mailer, she married Larry Norris, gave birth to son Matthew in 1972, and was divorced in 1975. After her divorce, she claimed to have "had a fling" with Bill Clinton.[3]

Life with Norman Mailer[edit]

After her divorce, she lived in Russellville, Arkansas, taught high-school art,[2] and wrote about a hundred pages of a novel which she later reshaped into Windchill Summer, and published in 2000. She had read Norman Mailer's biography of Marilyn Monroe and arranged in 1975 to attend a party in Russellville at which he was a guest. They went to her home after the party.[3]

After he left Arkansas, she mailed him a love poem, which he returned to her, marked up with his compositional criticism.[2] Four months later, having left her job,[2] she moved with his help to a brownstone row house[4] apartment in Brooklyn Heights, and became a model with Wilhelmina Models.[2] She adopted her former married name, Norris, as her first name and took Mailer's suggestion of Church as her surname.[3]

Their son, John Buffalo Mailer, was born in 1978; they married in 1980.[3] Church said she decided to leave Mailer in the early 1990s because of his many affairs, but he dissuaded her. Mailer died in 2007. She published her memoir, A Ticket to the Circus, in 2010, and explained that the title described her life with Mailer, his seven children by his other wives, and her own two children: "Well, I bought a ticket to the circus. I don't know why I was surprised to see elephants."[3]


From 2000 onwards, she had six major operations for gastrointestinal cancer.[2] She died on 21 November 2010, aged 61, at her home in Brooklyn Heights following her eleven-year battle with cancer.[5]


  1. ^ Norris Church Mailer profile at NNDb
  2. ^ a b c d e f Alex Witchel, "Norris Church Mailer: The Last Wife", New York Times Magazine, March 29, 2010, p.1
  3. ^ a b c d e Witchel, op. cit., p. 2
  4. ^ Witchell, p. 4
  5. ^ Joseph Berger (November 21, 2010). "Church Mailer, Artist and Ally, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved November 21, 2010.