An evening with Mike Tyson

Dateline: Wed 20 Feb 2013

As a friend said, Hoosiers don't like Mike Tyson, the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, poor kid from Brooklyn (fighting at age 14) and all-round crazy man. That's crazy as in clinically (he's bi-polar) and otherwise.

But it's not just Hoosiers who dislike the guy -- a lot of people don't, including, especialy, feminists.

My friend explained her disdain: "He beat up Robin (Givens, first wife), he raped Desiree (Washington, resulting in his trial and conviction in Indianapolis) and he bit the ear off that guy (Evander Holyfield.) He's not exactly popular."

Ah, but he is, in some circles. I recall how some reporters at the News and the Star who covered his trial here became fascinated with him -- OK, men were fascinated, women were disgusted. 

Right now Tyson is making a run, yet again, as the comeback kid, having bankrupted his considerable fortune and married in 2009 -- third time -- a longtime girlfriend "Kiki" Spicer, who wrote a one-man show for him, basically a life story routine. That show was mounted on Broadway last year under the direction of Spike Lee, a fellow Brooklynite. Titled "Undisputed Truth," it ran 12 performances, then it played last week in Indy, en route to Chicago.

I went, not because I'm a huge Tyson or boxing fan, but because I had free tickets.

As my fellow show-goer observed, "Undisputed Truth" was something like watching a really well-done Alcoholics Anonymous testimonial: it was vivid, sordid, funny, tragic and brutally honest.

But here's the bigger point: anyone who has ever covered cops or government, or frankly lived past a certain age, knows that getting "the truth" out is complex and thorny, if not impossible. There are layers not only to the stories we tell and events that unfold, but, especially, to the lives of people. And someone like Tyson, who has reinvented himself so many times and lived hard, is a prime example. The guy is complicated. 

But not without wit and humor. Thus he started his show on a light note, jokingly calling Indianapolis "a shitty town." Despite not much liking it here, he did invite to his show Judge Patricia Gifford, who oversaw his trial and sentenced him to six years in Plainfield Correctional Facility, and his defense attorney Jimmy Voyles. The latter came. 

Also for the record: Tyson has consistently denied he raped Desiree Washington, claiming consensual sex, but news reports from the trial say he came off as "brutish and sullen" under cross-examination, which turned off the jury, supposedly. The defense also was not permitted to reveal that Ms. Washington had a previous allegation of rape against another man.

Tyson talked about his time in the can: he spent three years in relative peace and solitude at Plainfield, something new in his life and a time he relished. Among his visitors were -- hold on to your hats -- Flo Henderson, in town for the Indy 500, and former Mayor Steven Golidsmith. "These people made me feel like a human being again."

Well, he is a very human being -- also a formerly "fat cokehead" who recently lost 150 lbs. on a vegan diet, a despairing father who had to bury his little girl Exodus, killed in a tragic accident, a son who still adores his depressed, lost, alcoholic mother, (he showed her picture several times, along with the tombstone he erected for her), a devoted friend and "son" to the late Cus D'Amato, who trained him to fight and became his legal guardian. Shoot, dude is even an animal-lover: the guy raised pigeons as a kid in Brooklyn, and had his first fight, reportedly, when another bigger kid bit off the head of one of Tyson's birds.

"Undisputed Truth" is not for everyone. Some folks are still going to hold their noses at the mere mention of Tyson's name, so they would never appreciate his breathless, lisping, strutting, humbling show. But as I told my son, whose guest I was, watching Tyson get real, with no agenda on my part, was not a bad way to start Lent. I got my ashes worth.

And I hope the guy makes it....he deserves, as do we all, another chance.





hendy [Member] said:

Me, too. Tyson has a lot to overcome.

2013-02-23 08:36:49

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

The rape charge always seemed a bit gray to me, but Tyson's subsequent behavior eliminated any chance for public sympathy.

2013-02-24 14:26:28

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"An evening with Mike Tyson."

No, thank you. I'll pass on that one.

2013-02-25 15:17:19

rxubngm [unverified] said:

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2013-02-25 20:33:47

escapedbeforebeinggannettized [unverified] said:

My mom always told me if you don't have anything good to say about anyone, then don't say anything.
'nuff said.

2013-02-26 13:25:56

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