Mike Tyson opened his one-man show at the Pantages on Friday, attracting a nearly sold-out crowd. For 90 minutes he laid it all against a backdrop of video clips featuring his old neighborhoods, prize fights and interviews.
How a culture chooses its heroes says a lot about it. Sure, America has its firefighters and police. But we also have our sports stars. Some shine on while others fade away with grace. And then there are stars like Tyson who fall from the sky and hit the earth like a bullet, often becoming more famous for their metioric fall than their metoric rise.
Believe me, Tyson had to do a lot of strange stuff to overpower his fame as boxer. Coming out of one of the worst neighborhoods in New York, he became the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles. It was the rags to riches story we Americans love. Unfortunately, Tyson’s boxing career was not to end on a high note. Fresh out of prison for rape, he entered the ring with Evander Holyfield. Claiming his opponent headbutted him, Tyson bit of a piece of his ear and was suspended from boxing.
As Tyson speaks to us, he often seems as surprised by his life as the rest of us. Self-described as a fat, little kid who was out-of-control in one of the worst areas of New York, his first fight was with the neighborhood bully who took Tyson’s pet pigeon and ripped the bird apart in front of him.From that time on, Tyson discovered he was good at fighting and incorporated it into his other pursuits: robbing and general mayhem. “If you were in our neighborhood,” Tyson told the audience, “we probably would have killed you.” Not exactly a good way to bond with the audence. But Tyson isn’t onstage to apologize.
Tyson is candid during his talk. He shows a 20/20 televison clip where his first wife is bombasting him to Barbara Walters while he quietly sits at her side like a castrated Mastif. Later, he tells the audience about midnight street fights, getting arrested for drugs and then going to prison for a rape he says he did not commit. “She had claimed someone else had raped her just months earlier,” Tyson squeeks like a rabid and deranged Mickey Mouse/Donald Duck crossbreed. But there are no laughs, not even a snicker.
Tyson talks about his time in prison, There he finds Islam and is visited by famous friends, including Brady Bunch mom Florence Henderson.He gets out and soon incarcerated again, this time in a mental instituion for biting off an ear. Even for that he is not repentant. “It was a fight,”he recalls. The other guy was headbutting me.” Tysaon explains all, epents nothing. He had a bad childhood, he has an addiction gene just like his troubled mother. Those who were supposed to help him, hurt him. Tyson’s excuses go on and on.
I don’t quite know what Tyson is trying to say in his show. And it’s not just because of his garbled, falsetto, helium-esque twitters. I almost feel like he’s being manipulated again. That fat child still looking for attention, still looking for the loving home he never had.
Tyson ends by talking about his sobriety, his children in Ivy Leaguge schools and his devotion to being a family man. I see a sparkle in his eye and wonder if that’s the star we had all looked up to. It’s smaller now, more managable, but it still shines bright..