Death becomes Mike Tyson. In moments of loss, the former heavyweight boxing champion transforms from a caricature – all speech impediments and silly facial expressions – into a recognizable man, a son, a brother and a father.
Those moments of loss were the highlights of his 45-minute show Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth at Tampa's Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Saturday night.
Tyson, 48, recounted his life for a room full of fans, playing up the funny parts and glossing over the more unseemly chapters of his life. Low volume on his microphone mixed with his famous lisp to make some parts of the story unintelligible, but for the important moments he took his time and made sure the crowd didn't miss a beat.
The former champ slid onto stage 25 minutes after showtime in high Miami style, white pants and silk patterned shirt in the '90s Versace wheelhouse. Speakers blasted Jay Z's verse from N----s in Paris, chopped down to repeat Tyson's name like a riled-up crowd before a match.
Onstage, he pulled no punches. "I know ya'll are wondering, 'What's Mike Tyson going to do out here on stage?'" he said. "I'm wondering the same thing… Man, this is some real weird s---."
The self-deprecation was fast and funny. He talked about how he knew one man as his father but another's name was on his birth certificate. He waxed philosophical about his days as a young punk robbing people in Brownsville, his neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. He even poked fun at his ex-wife, Robin Givens, and her alleged relationship with Brad Pitt during her divorce.
Pretty much every topic was on the table, but only for a second if it was something that didn't jibe with Tyson's worldview. During one of the more comic bits in his show, he spent nearly eight minutes imitating and poking fun at Mitch Green, a boxer he defeated in the ring and then mauled in a street fight some time later. "He sued me for $50 million," Tyson laughed.
For Desiree Washington, the woman Tyson was convicted of raping, there was only one minute. "I did not rape Desiree Washington," he declared before moving on to the next event in his life.
The show didn't deviate much from the HBO special of the same name directed by Spike Lee. The detours were funny and included Tyson's observations of the audience: "You sir, you're not that attractive and you're sitting next to beautiful woman. You know what I'm talking about when you buy gifts that are equivalent to a house and you think the house is still your house but it's not your house when the lawyers come," he explained.
Every so often, though, in Tyson's story, someone died. And it's his reactions to those deaths that show you what he's made of now.
When his mother died, even though he knew very little about her, he used his boxing earnings to buy her a huge gravestone. When Tyson's sister died at 25, he gave her funeral fit for a statesman with celebrities and fanfare that he never gave her in her life. When Tyson's daughter Exodus Sierra Tyson was declared brain dead, Tyson rushed from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to be with his family to grieve. He said it made him rededicate himself to his three other children and being a present father for them – even if he spells their names wrong in text messages.
It's for those children (and his admitted tax problems) that Tyson continues to tour the country doing the live show, even though anyone interested in his story could read his New York Times bestselling book, or watch the Cannes Film Festival favorite documentary, Tyson, or catch the 90-minute HBO special he recorded for Lee.
When one thinks of each ticket as helping three kids see their dad, who was once a hero to the whole world, as a hero once more, it's sort of worth the price of admission.
-- Robbyn Mitchell, tbt*