I’ve always tried to keep an open mind when it came to Mike Tyson. My womanly instincts have thrown up red flags for the obvious reasons: his seemingly animalistic machismo, penchant for outrageous self-destruction, rape charges and the whole ear-biting thing probably stand at the forefront. But there’s always been a sort of soft spot for the guy. He’s larger than life. His unparalleled athleticism and talents in the ring are one thing, but he’s a lover of pigeons, of children, and the borough of Brooklyn. Just how bad can the bad boy be?
From the start of Undisputed Truth, Tyson’s new one-man Broadway show, we were introduced to the man as Brooklyn’s son. Not formally of course, but in a room with about 800 other people, with Spike Lee behind the wheel as director. I didn’t get to shake the Champ’s hand, crack a joke with him, or pass a blunt—but after the show, I kind of felt like I did.
Spike’s signature hand was felt throughout the nearly 2-hour performance. Simple set changes used lighting and easily recognizable tracks from the ’80s and ’90s to place you in a moment of Mike’s checkered past. Never-before-seen photos that seemed to have been mocked up by Spike himself painted poignant moments from Mike’s life: his mother who yearned to be a schoolteacher but got caught up in that street life and ended up dying from what he believed was a broken heart (cancer); his father the pimp whose seed impregnated his mother, but was not the stand-up Jamaican cab driver to claim Mike on his birth certificate; the sister and daughter who both passed well before their times, all helped to paint the dark side of Mike’s life. The personal scars that live alongside the external scars from the ring.
But ultimately, self-deprecation reigned supreme. Even in the retelling of his time in prison, or his marriage to the gold-digging Robin Givens were hilarious and completely outrageous accounts of a life you’d never imagine. At one point, he begrudgingly admitted that not knowing the difference between period blood, abortion blood, and “bang-bang-the-pussy-blood,” led to his downfall with Robin. (Apparently Robin tricked the guy into thinking she was pregnant and miscarried, when “all she needed was a Midol.”) But he knew it was completely outrageous—he called himself an idiot, a dumbass knuckle-headed n****, and an ego maniac several times throughout the play. And while he made it clear that he’d learned his lesson, he still knew how to find the humor in it all. Let’s remember, this was still Broadway after all.
The vignettes Mike painted with pretty damn spot on impersonations, very personal and impassioned tangents (cocaine & angel dust stories), diatribes (“Fuck you, Don King”), and revelations (when he realized women can also ejaculate, much like a sleeping Volcano) felt like stories from the cutting room floor of his life. As if we were getting the B-Sides from the classic album that is the Mike Tyson Legend, and these “deep tracks” helped to paint a larger tale here. He wanted to get to the root of the issue of Mike Tyson, be completely unabashedly honest, and maybe change your mind about him a little bit. Afterall, he’s broke—and when you’re a retired boxer, your reputation is all you have.
So ultimately, I may not have completely changed my mind about Mike Tyson, but I wish him well. He’s got mouths to feed and a new lease on life. If he passed the blunt my way, I just might take it.
I just wish I’d been seated next to Robin Givens in the audience that night. Just. To. See. Her. Face.