Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Review: Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth
"Anyone see Tyson?" the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world asked the packed crowd at last night's performance of Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth. Mike was referring to James Toback's 2008 documentary. "I love James Toback and all," he continued, "but Tyson is real dog shit compared to what you're gonna' see tonight."
It was everything you'd expect from a Spike Lee-Mike Tyson collaboration, at least when Mike remembered to hit his mark. "Wait," he'd say stopping in his tracks. "I should be on the other side of the stage!"
He occasionally fumbled with the lines and blocking. At times it appeared as though Cyrano was whispering the words into an earpiece for Mike to recite, but for the most part Mike Tyson owned the stage of the Balboa Theatre.
At times he was a stomping "gorilla," chewing up and spitting out recollections of former battles both in and outside the ring. He scored his first knockout when he was 10. On the receiving end was a local thug who had ripped the head off a pigeon before chucking it Mike's way.
Mike's raging was frequently offset by moments of surprising intimacy and candor. To those critics who have taken Tyson to task for resorting to pathos in dealing with the accidental death of his 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, I say you try burying a kid. My pathos-o-meter is always set to high and not for one moment was there a sense that he was trying to turn this tragedy into something analogous to an Oprah special.
There was much I did not know about the Champ. He was arrested 38 times by the time he turned 12. For Mike, going to juvie was like Cheers: "Everybody knew my name." In Cus d'Amato Tyson found a trainer, manager, and legal guardian. Two years later a 14-year-old Tyson was "knocking out grown men."
For a man who has spent a good chunk of his post-boxing days asking others for forgiveness, when it comes to Robin Givens, Iron Mike shows no mercy. He recalls a time when their bitter breakup was fodder for every entertainment news programs and supermarket tabloid in the land. The marriage was going to hell, but the lovemaking was so good the couple wanted to maintain joint custody of their sexual relationship.
Mike sat waiting impatiently at Robin's doorstop when he saw her car -- with a white boy in the passenger seat -- tooling up the driveway. Riding shotgun was a then relatively unknown Brad Pitt. Here's pretty boy Pitt expecting to receive class head from the Head of the Class star and instead finds the champion of the world, with the exact same thing on his mind, pacing the porch.
"You should have seen the look on his face when he saw my black ass," Mike chuckled. "They looked like Robert Redford and Pearl Bailey."
All of the dramatics were not on the stage. A middle-aged white couple seated a few seats to my left thought Mike was playing only to them. "Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh," she would say helping to punctuate one of Mike's thoughts. "Good for you," he hollered after Mike revealed that he patched things up with Evander Holifield.
An African-American woman seated in front had all she could stand. "Would you please stop talking," she politely asked. "Really?" the offending fool spat back, as though it was her god-given right to participate in the proceedings. In no time it turned into a "fuck"-flinging exchange tempered by their husbands' pleas of, "Keep still, people are looking."
After the show I joined what seemed like half the audience to get backstage and have a picture taken with the Champ. I'll get the film back from the Fotomat tomorrow afternoon. If it's half as good as I fear we'll all have a good laugh.
The self-proclaimed "Prozac-popping ear-biter-turned-stage performer," held my interest held firm for 90 minutes. I was kinda' sad to see it end. Picture to follow.