At one point in his touring one-man show,
Tyson calls his Broadway show, which had the first of two Chicago performances Friday night, "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" and it is filled with verbiage along the lines of, here I am standing before you, acknowledging my mistakes, turning things around and presenting an honest picture of my life.
But it's not hard to offer up a truth when none of your antagonists around are there to present their sides. Tyson might say he wants to offer no excuses, but, like all of us, he has a version of events in his life that favor himself. He paints himself as a victim of Don King as an explanation of why a man who once had $400 million—yes, $400 million—in his bank account ended up filing for bankruptcy.
He argues, with video evidence, that were it not for a long count from the referee, he would have knocked out James Buster Douglas instead of being the loser. He insists that he did not rape Desiree Washington when she was just 18, and throws in a line about how he was not the first man she had accused of the crime, evidence that, he claimed, the court just would not hear. He argues that his ex-wife
But at 46, Tyson, clearly, has developed an ability to see this man he once was as a kind of character, a person wholly separate from the man he now has become. And one of the paradoxes, you might say, that gives his autobiographical show such theatrical potency, as compared with the typical booze-drugs-and-dysfunctional-rich-parents childhoods that dominate the genre, is that Tyson really has a tale of interest. I mean, such a life! He was reported to have been arrested 30 times before the age of 12 (that bomber-jacket moment was brief and the detention center became, he says, "just like
Tyson is not, in case you were in doubt, a traditional rhetorician. At one point Friday in his two-hour show, he disappeared briefly into the wings and came back sucking an apparent
This show is no doubt making Tyson a lot of money, but it also is costing him something, especially as he recounts the loss of his child. It goes rather deeper than you'd think. Actually, Tyson is rather deeper than you'd think. And he has plenty of energy. He does not sit in a chair and tell stories. He performs his version of the truth. He is getting paid, and paying in return. And one warms to the equality of that equation.
The most haunting image in the show is the picture of Tyson's troubled mother—he tells us it is the only picture he has of her—who, like most of the people in Tyson's life, struggled to express their affection and made a premature exit from the ring. She stares out, a total enigma. Her son, to his great credit and having pulled himself from the very brink, is trying to be otherwise now.