November 29, 2013

Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson

NEW YORK—Nature is at her best right now, the leaves still holding, Central Park awash in golden browns and reds. I go there every morning, half a block away from my house, and under a giant elm I put the creaky body through its paces. Twenty push-ups, thirty deep knee bends, twenty-five kicks over a knee-high bar for each leg, and I finish with twenty-five punches against a leaf for speed and accuracy. Then a quiet walk and back to the flat for breakfast and the papers. At six in the evening I walk to the dojo and mix it up rather hard with karate sensei Richard Amos and other black belts. Tuesdays I skip the park and go straight to judo training, the judo sessions being much too brutal for wasting energy before hitting the mats. Saturdays and Sundays I stay in bed dreaming of Rebecca Hall, the Spectator’s deputy editor, Claire Danes, and Jessica Raine. That’s the most frustrating part of all. On Monday it starts all over again.

I used to have a pat answer when people asked why I trained as hard as I did: “When the revolution comes, I’ll be able to take a few with me.” I now train a bit less and can’t wait for the revolution—anything to get rid of the horrors that pass as celebrities nowadays. I suppose I’m someone who finds expression for my emotions through martial arts as much as I do through seduction. The physical is inseparably entwined with the spiritual, and at times violence can be a pathway to spiritual grace.

“When the revolution comes, I’ll be able to take a few with me.”

Which brings me to Mike Tyson. His name should have been Mike Braggadocio, and director James Toback got to him first about five years ago. Jimmy loved Tyson, something that is beyond me as I respect only fighters who respect their fallen opponents and do not humiliate them à la Muhammad Ali. But in his new stand-up routine based on Jimmy’s documentary, Tyson makes it all worthwhile with just one joke. He sees his wife talking to Brad Pitt and looks threateningly at the actor. A hero on the screen, Pitt shits in his pants: “Dude, don’t hit me, don’t hit me, for God’s sake.” Looking like someone who is being given the last rites, pretty boy begs. I can’t see Robert Mitchum begging, but then Mitchum was no pretty boy. I loved Pitt’s humiliation because he’s so politically correct—adopting African children, saving the planet, endorsing wind and solar power—you know the type. In his latest film Pitt appears as the only decent white man in 19th-century America, refusing another larger part because “I didn’t want my kids to see me in this role (of a slave owner).” What a phony, and like most phonies, a coward to boot. The worse that could have happened is for Tyson to have applied instant sedation, Pitt taking a short snooze but keeping his dignity, and that ghastly Robin Givens (Tyson’s first wife) receiving some badly needed publicity.

The now contrite, rueful Tyson I sort of believe. He has blown around 100 million big ones, which might make even a ruling Saudi camel driver rueful. And unlike the Saudis, Tyson earned his money as a gladiator, not pushing ignorant Filipino and Bengali workers around. I wish him well, despite having given Pitt a pass. We all decline and fall, and I see shades of mortality cross his tattooed face every second. But on to happier subjects.


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