Last fall, when I read an excerpt from Mike Tyson’s new autobiography, I thought it sounded awesome, and couldn’t wait to read it.
Over the past two weeks, I finally did. And you know what? It was outstanding.
I can hear you groaning out there already: Mike Tyson? The convicted rapist/ear-biter who dominated the heavyweight boxing scene in the late 1980s, lost all his money and fame, and now is basically broke? That Mike Tyson wrote a book worth my time?
Yep. If you can overcome your initial skepticism, I’m telling you, Tyson’s book (ghostwritten with Larry Sloman) is several hundred pages of wildly entertaining copy, that spawns his whole life, from an unloved, awful childhood that would make Frank McCourt’s look like Disneyland, through his being “saved” by trainer Cus D’Amato and led up through the heavyweight ranks, to his inevitable downfall.
I found myself laughing out loud reading some of this, almost crying reading other parts, and shaking my head in amazement that Michael Tyson actually lived through the incredibly self-destructive life he’s lived.
I mean truly, the man should’ve been dead at least 10 times when you read about his life.
Some of the more bizarre/interesting/noteworthy items in the book:
— Tyson’s mother was a sex and drug addicted woman who never showed him any attention or love, and constantly told him he was worthless when she was paying attention to him. And he never saw his father in the Brownsville, Brooklyn neighborhood he grew up in. By 8, Tyson was committing crimes with his friends.
— As big of a crook/scumbag as you thought Don King was before reading this book, you’ll come out thinking he’s 100 times worse. I mean truly, if there is a hell, King’s seat is already reserved. He screwed Tyson out of millions upon millions, brazenly stealing and taking advantage of his cash cow for years. It was funny to read, though, about Tyson occasionally literally kicking King’s ass physically.
— You know who Tyson credits as the most influential celebrity on him when he won the title and suddenly had to deal with fame? I could give you 1,000 guesses and you wouldn’t get it.
Anthony Michael Hall. Yes, Brian from “The Breakfast Club” was a mentor to Mike Tyson.
There are lots more gems in the book, including the last several years when Tyson finally worked on his coke and alcohol and sex addictions and made significant progress.
He truly has come a long way in life, and while I shook my head dozens of times at his self-destructive behavior, you finish the book by absolutely rooting for him to continue to live a productive life.
It’s been an incredible life, and the book is filled with raw honesty that will entertain and amaze. Seriously, check it out and bring it on vacation with you this summer.
**And now, the funniest and most spot-on TV show bit you will see all year: John Oliver, former “Daily Show” comedian and now host of his own very sharp HBO show, brilliantly skewers the debate over Net Neutrality.
**Finally today, a few words about the 25th anniversary, happening this week, of the massacre of young people in China at Tiananmen Square. I was in high school at the time, and I can still remember being shocked at images like the one above, and just how ruthlessly and callously the Chinese government attacked their own people.
And if you have begun to think that with all its newfound economic power the government is softening, even a little bit, I refer you to this opening from the New York Times Book Review from May 25, about a book looking at China:
“During the night of June 3-4, 1989, when the Chinese Army was slaughtering demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Wang Nan, a young student, was shot in the head. As he lay dying at the side of the road, soldiers threatened to kill anyone, even some young doctors, who tried to help him. In the morning, finally dead, he was buried in a shallow grave nearby.
A few days later, the smell of Wang Nan’s body was so great that it was dug up and moved to a hospital.
After 10 days, his mother, Zhang Xianling, was called to the hospital to identify her son’s body. It took eight months, in the face of official obstruction, for Zhang to uncover what had happened to her son.
In 1998 she held a modest remembrance service on the spot where he had died. The next year, on that day, she was barred from leaving her apartment. When she met Louisa Lim, Zhang said she longed to go to the fatal place again to pour a libation on the ground and sprinkle flower petals. “However,” Lim observes, “someone will always be watching her. A closed-circuit camera has been installed” and “trained on the exact spot where her son’s body was exhumed. . . . It is a camera dedicated to her alone, waiting for her in case she should ever try again to mourn her dead son.”
That’s just incredible. And disgusting. Twenty-five years later, so little has changed.