You are in your car, slogging through the D.C.-area rush hour one Monday eveningstop and start, stop and startminding your own business, when the car behind you gives you a bump. It causes a chain reaction and your car, in turn, rams into the shiny green Mercedes in front of you.
You shift your car into park and get out to see the damage. Behind you, the driver who set the dominoes in motion exits as well. Sometimes these fender benders can get ugly, but this guy’s an old man, and he looks frazzled more than anything else. No worries.
Then a guy from the car in front of you gets out of the Mercedes. He’s a big guysquat but well over 200 solid-looking pounds. He’s heading right for you, energy in his step, a glint in his eye.
It’s Mike Tyson.
And he doesn’t look happy.
America is a fickle bitch. She loves to snatch peons from dingy back alleys, clean them up, throw them in a room full of fame and cash, and turn on the high-intrusion microscope, blasting their visages around the known universe as we clap and squeal. We love the new creature. So shiny! So sparkly! But then maybe he or she doesn’t enjoy all that white light. Or, after a while, maybe we just get bored. When that moment comes, the It Boy or It Girl eventually finds him- or herself being pummeled week after week with a rolled-up Entertainment Weeklycamera still rolling, of course.
Michael Gerard Tyson, 32, is familiar with the process. A preteen purse snatcher who preyed on Brooklyn’s elderly, Tyson found his salvation when he took up boxing at a New York reform school. In 1985, Tyson turned pro; a year later, at the age of 20, he became the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of the world.
We loved “Iron Mike,” the all-American dream with a punch that brought opponents to the brink of the great beyond and a disarmingly high-pitched, lispy voice. Back in ’87, a bunch of my college buds were debating how long any of us would last in the ring with him. “Maybe a round,” Jody said, figuring that Tyson was “so nice, he wouldn’t hit me that hard.”
Then somethingperception? reality?turned. In ’88, Tyson married Robin Givens, a TV actress who later that same year told the world that her husband was nuts and regularly abused her. There were car crashes and fights that had nothing to do with winning any belt. Angermuch, much anger. Tales and videos of Tyson drunk and belligerent, stomping around looking for trouble. His descent into infamy gained hellacious momentum in 1992, when Tyson was convicted of raping Desiree Washington, an 18-year-old contestant at the Miss Black America pageant. He did three years at the Indiana Youth Center, a medium-security prison outside Indianapolis.
When he got out, in ’95, Tyson took a number of steps to regain his former life. His supporters trumpeted his jailhouse conversion to Islam, and supposedly the Tyson who left the Indiana Youth Centerwith tattoos of Chairman Mao and Arthur Ashe on opposing shoulderswas a changed man.
One of the people waiting for him on that crisp spring day was Monica Turner, then 29, raised in D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood. A 1987 graduate of the University of Virginia, Turner was a Georgetown University medical student and, by all accounts, a smart and serious woman. The “new” Mike Tyson was joined by a new and very different companion. He would eventually follow her back to her hometown.
Since then, Turner and D.C. have become an integral part of Tyson’s rebirth, both public and private. Tyson attended Turner’s graduation from Georgetown University Medical School in May 1995, at the Kennedy Center. That year, he bought a multi-million-dollar estate in Bethesda, into which Turner moved. Tyson joined her last year. The couple started popping up here and there, scoring pleasant mentions in the Washington Post’s Reliable Source columndonating autographed boxing gloves for a Lowell School auction, buying a $134,000 Mercedes coupe in Tysons Corner, eating at That’s Amore in Friendship Heights or Duca di Milano in Chevy Chase.
The couple began to build a family togetherdaughter Rayna was born in ’96, son Amir a year later. In 1997, Tyson and Turner were married at their Bethesda home in a Muslim ceremony presided over by Tyson’s spiritual adviser, Muhammad Siddeeq. Right before his June 1997 fight with Evander Holyfield, Tyson told ABC’s Wide World of Sports that he needed to win the fight because he had a wife and kids to support.
That fight, of course, didn’t exactly pave the path between Tyson and a bright, conflict-free future. Enraged by Holyfield’s continual head-butting and what Tyson perceived to be unfair reffing, Tyson took leave of his mind and dined mid-bout on Holyfield’s ears. Tyson was fined $3 million by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and banned from boxing. The president of a celebrity endorsement company told Bloomberg Business News that Tyson was “near the O.J. Simpson level as far as endorsements go.” Since last summer, Tyson and his legions of lawyers have done everything they can to restake his place in the sun. Their first task has been to convince the New Jersey and Nevada boxing commissions that their man is not the enraged psychopath that the headlines would have us believe.
The view from Mr. Tyson’s neighborhood doesn’t suggest he’s turned any psychological corners. The shrinks recently hired to assess Tyson’s mental stability noted that “[s]everal incidents have occurred over the last months [in the Washington area] involving Mr. Tyson which have raised concerns about his impulse control and anger management.”
Tyson has pads all over the country: $3.75 million digs in Vegas, a 62-acre estate in Cleveland near his probation officer, and a mansion in Farmington, Conn. Last week, he put all three of these on the markettotal asking price is $21 million. On Thursday, Dec. 3, Tyson went to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Phoenix, where he registered as a sex offender, thereby fulfilling a legal requirement effective any time he plans on spending more than 10 days in one state, according to a spokesman. Ever since he received the go-ahead to return to boxing, Tyson’s been planning on at least temporarily setting up shop in Arizona, where he’s training for his Jan. 16 Vegas bout against Francois Botha. But D.C. is the closest thing he has to a hometown these days, if for no other reason than it’s the city his new wife has always called home.
Tyson is not the first celebrity to build a nest in Montgomery County. Wonder Woman Lynda Carter lives in the tony suburbs, as have ex-Georgetown Hoyas Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo. Back in the ’80s, another boxing great even hung his hat out River Road: middleweight champ Sugar Ray Leonard.
Media sensations who don’t appear on C-SPAN are an odd fit for Washington. Eminently comfortable with the gray gravitas of senators and Supreme Court justices, the city goes giddy over Hollywood-styleor even Las Vegas-styleglamour. Carter can’t spin around without winding up in the Reliable Source, and barroom sightings of everyone from singer Elliot Smith to actor Harrison Ford generate similarly syrupy coverage. For God’s sake, for a long spell Hollywood punch line Sonny Bono was the most requested speaker at GOP House fundraisers. But Tyson is something different entirely: the celebrity rogue. While L.A. may be well-practiced in sweeping its mercurial Christian Slaters under the carpet, Washington doesn’t quite know what to do when Mr. Spectacular makes a spectacle of himself.
On a purely theoretical level, Tyson’s presence here in D.C. creates any number of odd juxtapositions: Vegas-y superstar in the conservative capital, pugilistic ex-con married to a Georgetown doctor, lawsuit magnet in a city with locust-like swarms of attorneys, attention-shunning celebrity sitting at media ground zero.
There is, of course, a nontheoretical dynamic as well. Tysonmyth, man, and monsterwalks among us. Should we be thrilled by our proximity to one of sports’ most storied figures…or running for our lives?
On Tuesday, Dec. 1, Mike Tyson is the nucleus of an immense media molecule that shimmies across a Rockville lawn. Wherever the boxer walks, he is surrounded by a circling throng of media folkthey dangle boom mikes, jockey for position, and spit out random inanities in order to grab some piece of the former champ to share with the folks back home.
“Mike, what went on in there?”
“In there” is courtroom No. 1 of the Montgomery County District Court, where Tyson’s attorney, Paul Kemp, has offered a plea of no-contest to charges that his client committed two acts of second-degree assault after a Gaithersburg fender bender on Aug. 31. It’s a plea that, according to Kemp, “concedes that things occurred that were inappropriate on the roadside” though Tyson “does not admit to intentionally striking or coming into contact with anyone.”
Anyone who watched the Holyfield fight knows Tyson can go “inappropriate” in a hot second. Richard Dale Hardick, 50, and Abimelic “Abby” Saucedo, 62, know it better than most. Hardick is associate executive secretary at the National Labor Relations Board, where he has worked for 23 years. He lives in Monrovia, Md., and is a bespectacled 5-foot-6. Saucedo lives in Gaithersburg with his family and works as a licensed nurse-anesthetist. He’s 5-foot-7 and weighs in at about 160 pounds.
On that Monday in August, Saucedo was driving behind Hardick as both men were mired in the evening commute on Shady Grove Road in Gaithersburg. “Traffic was very heavycreeping with many stops,” Hardick would later describe. After Hardick hit the brakes, Saucedo’s car hit him from behind, and Hardick then bumped a green Mercedes convertible driven by Monica Turner.
Hardick and Saucedo both got out of their cars. Tyson, who had been sitting shotgun, got out of the Mercedes and approached Hardick. Hardick explained that he had been hit from behind. Tyson then began walking toward Saucedo.
“I was talking to [Hardick] when Mr. Tyson came at me. He was cursing and agitated,” wrote Saucedo in his complaint. “Without warning,” Saucedo wrote, Tyson “punched me in the face with his fist.”
“It was a hard punch and I went backwards. I saw stars, cut my upper lip and I was bleeding. A couple of people restrained him. He was still upset. I got back in my car…”
Tyson’s bodyguardwho had been driving in the car in front of Turner and Tysonreached his hand into Saucedo’s car, took his car keys from the ignition, and walked away.
Hardick’s statement says that he immediately hopped back into his car “because I feared what Mr. Tyson would do next.” Tyson’s bodyguard asked Hardick to lower his window, and when Hardick did, he grabbed the keys from the ignition. After a few minutes, thinking Tyson had calmed down “and we could proceed with the exchange of information (insurance, driver’s license, etc.),” Hardick got out of his car again.
But Tyson, standing on the median of the road, began barreling for Hardick, Hardick’s police report says. Turner and the bodyguard tried to restrain the former heavyweight champion of the world, but, according to Hardick, “Tyson was able to continue to approach me despite the restraint.”
His arms held back by Turner and the guard, Tyson kicked Hardick in the groin. He didn’t mean to, according to Kemphe was just kicking in frustration and Hardick just happened to find his gonads in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I immediately double[d] over in pain and fell to the ground,” Hardick wrote in his statement. Tyson and Turner returned to their car and motored the hell out of there.
Cops stopped Tyson soon afterward not far from the Montgomery County Airpark. Tyson, complaining of chest pains, accused the officers of pulling him over only because of the color of his skin. He was “combative,” according to Officer Derek Baliles, spokesman for the Montgomery County Police Department. By Sept. 3, both Saucedo and Hardick had filed criminal complaints against Tyson and had hired attorneys.
Kemp explains in court that Tyson got so out of hand because the other people involved in the accident didn’t inquire after the health of his wife after the accident. But Tyson has the kind of resources that easily mend fences. According to Kemp, Tyson recently met with both Hardick and Saucedo in a 45-minute encounter that, to hear Kemp tell it, was all hugs and kisses by the time they were done.
“He apologized to them,” Kemp says in court, “and, frankly, they apologized to him….It was a genuine meeting, with not just shaking hands, but embraces.” Hardick and Saucedo now support Tyson’s no-contest plea, Kemp tells Judge Stephen P. Johnson.
Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Crawford repeats that her office as a matter of policy opposes no-contest pleas. Judge Johnson ponders whether to allow the plea. Turner sits solemnly in the back of the courtroom while Tyson slumps up front in his chair, bookended by the pink-faced, moptopped Kemp and gaunt co-counsel Robert Greenberg.
Judge Johnson asks Tyson to stand. The boxernattily dressed in a black three-piece suitdoes so.
“Can you hear me all right?” the judge asks.
“Aiight,” Tyson says in his faint voice. “I hear you well,” he adds.
Is he aware how this plea could affect his parole status with the Indiana justice system?
“I’m surely aware of that.”
Does he clearly understand that the judge couldright here and nowsentence him to 20 years in prison as a result of his plea?
Did anyone tell him that the court would be more lenient in sentencing if he pleaded no contest?
“No, they didn’t tell me that. No.”
The proceedings finish, the judge accepts the plea, and a bailiff steps forward and says Tyson needs to be fingerprinted. Tyson and his team walk downstairs to the second floor of the courthouse, into the police’s court liaison office. Fans and autograph hounds join the media in trying to catch a glimpse of the former champ.
“Love you!” yells a young woman as she and her boyfriend blow kisses to the former champ on their way out of the Adult Parole and Probation section.
Inside the court liaison office, Tyson sits on a chair wearily, leaning his head against a file cabinet, taking off his sports jacket and giving it to Turner to hold. His hair is buzzed short, only slightly longer than the hair on his cheeks and chin, which could use a shave. Turner stands next to her husband in a pinstripe suit; her thick eyebrows umbrella a face without expression.
The former champ and his entourage emerge from the room 20 minutes later, squeals of excitement coming from acid-washed and polyester-clad fans. A pack of autograph hunters converges before the flock is herded down to the first floor and out the back door, into the parking lot.
But while reporters are dying to know what Tyson thinks about his latest romp in the judicial system, and his fans want to hear that he’s OK, the boxer inexplicably weighs in on a local politician.
“I’m joining the new forum of black Republican leadership here,” Tyson says as he reaches the cameras and dives into the media molecule. “My vote is going for me and Charles Barkley, and [Barkley]’s gonna come and help me campaign for Michael Steele for Congress.” Reporters furrow their brows.
“Michael Steele, y’all! Vote for Michael Steele! Michael Steele, now!” Tyson says, joining his wife in the back seat of his Lexus.
As the former champ’s bodyguard drives him and Turner away, Kemp takes center stage. “I have no idea” who Steele is, he says. (Steele, chairman of the Prince George’s County GOP and an African-American, was running for the chairmanship of Maryland’s Republican State Committee, though he withdrew from the race that same day. He has no apparent plans to run for Congress.)
Kemp doesn’t offer much more about the court case or his client’s chances. “I don’t want to jinx it,” he says. “The whole thing is obviously up to the judge.” (State’s Attorney Robert L. Dean says the state of Maryland is “leaning toward” recommending jail time.) Kemp reiterates that Tyson got out of hand because neither of the men involved in the accident expressed concern about the well-being of Turner.
Whenever he speaks through a mouthpiece, Tyson comes off as a well-modulated, wounded man in an unreasonable circumstance. But a recent interview in Playboyprobably the last interview he will be giving for a whilehad no such intermediation.
“I’m a very hateful motherfucker right now, a hateful individual,” Tyson told Playboy last month. “I’m really pissed off at the world. I’m always trying to be cool, take care of my children, not kill anybody, not say anything anymore. I always do my best to be cool. I know I’m going to blow one day….There’s not much more of this shit I can take.”
A few months ago, Neda 26-year-old public relations executivewas pedaling away on a stationary bicycle at his gym, Tenley Sport & Health Club on Wisconsin Avenue NW, when he heard a high-pitched voice behind him. He turned around and saw Tyson.
“He was a lot shorter than I thought he’d be,” Ned says. “He said, ‘Is anyone on that machine?’ and pointed to the bike next to me, where a towel was hanging.” Ned says the trademark lisp and lilt made Tyson sound like a woman.
After Ned said no, Tyson nodded politely, got on the bike, and started pedaling away. No biggie. He was allowed, after allhe’d been a member of the gym since early 1997. And despite the fact that a bodyguard was floating around the gym somewherethough never hoveringit would all have been perfectly normal and unremarkable had the man in the workout duds not been one of the most infamous ex-cons in the world. Certain celebrities at D.C. health clubs make senseone gym on Capitol Hill is known for providing squash courts for various CNN talking heads and flabby congressmen. George Stephanopoulos StairMastered his stubby legs at Washington Sports Club in Dupont Circle. But Mike Tyson in D.C.? To Ned it seemed just plain odda complete disconnect.
Ned has seen Tyson a few times since then, and every time the boxer is a picture of courtesy. “He’s never caused any sort of a ruckus,” Ned says. “He talks to people who go up to him and say something to him. He doesn’t go around growling at everyone. Plenty of the places where I’d go on vacation when I was growing up were places where famous people from Los Angeles would hang out,” says Ned, who is originally from California. “They’d go with sunglasses and hats and be aloof. They make this visual statement like, ‘Don’t bother me. Leave me alone.’ But [Tyson’s] not like that. I don’t know if ‘accessible’ is the right word, but he seems out of character from the person you see in the news beating women and starting fights.”
Yet despite the fact that he has nothing negative to say about the former champ, Ned only agrees to talk about Tyson if his actual name won’t be used. “I don’t want Tyson looking for me,” Ned says.
Is Tyson a magnet for trouble because he’s created his share of it, or a target because people know he’s an easy mark? Certainly, anybody who wants to jump up and down on one of Iron Mike’s buttons will have no trouble finding them. And a kind of fame and perhaps even some cold cash await those brave or foolish enough to wave a cape in his face.
Baltimore residents Sherry Cole and Chevelle Butts, for instance, are just two from the chorus lines of women who want money from Tyson after spending a little time in his orbit. Depending on your level of cynicism, they are either further wreckage in the wake of a man who can’t imitate a human being or a couple more sharks who thought they smelled chum sitting at their table.
In the wee hours of Sunday, March 1, at Georgetown’s Au Pied de Cochona bistro and breakfast joint at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Dumbarton Street NWTyson came across Cole and Butts. According to papers filed by their attorney, Dwight Pettit, Cole and Butts were with their buddy, local comedian Michael Colyar, after hanging out at downtown nightclub DC Live. They ran into Tyson’s party and decided to sit together.
They all sat in the smoking room, at four two-tops pulled together. Tyson sat in the middle, against the wall; his bodyguard sat in front of him. The waiters brought their food. Tyson signed a few autographs and allowed a woman at a nearby table to take a picture with him. “Mr. Tyson was very friendly,” Yves Courbois, general manager of the restaurant, would later say.
Tyson’s mood changed somewhat when a man about 12 feet from his table took a picture of him eating onion soup. Tyson didn’t like that, didn’t want anyone to know whether he was in training or on a diet, according to Courbois.
Others carried out his bidding: The bodyguard asked the man to leave. The man with the camera protested, but Tyson’s bodyguard and Courbois escorted him to the sidewalk. Though irritated, Tyson remained calm.
Then, for some reason, Chevelle Buttscalled Shellyand Tyson began arguing. Soon they were cursing at each other.
According to Pettit, the tiff started after Tyson tried to “engage plaintiff Cole into a sexual relationship.” After he was rebuffed, according to this version, Tyson let loose with a coterie of cuss words: “bitches,” “ghetto bitches,” “sluts,” “black bitches,” and “ghetto whores.” He was “loud and abusive,” making “[a]llegations that could be heard throughout said restaurant,” according to the complaint.
Butts is a correctional officer, and, according to her lawyer’s filings, she “commented as to how conduct of this kind was disciplined within the penal system.”
Probably not the kind of chitchat that was going to calm down Tyson.
According to the complaint, Tyson “began to rise and move toward…Butts in a threatening manner while cursing her and threatening her simultaneously.” To “defend herself,” Butts threw a cup of coffee at Tyson. Tyson “turned over the table at which they were seated,” the complaint says, “causing tableware and the table to, in fact, strike” the two women. Tyson was then restrained by his bodyguards, according to this account, while Colyar stood in front of the women.
The women’s lawyer says Tyson is responsible for Cole’s and Butts’ physical injuries, psychological stress, and mental anguish. It’s tough to put a price tag on that kind of damage, but their lawyer has decided it might be somewhere in the neighborhood of $22.5 million.
So…Tyson crudely hitting on women and turning over a table like a wild bear? Seems entirely plausible. But almost no one’s backing the women up. Statements by Courbois and at least six others contradict significant parts of their story.
Adoria Doucette, director of VIP relations for DC Live, was there and says that Butts started the whole set-to by “verbally harass[ing] Mike Tyson and repeatedly point[ing] her finger in his face. Mr. Tyson never touched, threatened, or made any sexual overtures toward” either Butts or Cole, she says.
“From the start,” according to Doucette, Butts “verbally abused and yelled at Mr. Tyson. She was extremely rude and had a very condescending attitude. She repeatedly glared at him and stuck her finger in his face. She was clearly doing everything she could to provoke him. Mr. Tyson, however, remained calm.”
According to Doucette, Tyson continued to ignore Butts even though she kept spewing insults and profanities his way. Doucette suggests that Butts went off after Tyson agreed to have a photograph taken with a white womanwho put her arms around him for the picture.
“You’re not going to praise white women and disrespect black women while there are two black queens here,” Butts said, according to Doucette. Then Cole chimed in: “You’re not going to disrespect all black women while you have that white bitch in your arms,” she said, again according to Doucette.
Tyson kept ignoring them. “You ain’t nothing,” Butts said, according to Doucette. “You’re just a ghetto nigger who managed to get some money.” Butts said she was a corrections officer and added, “If you had been in my prison, I would’ve had your ass in lockdown.”
It was only then, according to Tyson’s defenders, that Tyson started lashing backbut his response was limited to just some bad language.
Workers at the bistro tried to escort Butts and Cole out, but before they could do so, according to Doucette, Butts threw the cup of coffee at Tyson. Witnesses say that stories about a table being thrown across the room are overblown. Courbois notes, “Mr. Tyson was sitting down when the woman threw the coffee….[Then] he pushed the table, maybe 1 foot aside. Neither the table nor any chairs fell over, but items from the table fell onto the floor.” Part-time bartender Ron Hawa says that the damage was limited to “water, glass, and the salt and pepper shakers.”
According to Courbois, “[Butts] continued cursing loudly for 15 or 20 seconds. I walked up and asked the woman to leave.”
But Tyson left first, paying first and, according to Doucette, apologizing for the disturbance. Tyson and his friends had been in the restaurant for a total of 15 minutes, she says.
Bystanders with no connection to either party in the dispute side with Tyson. One woman seated at a nearby table says, “Tyson did nothing to provoke this incident.” After Tyson left, this witness asked Butts what happened: “She responded, ‘I just don’t appreciate Tyson talking and laughing with these white women while he has sisters at his table.’”
The same customer says that Butts’ mental and physical anguish was not apparent as she finished eating with Colyar and Cole. “Other than making derogatory comments about Mr. Tyson, they appeared to be enjoying their breakfast, and not to be shaken by the incident.”
Another bystander notes that Butts “was smiling, appeared to be enjoying some extra attention when she left the restaurant, and did not appear to have any stains on her clothes.”
Adds Doucette, “Now that these two women have sued Mr. Tyson, it is clear to me that they intentionally created this incident in order to set him up and to extort money from him.”
Tyson’s lawyer says the dust-up at Au Pied du Cochon is just another in a string of attempts to provoke the boxer and reap the ensuing rewards. “Mike is too often a target of groundless and baseless allegations,” Tyson’s L.A. attorney Mike Branca says.
Brett Haber, sports director for the local Fox News, who covered the boxer when he was with ESPN, sympathizes with Tyson’s plightto an extent. “He claims that he’s a marked man and that whatever he does, he’s a target,” Haber says. “I’ll submit that public figures are more prone to frivolous litigation, but he does seem to be one of the few celebrities in this area who seem incapable of picking up a carton of milk without drawing six squad cars.”
On a wet November day, the leaves hanging above the winding streets that lead to Mike Tyson’s Bethesda estate are dingy and dull. The lustrous reds and shocking yellows of autumn are long gone, and in their stead a bleak sky and chilly drizzle frame the neighborhood.
Tyson and Turner live in a $2 million house in Bethesda on Persimmon Tree Road, just about 6 miles from the D.C. line. To get there, you pick up MacArthur Boulevard and follow it through Foxhall, and Glen Echo, and Cabin John, an area that resembles a small, tony New England town. You pass narrow streets with names like Harvard Avenue and Country Club Road, swinging by a liquor store that also advertises bait and tackle. Near the Congressional Country Club, you find an even more isolated seven-house cul-de-sac, a place where sturdy, elaborately constructed mailboxes look like they cost more than a number of District apartment buildings.
At the end of the road stands Tyson’s three-story mansion, an impressive, pillared brick building that looks more Rodeo Drive than Montgomery County. Onlookers are kept at bay by a black fence with security cameras and large metal T’s embedded into the two gates. Turner has at least six cars registered in her name, including a Range Rover, two Mercedes-Benzes, and a Ferrari. Some of these sit in the driveway; others may lie behind the doors of the couple’s three-car garage. The front porch is decorated with pumpkins and corn husks; right beyond the swimming pool in the back yard, the largest and finest playgrounds availabletwo of thempoke up out of the impeccable lawn.
Turner was joined by her beau just last year, and to hear their neighbors tell it, the couple has hit not one speed bump on the serene Maryland back roads. “I don’t even know when they’re here and when they’re not,” says neighbor Joyce Piliero, who adds that her few dealings with the family have been completely pleasant.
The isolated street lends itself to Tyson and Turner’s impulse for privacy. Acres of space separate homes; kids don’t even trick-or-treat in the neighborhood, according to Piliero, who says that “the children would be exhausted walking house to house.”
But though Tyson and Turner may have a life suffused with millions of dollars, boxing glitter, courtroom controversy, and powerful friends, their next-door neighbors describe la famille Tyson as being just as humdrum, normal, and…well, suburban, as anyone else on their street.
Almost immediately after she moved in, Turner befriended next-door neighbors the McGarveys. Their friendship with both Turner and her famous husband has blossomed in the gracious but distant way of any suburban comrades-in-comfort. Turner’s daughtersRayna and Genafrequently come to the McGarveys’ to play with and walk the family’s white cocker spaniel, Katie. Carole McGarvey admired Turner’s little girls in their Halloween costumes”I think Rayna was a little clown,” she says. And just a few weeks ago, McGarvey ran into Turner at mass at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac, and she invited Turner and her daughters over.
“OK, I’ll give you a call,” Turner said. “Mike’s in town; I’ll bring him along, too.”
A nice, neighborly visit. Just like any other couple just trying to be pleasant on any other October evening. The McGarveys welcomed Tyson and Turner with open arms; the couple stayed for about an hour.
“We walked about the houseit was nothing spectacular, just neighbor talk,” says McGarvey’s husband. “We talked about the house, the neighborhood, about the dog. What do neighbors talk about when they walk around one another’s houses? Very little of actual importance….The Mike Tyson that I saw was a perfectly pleasant person.”
Carole McGarvey’s mother, who lives in a wing of their house, also has fine things to say about the 220-pound convicted rapist who lives a few yards away. “They’ve been very, very desirable, quiet neighbors,” she says, noting that there’s not a lot of overlap between the violent Tyson of lore and the one politely declining refreshments. “He’s altogether different in your living room than he is out in the arena. There he’s expected to be combativebut he’s certainly not as a neighbor, and he certainly is not as a good friend. He’s a very nice man….They’re very genteel. We’re very fortunate to have neighbors like that.”
Her daughter agrees. “I’m very fond of Monica,” Carole McGarvey says. “She’s very gentle and soft-spoken, and very devoted to her children. And she’s very much a professional woman.” McGarvey adds that, from what she’s seen, Tyson is an exemplary dad. “The children love Mike,” she says. “It’s ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,’ all the time. And he’s very fond of them. They’re always jumping on him, and he’s always hugging them. It’s a very nice little family.”
“I feel sort of sorry for them,” McGarvey says. “Because he’s not a bit short-tempered. In everything that you read, you think he’s aching for a fightbut he’s not like that at all.”
The spouse of Montgomery County’s occasionally raging bull is smart and refined in a way that Tyson never had a shot at. At Tyson’s hearing before the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Oct. 19, Turner was as much a part of his new image as were his clean-shaven appearance, consciously soft-spoken manner, and testimonials by Magic Johnson and Muhammad Ali. Those who know her well say she has all the bona fides you’d want in a character witness.
“I’ve known her from Day One,” says a neighbor from Turner’s childhood home on the 4300 block of 8th Street NW, in Petworth. “She didn’t come from a houseshe came from a home. She was just a lovely child.”
“She was a very nice girl; I never saw her in the street like other kids,” says Ahwaneda Brown, who’s lived just down the street from the Turners for more than a generation. While other kids were messing with dope, Turner, the Catholic schoolgirl in the plaid skirt, made a beeline for her parents’ house, according to Brown. “She was in the house studying, ’cause she went to Catholic school, and the nuns don’t play,” Brown says.
Turner’s sheen and substance make it difficult to understand why she has chosen to spend the rest of her days with a man whom many people view as just a thug with a quick and murderous right uppercut. The thought has occurred to Tyson as well. In the Playboy interview, Tyson said, “I have a beautiful wife. Smart wife, a doctor. That irritates people. I can’t help it if she’s a doctor and I love her and she loves me.”
But Turner’s romance with Tyson isn’t as anomalous as it might seem. Long before Turner met Tyson, she dated another guy who had a tendency to end up standing in front of judges explaining his behavior: Eugene B. Byrd, a fast-living, drug-dealing club manager old enough to be her father.
Byrd’s history with the law dates back to 1963, when, at the age of 26, he was arrested for carrying a deadly weaponthree years before his future girlfriend, Monica Teresa Turner, was even born. But Byrd first blipped on law enforcement radar as a major bad dude in the late ’60s, when the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs heard about him during an investigation dubbed “Operation Eagle.” He was identified by the government as a “major local narcotics dealer” in D.C. and was indicted in 1973 in Florida for his part in a narcotics ring. Turner was 7 years old at the time.
By the late ’80s, Byrd had become manager of Les Nieces, a popular club on upper 14th Street NW. In 1989, Turner, then 23, was pregnant with Byrd’s daughter. Then their relationship hit something of a snag: In June of that year, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents came to Byrd’s Silver Spring apartment and brought him down hard. Byrd, then 51, had been waiting for 5 kilos of coke when DEA agents burst into his apartment. They found $30,000 in a plastic bag and traces of coke in the toilet. Byrd pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 11 pounds of cocaine.
Turner gave birth to their daughter, Gena, right around the time Byrd was sentenced to do 10 years in federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa.
“She came with him from time to time into the office,” says Byrd’s attorney at the time, Bill Moffitt, “and we discussed matters that were pertinent to that point. She was going to school at the time and was preoccupied with becoming a professional. She was clearly fond of Gene and was a very nice young woman. Clearly very smart….She was somebody who wanted a future for herself.”
One year after Byrd was sent to prison, Turner enrolled in a Georgetown University program established to bring minorities into medicine. She met Tyson around that time at a party at the New Jersey estate of Eddie Murphy.
One Petworth neighbor recalls sitting on the stoop with Turner, “shooting the breeze when she was in [medical school], and that’s when I found out she was studying to be a pediatrician.”
But Turner’s life with Tyson seems to have sidetracked her ambitions. According to a spokesperson for Georgetown University Medical Center, Turner dropped out of her residency program in August 1997, around the time she gave birth to son Amir.
“I think they have a strong marriage,” says spiritual adviser Siddeeq. “She’s busy taking care of the three children”her son and daughter with Tyson, her daughter with Byrd”plus she takes care of Mike’s daughter [from a previous relationship] sometimes. She stays busy making sure the children are all educated and involved in the proper kind of activities. That, and then as strong supporter of Mike…her cup runneth over.”
Dr. Richard L. Goldberg is the chair of Georgetown University’s department of psychiatry and medical director of Georgetown University Medical Center.
Goldberg is also, since last December, Mike Tyson’s shrink. In addition to talking with Tyson about his problems, Goldberg has prescribed the boxer an antidepressant to treat his dysthymic disorder, or chronic depression.
Goldberg refuses to comment about his famous patient, of course. But Tyson shared some thoughts about his therapeutic relationship with Playboy.
“Yeah, [therapy] helps. I’m a little apprehensive about expressing my thoughts to a middle-aged Jewish man. But I like him. I had such a need to do it….I get shit off my chest, whatever it may be. It feels a lot better than just exploding….”
“When people think of Mike Tyson in therapy,” Tyson went on, “they think of the extreme psycho, the walking time bomb. I say to those people, ‘You don’t know me. Fuck you!’”
On Sept. 30 of this year, a team of six doctors at Massachusetts General Hospitala neuropsychologist, a psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist, two neurologists, and a doctor-lawyerissued a report to the Nevada State Athletic Commission saying Tyson was “fit to box again.”
Their report painted a picture of the former champ in the many shades of contradiction and capriciousness that Tyson embodies: He has, in his own words, “no self-esteem but the biggest ego in the world”; he doesn’t “want superstardom,” but more than anything he longs to return to the ring; he gets angry when he starts feeling “used, victimized, and treated unfairly,” and he almost took off the head of one of his doctors, yet “he was able to recompose himself and responded readily to support and encouragement…”
Other doctors who have checked under the hood have found similar conflicts. The Massachusetts General Hospital shrinks who investigated his fitness for the ring say Tyson “describe[d] a state of hypervigilance (hyperalertness to the people and events around him) which he attribute[d] to the number of times his trust has been betrayed.”
“Almost every boxer in history has used anger in the ring,” says sportscaster Haber. “But this guy carries it with him to the extreme. Both in the ringas evidenced by what he did to Holyfield’s earand also outside the ringas evidenced by everything from his extreme reaction to a fender bender, to rape. Why is he so angry?”
“You certainly can’t argue that it’s part and parcel of being a fighterlook at Ali, Holyfield, [George] Foreman…these are lovable people,” Haber says. “Ali is a guy who had every reason to be angry. He came up in the face of the civil rights movement, and as a Muslim when that wasn’t ‘acceptable’…and yet Ali is one of the most likable, genial figures in the history of sports, despite the disease he battles daily. He’s an international symbol of goodwill. Whereas Tysonwho didn’t have to endure a fraction of what Ali had to endure, who had it come easier to himhe’s fighting the world. They’re the antitheses of one another.”
Even though the fruits of his talent came in bunches at an early age, Tyson is more prone to see himself as a victim than a victimizer. He was, indeed, preyed upon, by gold-digging first wife Robin Givenswho brought her publicist on their first dateand by the notoriously noxious boxing promoter Don Kingwhom Tyson currently is suing for $100 million. In Tyson’s cosmology, the wrongs these twoand countless others
committed against him are so egregious they seem to eclipse any bad deeds that he may have inflicted on others.
“I haven’t killed nobody. I haven’t done anything to nobody. [Reporters] treat me so bad that they make me feel horrible sometimes….People really hate me because of where I came from. Also, they see me in my cars and feel I’m rich. And I’m a fairly decent-looking guy. I’m all right….People hate me because I want to better myself,” he told Playboy.
Spiritual adviser Siddeeq credits Tyson for his honesty in the Playboy interview. “My mind flashed to the dialogue going on on television,” Siddeeq says. “I keep hearing this one theme coming through: If [President Clinton] would have just been honest…then we wouldn’t have to worry about anything….So Mike did that. He gave a very undiplomatic interview, and he dealt with some very hard subjects in a very brutally honest way. So I ask: Does society really want that? Do they really want the truth?”
Siddeeq says that Tyson’s machismo is usually all bark and no bite. (Except, of course, for when he actually does bite.) “Mike reminds me of an oyster,” he says. “An oyster has a very, very hard shell to protect a very, very soft inside. Mike puts a smokescreen around him to protect his sensitivity.”
According to Siddeeq, 61, how he came to become Tyson’s spiritual adviser says loads about the direction Tyson is trying to take his life, and where it can ultimately lead. While in prison, Tyson spent day after day with Siddeeq, studying religiouslyand not just Islam and Arabic, but also more basic subjects, like English composition, literature, science, and math.
Siddeeq has now known Tyson approximately six years and has a thesaurus of benign words to say about him”beautiful,” “tender,” “warm,” “sensitive.” He says that Tyson never gets credit for the charity work he does anonymously, for the legitimate demonstrations of heart and soul that Siddeeq knows well. “He didn’t call the press when he found [long-forgotten boxing great Joe] Gans’ grave in Baltimore, found it full of weeds, and got on his knees and began to scrub and clean that grave….He has reached out for so many people, given to boys clubs, schools. Lots of athletes do it, but as soon as they do it, the press is there: click click click. Mike does it because it’s in his heart.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 18, the press is thereclick click clickat D.C.’s Planet Hollywood to see George Foreman and Larry Holmes announce their Jan. 23rd fight. The two former heavyweight champions49 and 48 years young, respectivelystand to make $14 million between them for the fight, which will be held at the Houston Astrodome days after Foreman’s 50th birthday. The fact that there’s even a market to see these geezing legends duke it out speaks volumes about both the durability of their popular personae and the current lack of boxers the public sees as worthy of adulation.
As tourists gingerly approach the theater ropes behind which Foreman and Holmes chow down, it’s not tough to see how the former champs have managed to approach the age of AARP membership with reputations intact. They court approbation, as opposed to going from court to probation. Earlier, Forman and Holmes spent time with 60 local schoolkids shuttled in to the cheesy restaurant to listen to the bulky boxers talking up community anti-violence efforts. (Picturing Tyson tearing through a similar spiel presents some interesting dynamics: “When is it OK to resort to violence, Mr. Tyson?”)
Foreman is smooth and intelligent; he strains his neck to make eye contact. Holmes has a sweet, aw-shucks naturehe looks as if his mom dressed him. But, more important than the cursory first impressions given by media-savvy athletes, Foreman and Holmes seem to sincerely believe they are lucky to be where they arelegends still cranking along on past glories.
While Holmes, heavyweight champ from 1978 until 1985, finishes up his lunch, he shakes his head at the mention of Tyson, who defeated him in ’88. Holmes thinks Tyson is in the news constantly because Tyson likes it that way.
“You read about Mike Tyson all the time,” he says, right after offering a reporter a bite from his plate. “Most of the time you read about him, it’s all negative. You don’t read about Larry Holmes all the time, but when you do, I’m working with the kids, working with a youth center, doing different functions, spending time with my family, or doing another fight. You don’t see me trying to be recognized as the most noticed person in the world.”
Holmes, who was also once managed by King, says that Tyson is angry simply because no one’s telling him not to beno one’s “making him see the real thing.” Tyson, Holmes says, doesn’t understand that “the world ain’t fair to nobody….He probably thinks, ‘I’m Mike Tyson, so I should get this.’” Holmes knows that in tales of poor Tyson, the mean streets of Brownsville, N.Y., are legendarybut it is often overlooked that Tyson lived like a prince from age 13 on.
But Foreman says that it’s easier for Holmes to remain serene in his fame because “Larry Holmes used to be unpopular and unknown. Tyson doesn’t even know about that; he’s been a celebrity all his life.” Foreman was also a teenager when he burst onto the international boxing scene, when he won an Olympic gold metal in 1968. “That’s an awfully tough position to be in when you’re that age,” he says. Plus, with Tyson, Foreman points out, “since [age] 19, he’s been coveted by people who are mercenaries.”
“You know,” Foreman admits, “I did similar things to what he did, but reporters weren’t interested; editors didn’t care. I understand Tyson….People covered up for me when I was a young kid. We were just as bad; we just got away with it.”
It’s possible, of course, that Tyson will continue roller-coastering his way through life indefinitely, looping up and down, good and evil, nice and violent. Three years after Tyson’s parole, a lot of dirty water has passed under the bridge as he attempts yet another image rehab.
Maybe this one will take. Turner is close at hand. He’s living with three loving children. The corrupting King has finally been booted off the Tyson money train forever.
So far so good: On Monday, Oct. 19, by a vote of four to one, the Nevada State Athletic Commission restored Tyson’s right to box again in the state. He was warned that it would be his last chance.
Of course, Tyson’s no-contest plea to the Gaithersburg assault charges opened the door to the possibility that his early parole from the Indiana Youth Center might be recalled. Hell, right in Rockville, Tyson’s staring at a possible 20 years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Sentencing should take place the first week of February. But any serious repercussions stemming from the Gaithersburg incident seem doubtful. With only two exceptionsraping Desiree Washington and biting off Evander Holyfield’s earTyson has escaped consequence for the havoc he continues to leave in his wake.
Crazy or tortured, it doesn’t much matter. Psychotropic drugs and the care of one of the most prestigious psychiatrists in the area haven’t seemed to lessen the frightening vitriol Tyson exudes when he feels attacked. It’s a useful characteristic in the ring, but taken to extremes, it can make life outside of the ring unlivable.
“Get a copy of that tape of the Holyfield fight,” sportscaster Haber urges. “Take a look at what he looks like immediately after he bit Holyfield’s ear. Take a look at his eyes. He’s literally careening around the ring, around the ropes, looking for someone to hit or take a swing at. He literallyand the metaphor is certainly unattractivebut he literally looks like a caged animal. He looks trapped and backed into a corner. He was looking to lash out, looking for someone else to hit….There are demons in him, the genesis of which one can only muse about. But clearly he’s trouble.”
Bill Cayton, one of a three-man team that managed Tyson from pubescence to the heavyweight championship of the world, has seen Tyson bounce in and out of the ringand moods, and various degrees of trouble with the law. Cayton believes that Tyson is at his bestand most in controlwhen under tight supervision and in a highly regimented training program. But Cayton, with regret in his voice, says that he doubts Tyson will ever again get it together.
The man with the most control over Tyson’s future doesn’t have much optimism, either. “I expect the worst to happen to me in my life,” Tyson told Playboy. “I expect people to fuck me and treat me bad. That’s just what I expect. I fight it….I expect that one day somebody, probably black, will blow my fucking brains out over some fucking bullshit, that his fucking wife or girlfriend might like me, and I don’t even know she exists. Some bullshit will happen. I expect that to happen in my life. No one gives a fuck about Mike Tyson.” CP