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Last night, as the wintery precipitation mix started to coat area streets with a thin layer of ice, I was trying to walk home through Georgetown after running an evening errand in Arlington. Slip-sliding my way up Wisconsin Avenue, I realized I hadn’t yet had dinner, so I swung into Five Guys and Fries. I’m not a burger nut, like some, but I love the burger chain’s outpost in Georgetown, the former home of Au Pied de Cochon, the scrappy late-night French bistro. It was best known for the site of the November 1985 re-defection of a high-ranking KGB officer, Vitaly Yurchenko, who bolted from his CIA handlers while at the bistro. That dramatic moment in U.S.-Soviet relations is still marked in Five Guys, with a plaque in one of the booths.
But it’s not the only dramatic moment to have happened at the storied bistro of another era. As Jake Tapper wrote in the Dec. 11, 1998, edition of Washington City Paper, Au Pied de Cochon was the setting for a dust-up between heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and two Baltimore residents, Sherry Cole and Chevelle Butts, who may have sparked a conflict to extract money from boxer. “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,” Tapper wrote. “…Tyson let loose with a coterie of cuss words: ‘bitches,’ ‘ghetto bitches,’ ‘sluts,’ ‘black bitches,’ and ‘ghetto whores.'”
Workers at the bistro tried to escort Butts and Cole out, but before they could do so, according to [Adoria] Doucette [director of VIP relations for DC Live], Butts threw the cup of coffee at Tyson. Witnesses say that stories about a table being thrown across the room are overblown. Au Pied de Cochon general manager Yves] 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.
Sadly, there’s no marker to note the Tyson-Butts-Cole incident at Au Pied de Cochon.
Photo by Michael E. Grass