This security guard could barely fit inside the fancy sports car, and he didn't know what to do, plus he didn't want it to appear like he was stealing the fighter's ride. He squeezed into the driver's seat, and he looked at King, and King looked at Tyson, and the guard looked back and forth between King and Tyson, and he still had no idea what he should do next. He didn't want Tyson to say that he just drove away with the fighter's car. Iron Mike, meanwhile, was screaming that the car was bad luck, and how he wanted to think only positive thoughts in the hours before the rematch. So he gave away the car over a fender bender.
That should give you an idea of the lifestyle he was leading. Just one-half of that one night. King and I went to the Palm for dinner with some of his people, and all of a sudden, we could hear this commotion, like a murmur that becomes a roar, and someone came to the table to find King, so he could reel in Tyson, who was a short distance away at the Versace store inside Caesars, shopping.
Tyson and whoever else was with him had racked up something like an $800,000 bill. I remember he bought purple shoes and yellow and orange scarves. The second he took that stuff out of the store, it had no value. He didn't care. He ordered King to take care of it. "Give me back the check," King told him. Tyson handed that $30 million piece of paper back. King would later cut him another check, less the amount Tyson had spent in the store.
The champ indulged in having a good time and everything that went with it, whether that was drinking or women or more women, cars, clothes, jewelry, and watches. You name it. He wasn't living a life of regret. In the span of ninety minutes, I saw him give away a $350,000 car and spend at least $800,000 at Versace. That's $1.15 million in ninety minutes. In 1997!
Tyson has lived his life, on his terms, on a high wire without any net.
I met him years before that, in the mid-1980s, while eating with my father, Jerry, at Matteo's in Los Angeles. I loved Matteo's. The restaurant is still there, on Westwood Boulevard, just off Pico. It used to be an old-school Hollywood hangout, and I thought they served the best cheese ravioli in Los Angeles.
Matty, a real character from Hoboken, New Jersey, was this older gentleman who owned and ran the place for years. He knew everybody. I mean, everybody--
On this particular Sunday, my dad and I were sitting near the entrance, not at one of the prime tables, but close enough to the front door where we could see every person who came in. Sinatra and Sammy were there, along with Dean Martin. So were Lucille Ball and Gary Morton, Al Davis, Wilt Chamberlain, Farrah Fawcett, and Sugar Ray Robinson, the greatest fighter who ever lived. Tyson, who was still a teenager at that point, was seated at a table not too far away, in the middle of the action. He was with the incomparable Jimmy Jacobs, a man who collected films of fights and comic books, played handball at the sport's highest levels, and came to manage the young menace. Early on, at least.
Jacobs was also there with Bill Cayton, his business partner. King was at a separate table, totally by coincidence, or at least it appeared that way. It's tricky, because at that time, he didn't represent Tyson. At one point, I saw the boxer get up to use the restroom, but on his way there, he noticed this train set that wound around the dining room from the ceiling. He was following the train as it sped around, mesmerized like a kid on Christmas, looked down and there I was. He recognized me from TV, which surprised me. "Mike, how are you?" I said, extending a hand.
He sat down at our table and met my dad that night. King also came over and said hello. And every time I ever saw Tyson in the years since—we're talking decades here—he'd ask about my father. "How's Jerry?" he'd say in that voice, all high-pitched and fast-paced, like he wanted to say everything at once and just might before the night concluded.
Tyson was something like 12-0 at that point. I can't say for sure. He had knocked out everyone his management had put in front of him. He was just beginning his pro career. He had amazing power and potential.
As Mike Tyson climbed boxing's pound-for-pound rankings, ESPN started to send me to some of his fights. I was working freelance for them, transitioning to full time after the Olympics in 1984. We'd always recall that night at Matteo's. As I mentioned, he'd always ask about my dad. It may not have always seemed this way in press conferences, but he always had good manners with me. He'd call me Mr. Gray.