I used to have a job driving disabled adults around Long island. It was really easy and I made a lot of very good friends. One of them was Charlie. Charlie and I used to load up our handicapped accessible vans with disabled people and drag race down the Long Island Expressway.
We were very young. It was very stupid, obviously dangerous, and some of the most exciting fun our passengers ever had. Now at any moment it easily could have gone bad and ended with hefty traffic fines, terrible accidents or even the death of innocents; but it was REALLY fun and the pay was TERRIBLE. If our management (or obvious lack thereof) would have found out and fired us it wouldn’t have been too hard for us to find jobs to replace the scant income so we painted Earnhardt’s number 3 on the buses and treated nine to five like a Nascar Sideshow.
There was a big important conference about something the disabled people cared about (probably not traffic safety) in upstate Albany and the company we worked for offered to put Charlie and I up in a nice hotel and pay us overtime for the whole weekend if we would drive two vans full of conference attendees there.
Needless to say we made it in record time and were settling in at the hotel bar when Don King showed up. Yes. THAT Don King. The boxing promoter with the crazy hair. He sat down next to us and started laughing and drinking and gesturing all over the place. Suddenly he’s buying us shots and telling us jokes and acting like we’ve been the best of friends for decades. At some point he tells us that he’s in town to deal with a business lawsuit and that it also involves heavy weight champion Mike Tyson. Mike will be arriving in the morning and we’re all going to have a great time hanging out with the Champ up here in the sticks of Albany.
So the next day, Charlie and I are smoking outside the front of the hotel (bus drivers smoke almost more than movie directors) and Mike’s Rolls Royce pulls up. Now this was before the fight where Mike Tyson bit part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off so we knew Mike was tough but we didn’t know he was CRAZY.
We were absolutely STAR STRUCK by the sight of the Heavy Weight Champion of the world and neither of us even managed to say hello as he got out of the car and walked into the lobby of the hotel.
We cautiously walked over to his car to take a look at what the car of the greatest fighter the world had ever seen looked like up close.
The back seats were covered by about two hundred and twenty seven copies of USA Today. Scattered around the car here and there were approximately thirty to forty Masters of the Universe action figures. Very odd. Something about this strange mingling of current events and plastic body builders made me laugh. Okay – EVERYTHING about it made me laugh.
Suddenly my mind was overcome with the image of Iron Mike Tyson pulled over at a rest stop on the NY State Thruway playing with He-Man on a pile of the LIFE section; his high almost falsetto voice saying “By The Power of Greyskull” as he lifted the little Conan wannabes sword. Pretty funny right?
Well it’s possible you had to be there but let me tell you at the time I thought it was hilarious. So funny in fact that I shared it with Charlie. Loudly. A few times actually. Charlie thought it was funny too. We laughed like crazy. You know who DIDN’T think it was funny? Mike Tyson. He had checked into the hotel and come back out to move his car.
I have an average sized head. Mike Tyson’s head is actually a little smaller than mine. His biceps however, are larger than my average sized head. Think about that for a moment. That is a VERY large bicep. Two of them actually.
Mike Tyson did not find me funny. Mike Tyson did not want me near his car. Mike Tyson did not like me looking at his He-Man toys and he CERTAINLY did not like ME. To his credit, Iron Mike was able to convey all of this in an instant with no words at all. All he had to do was glare and I understood completely. The fact that Mike Tyson obviously didn’t like me at all made Charlie laugh even harder.
I decided not to be a bitch about it and just man up. I wasn’t going to shrink away. If Mike had something to say to me, he should say it right? I offered a way to save face and make peace.
“Hey Mike – we’re big fans, we were hanging out with Mr. King last night and he told us you’re be coming up today – how was your drive? ”
Mike’s demeanor didn’t change.
“Get the fuck away from the Rolls white boy.”
At this point, Charlie lost it completely and dropped to one knee laughing. I stepped away from Mikes’s car because as it turns out – I may in fact be a little bitch. Mike got in the car without another word and drove it out of the entrance area.
Charlie and I went back to the bar and found Don. I told him what had happened. Charlie said ” Hey if Mike Tyson had hit you, you probably wouldn’t have to go to work anymore.” This made Don laugh pretty loud – louder than we had heard him laugh before. He put his big ring covered hand on my shoulder, took a deep puff on his cigar and said, “Son; if Iron Mike Tyson had hit you you wouldn’t be going ANYWHERE anymore.” I do not for a minute doubt that he was correct.
Mike and Don actually ended up donating over twenty thousand dollars to the conference cause that weekend and some years later Mr. Tyson got a tattoo on his face that made me feel a LOT more confident about the goofy Bat symbol on my arm.