Mike Tyson is a deeply conflicted man. Reading extracts from his new autobiography recently made me feel a bit grubby. His story is utterly gripping and extremely sad – a deprived childhood, a drunken mother, who slept with men in front of him. A shy little kid with a lisp whom other kids called “fairy boy”, he eventually went to live with his trainer Cus D’Amato; when Cus died, Tyson poured champagne on his grave.
In interviews to promote the book Tyson veers between the aggressive and the painfully honest, describing himself as “wretched”. This is a guy who bit a big chunk out of the ear of an opponent, so he’s not someone to argue with. He’s on the booze, off the booze, taking each day at a time, helped by his patient wife. Over the years, he’s been convicted for rape, assault, cocaine possession and drunk driving. Even though he served his time in jail, we in the UK won’t be able to hear Mike Tyson or see him in the flesh. New immigration laws bar anyone who has received a sentence of more than 4 years from entering the country.
You might think that Tyson is an unwholesome individual, a completely appalling role model for young men, and you’d be right. But I thought we were a country that gave people a second chance and a country that stood up for free speech. After all, he has served his sentence and has spent a lot of time trying to change his ways.
He was meant to come here again next year, on a tour produced by film director Spike Lee. Tyson is a phenomenon and surely his dreadful “journey” would act as a deterrent to young black men, many of whom think that aggression is the right mantra for their lives. Tyson’s plight is a lesson in how deprivation and rejection can ruin your life and stunt your development.
I am ashamed that we changed our immigration laws in such an unyielding way; up to December 2012, border officials could use their discretion when anyone with a criminal conviction tried to visit. Now, there’s a blanket ban.
At the same time, the dumb protester who disrupted the Boat Race in 2012 has won his fight to stay in Britain. Theresa May had wanted to chuck out Australian Trenton Oldfield, who jumped into the Thames and swam into the path of the boats. Having served six weeks of a six-month sentence, he was denied a spousal visa that would have allowed him to stay in the UK. Appealing against that decision, he submitted a file of 100 letters to the court, attesting to his community work, and was backed by activists from the Defend the Right to Protest Group.
I have never understood exactly what Mr Oldfield was protesting about and, although I support his right to demonstrate, there was something pathetic about disrupting a sporting event that two teams had spent months preparing for and which million of people enjoy watching on television. Worse, his “protest” will encourage copycats in the future.
And what did it achieve? Bugger all. Mr Oldfield has prestigious supporters in the Jeremy Till, the head of Central St Martins, and Danny Dorling, an Oxford professor of geography. He’s a nice middle-class guy and I’m glad he can stay in the UK. But I am very annoyed the same Home Office officials have denied a boxer the right to visit.
If Mr Oldfield (whose wife, Deepa Naik, is of Indian origin and who says London is “the most unequal Western city in the world”) had been black, the outcome of his trial would have been very different.
Psycho lacking the killer punch
Brett Easton Ellis wrote American Psycho in 1991 and it is the perfect parable of the 1980s. Is Patrick Bateman, the style-obsessed New York banker, a drug-befuddled fantasist or a serial killer?
Bateman lacks any moral values, being more concerned about choosing the right type for his business card and agonising over whether tasselled loafers are acceptable with a business suit.
Mary Harron’s 2000 film took a few liberties with the book, but looked ravishing, and Christian Bale, as Bateman, was a mesmeric blend of nastiness and glamour. Now, one of my favourite books has been turned into a musical directed by Rupert Goold (Enron, The Effect) starring former Doctor Who Matt Smith.
Don’t bother calling for tickets – the Almeida run is sold out – but warm reviews mean this lavish production will certainly move straight into the West End. Es Devlin’s design is minimalist perfection, but the big question is, can a man who’s spent years playing a nerdy geek undergo a total transformation? For my money, Smith scores 6 out of 10. His accent is excellent, and he looks suitably buff.
But, having spent a few months in the 1980s bonking a banker, I am an expert on their obsessive compulsive disorder wardrobe habits. The way they slide into their perfectly cut suits, knot their ties and button their shirts is a careful ritual. At the opening of this show, Matt just “puts” his clothes on. He forgets to button up his suit correctly. Little details like that drive me mad – it all needs sharpening up. You never feel for one moment he is capable of murder.
The best scenes are set in the gym and his girlfriend Evelyn’s house, with a hilarious new song “You are What you Wear”. I know I’ll be in the minority, but this glamorous but vacuous show lacks the killer punch of the book.
The rich really are different
We all know that Nigella Lawson is not on trial, but as far as the media is concerned, her shopping habits seem to be. One “serious” newspaper devoted two pages to telling us What The Rich Really Spend Their Money On, assuring us that “no respectable millionaire home is without a Damien Hirst”. The Saatchis are alleged to have spent £25,000 on flowers and more than £50,000 at Donna Karan. At the same time, are we meant to applaud controversial Chelsea footballer John Terry, who earns £170,000 a week, for shopping in Poundland?
If rich people go into a cashmere shop and buy a sweater in every colour, does it not ensure that the shop thrives and sales assistants are employed? I can’t get worked up over how the rich spend their money, because in my experience, most of them give a huge amount of cash to charity.
It’s not inconsistent to patronise both Harrods and Poundland – we all love a bargain. The ultra-rich fund a whole raft of service industries in London, from trainers to spas, to small specialist shops. I don’t believe we are living in a Stalinist state, or North Korea, so let the wealthy buy silly shoes, have their nails done every two days and pamper their little dogs. And don’t laud John Terry for a visit to Poundland – he’s only doing what comes naturally.