D.C. has seen celebrities as unsavory as Iron Mike

February 26, 2002|By R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr.

WASHINGTON -- The very day that I heard Mike Tyson is about to be licensed to fight in our nation's capital, I read the following on the front page of the esteemed Wall Street Journal: "Tyson will stop using the antibiotic Baytril, which the FDA wants banned, on chickens meant for human consumption."

Alas, thought I, no sooner does luck shine on Iron Mike than the ex-heavyweight champion is in trouble again. Fight fan that I am, I thought: "What the hell is Mike Tyson using Baytril for?"

Then those words "chickens" and "consumption" caught my eye. Mike only eats red meat, usually raw. Oh, how foolish of me. The Journal was not reporting on Tyson the fighter, but on Tyson the chicken-plucker. To be sure, the chicken-plucking Tysons of Springdale, Ark., have as many run-ins with the law as Iron Mike, but the two families are unrelated.

So far, Mike Tyson is as clean as a hound's tooth regarding Baytril use, and if he stays clean, he may soon be given a chance to regain the heavyweight championship in the very shadow of the Washington monument.

The three-member District of Columbia Boxing and Wrestling Commission unanimously agreed to a procedure that will allow Mike to fight here, despite his spotty resumM-i and recent displays of cannibalism. Surely you remember the time he was suspended from boxing for gnawing on Evander Holyfield's ear during a heavyweight competition. And just a few weeks back, he lost his chance for a Nevada boxing license when, during a press conference, he erupted in fisticuffs and again sunk his teeth into the flesh of a potential opponent, Lennox Lewis -- and for no earthly reason.

Now, of course, all Washington is convulsed in debate over whether Mike should be allowed to perform in this famous city. The infallible Washington Times reports that a fight between Mr. Tyson and the delicious Mr. Lewis could bring the city $150 million in revenue and a much-needed bounce to the tourist business, which has fallen off dreadfully since Sept. 11.

Mike is possibly the most controversial of all heavyweight champions, having spent three years in the calaboose for sexual assault and yet another year for road-rage assault. He was recently under investigation in two more rapes.

Well, he may be a fine fighter, but there is something eerie about him. It is not just that after years of run-ins with the law he remains in the public eye, free to erupt at anytime. It is that there are at least three other famous men in the same very public situation, each with his own claim to talent and his own alibis and complaints to being victimized.

The first that comes to mind is O.J. Simpson. He remains at large after beating one particularly grisly rap and after several other serious displays of violence.

The other two public men who travel the country with lurid accusations against them are a former president and an embattled congressman.

In the case of the former president, the allegations of abuse of women have not been wholly substantiated. He was, however, found guilty of contempt of court, and he was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. Few would argue with the claims that he is a repeated perjurer and obstructer of justice. Some just say the claims do not matter.

The most lurid accusation against the congressman remains unsubstantiated, though it appears he will be electorally defeated because of the allegation, which is in fact very serious.

The former president is an amusing fellow, and it is said that he has not done the country much harm. He has, however, served as a role model for some very unsavory figures; for instance, the congressman, who has torn a page from the ex-president's game book and now claims that one of the best reasons for re-electing him is that it will help criminal investigators maintain public interest in the whereabouts of Chandra Levy's body. I am not kidding. Congressman Gary Condit said that to a New York Times reporter.

As I say, the continued presence of these men in public life strikes me as eerie.

Mr. Tyson may be champion of the world again. Mr. Simpson is starring in a documentary of his life. Mr. Clinton is a celebrity -- admired here, booed there -- as all await his next scandal. And Mr. Condit is, well, he is a politician who now uses Mr. Clinton's tactics to remain in Congress. Once out, perhaps those tactics will help him remain a celebrity. I find all that eerie.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of The American Spectator.

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