Being Tyson Blog: Episode 4
OCT 08, 2013 11:00p ET
Every week, Mike Tyson's wife, Kiki, will offer her perspective on each episode in her own words.
On this episode, Mike ventures back to Catskill, New York, the place where he lived with his mentor, Cus D'Amato. I was very excited to be a part of this trip. Mike had told me so many amazing stories about Cus and his life here, so it was thrilling to finally have the opportunity to see first-hand the place that meant so much to him.
We drove from New York City to Catskill on a particularly sunny day. The drive was a little over an hour. Mike was in a good mood. We listened to music and laughed a lot.
We finally arrived in Catskill, making our way down the quaint main street in the center of town. As we drove, he pointed out various landmarks, including the gym where he used to train and which, ironically, is connected to a police station. As we parked the car, preparing to go into the gym, Mike's mood headed south. He just seemed uneasy, which was quite confusing, especially because he always spoke about this place with such fondness.
Mike was surprised to see Bobby Stewart standing there when we pulled up. The production crew had surprised Mike with him. I forgot to tell them, Mike isn't big on surprises. Mr. Stewart is the man that worked at the detention center where Mike was locked up as a boy and introduced him to Cus. Yes, Mike was pleased to see him. Mike gave him a warm hug, and in that moment he seemed more relaxed.
Once we made it inside the gym, things were great. Mike was talking to Bobby, reminiscing about his days with Cus. It was nice to see the gym, which had been such a big part of his life. I scanned the wall and read the headings of several newspaper clippings from the 80's, which were predominantly about Mike. I could get a sense of a young Mike in this gym running to and from Cus' everyday, with a will and determination unmatched by any one of his peers. I could visualize him hitting "The Willy" bag as Cus called out combinations to him. I could even see demarcations in the wood floors, which I imagined were from Mike doing thousands of foot shuffles.
A little while later, we drove to the house that Mike lived in with Cus. This is when Mike's mood changed again. He was hesitant about getting out of the car and filming his return. It was frustrating to me because I really wanted to experience this with him. He had told me so many amazing stories about his time at this house with Cus, I always envisioned what it would be like to come here with Mike. I was finally able to talk him into getting out of the car to shoot. However, he was still very edgy. We got out of the car and the cameras were rolling and Mike said to me with an attitude, "Come on". I felt defeated. This isn't how I wanted to see the property. I didn't want him to do it out of obligation to the film crew or me. I wanted him to genuinely want to show me the grounds. I told him, "No, thank you." I said I didn't want to see it with him in this mood. So I returned to the car.
Mike reluctantly walked around the premises with the film crew. They got the shot they needed. The tension of the day would later be edited out. We got back in the car and drove back to New York in silence, his mood still not improving. It wasn't until later when we spoke about everything that his mood made sense. He explained to me, going back to Catskill without Cus there just didn't feel right. It stirred up a lot of emotions for him, which at the time he wasn't fully able to identify. He now feels so far removed from that young kid that Cus said would be the youngest heavyweight champion of the world one day. He said being there without Cus just felt like he was a part of a story that never really happened. The house just seemed empty to him, a shell of the great place it once was, making the whole day feel sadly surreal.
However, the next day, after processing the entire experience, Mike said he was grateful he had the opportunity to return to Catskill. Realizing that this visit could possibly be the last time he may see the gym and Cus' house in the flesh put the entire trip in perspective.