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|| News Item: Posted 1999-02-04

Be Like Mike (Tyson)
By Robert Hanashiro

The weekend started off as usual: a phone call from an editor asking if I'd "like the opportunity" to make a portrait of former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson.

The only problem: there's no time or location yet! Just fly to Las Vegas and wait for a call.

Tyson was preparing for his first fight in 19 months after his license was suspended after the infamous ear-biting incident in a bout with Evander Holyfield.

The short flight to Las Vegas from LA was just long enough to give me time to think: this is the same Tyson that raped a beauty contestant and subsequently went to prison, beat two motorists after a minor traffic accident in Maryland and allegedly beat former wife Robin Givens!

After wandering around the MGM Grand, the call finally came: 2pm at the mansion Tyson was staying in about 6 miles west of The Strip. I would be given 30 minutes to setup lights and 15 minutes to shoot. Wonderful!

Photo by Robert Hanashiro

Photo by Robert Hanashiro
I nervously killed (bad choice of words) the two hours I had to wait by buying ties at a discount men's clothing store and staring at lunch.

What I discovered after getting to the house (which I was told was "acquired" by the MGM at the crap table!) was something I did not expect: Tyson sitting at the kitchen table with his LA accountant discussing IRAs for his children.

Pretty interesting few hours...made some nice portraits and shot both Hasselblad and digital.
He was very polite and called me "sir" throughout the time I was with him. At one point, I asked him to sit on a short stool and he leaned too far back and fell down! He looked up at me and yelled "Hey! You set me up!" I thought I was a dead man....and he must have seen the look one, because he just broke out laughing and said, "I'm just kidding!"

Later, after showing Tyson some digital images on the LCD screen on the back of my DCS520, he said (in his high pitched, lisp): "Man, that is soooo cool! I gotta have that camera, how much do you want for that camera, man!"

I replied, "Mike, its $12,000!"

Tyson: "Hey, I'm good for it. Will you take a check?"

I told him, "It's not my camera, it belongs to USA TODAY."

Tyson: "I gotta have that camera! It's soooo cool! I'll give you $13k."

I replied, "I can't sell something that's not mine Mike!"

Tyson, calling his accountant over, "Hey man, find out where I can buy a camera like that and go get one for me."

I whispered to the accountant: "Mike doesn't need a $12,000 camera. If you get him one, a Nikon CoolPix 900 is what he needs."

Tyson, waving his arms: "Man, I gotta have me a cool camera like that!" He then asked me, "Aren't you gonna shoot me with my cars?"

We then spent an almost an hour shooting him with his Ferrari and Rolls.

(Note: two days after my shoot with Tyson, he had an obscenity-laced scuffle with a television crew at the same home.)

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