I haven’t read ghostwriter Larry “Ratso” Sloman’s autobiographies of Howard Stern, David Blaine, Kiss drummer Peter Criss, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis, so I don’t know if any of those guys, after reading the final manuscript of what would become—as I’m told on the bio page of the newish Sloman-penned Mike Tyson autobiography—their very own New York Times Bestseller, had cause to be disgruntled.
But Mike Tyson, whose Undisputed Truth came out a few months ago, earning relatively strong reviews, should kick Ratso’s ass. Had Tyson an ounce of dignity, in fact, a single, solitary drop, he would kick Ratso’s ass from Brownsville to Vegas and back again, stopping to rest at one of his mansions along the way. Assuming, that is, he’s still got a mansion or two along the way. I confess I needed a break from Sloman-cum-Tyson and so have stopped on page 331, leaving a full 250 pages to go. Who knows what mansions may be lost before I’m through?
Much is made of what might be called “the brutal truth.” On CNN tonight, as a matter of fact, the Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was being interviewed by Piers Morgan. I was at the gym, on a treadmill, headphones on, watching, on a TV screen above me and a little to the right, Piers fawn. The header text, as Piers and Mark chatted, read something like: The First Maverick: Mark Cuban. Never Afraid To Speak What’s On His Mind.
But people should be afraid to speak what’s on their minds, especially people like Mark Cuban. Without that fear, they’d offer up to the world the creepiest stuff, as Cuban did tonight. Discussing motivation, he described his management strategy, one that, as I gleaned from the scrolling text, relies on, instead of traditional incentive plans like bonuses for strong performance, taking things away. That is, Cuban offers his employees generous packages to begin with and then, as goals are not reached, takes parts of the package away. Didn’t sell enough widgets this month? Boom! There goes the company car. Fail to reach your quota? Boom! There goes Christmas week with the family. Once you get used to the company car, reasons Cuban, or the corner office or vacation with the family at holiday time—whatever you value most—the fear of losing it is a bigger motivator than any incentive plan.
But forget Mark Cuban.
We’re here to bury Ratso.
The problem, for starters, with having a ghostwriter for Tyson is that Tyson himself is a far more compelling voice than any approximation a ghostwriter might achieve. So if Tyson wants to portray himself as petty, vindictive, cruel, inhumane, borderline psychopathic and a hater—and good God, I do mean hater—of every woman that crosses his path, so be it. But I’d much rather hear Tyson himself, who, on camera and on radio, is an extraordinarily compelling figure, no matter how off-putting his comments might be. It’s simply very hard to take your eyes and ears off of him.
Sloman, though, offers a prattling, whiney victim who speaks in a fakey comic-like voice, no matter the subject matter. Whether writing about boxing, buying jewelry, or raping (or not raping) Desiree Washington, Sloman-cum-Tyson’s tone is the same: I have been wronged and the wrong-doers are selfish and sneaky: bitches. Or else they are women. Women are even more bitches than men. One man Sloman-cum-Tyson does respect is the author Iceberg Slim, a former pimp, who Tyson, along with Don King and others from their entourage, regularly visits. Slim is old, dying, and has much wisdom to pass down to Tyson.
Here, in one of the milder passages, is Sloman-cum-Tyson, on Slim: “He was the guy who, if it was raining out, told his girls, “Bitch, you had better walk between the raindrops and get my money. And don’t get wet.’
“[....] We laugh at these guys [pimps], but we envy them. How do these guys get this kind of control, to make these women do this stuff and then get money for doing it?”
Next up: Round 3 (of what’s looking like a three-round fight), in which I discuss “the brutal truth,” the inexplicably relatively positive reviews of the book, Keith Richards and whatever’s on the TV at the gym. And I’ll likely end by asking a question like, Just who is Mike Tyson, really?