Mike Tyson · Alexander Wang · Jay Robert Nash
Plus a stunning "New Yorker" longread
|Best Evidence||Mar 24||2||5|
Another Mike Tyson project is in the works — this one with Tyson’s involvement. You may remember Eve’s write-up from earlier this year on Tyson’s response to the planned Hulu docuseries about his life, which is unauthorized and which Tyson blasted as a “tone-deaf cultural misappropriation,” stopping barely short of accusing the production of racism. And he’s got a point; tapping an Australian white guy to direct a docuseries on a Black boxer from Brownsville, Brooklyn is likely not the direction I’d go with that.
At the same time, running a bunch of cutesy Mike’s Hard Lemonade ads that exploit the “but he’s cuddly now!” tension between who Iron Mike is today and what he did in the past is not a choice I’d make either, were I the networks broadcasting March Madness — and yet it’s a choice I’ve had to live with for the first two rounds of the tourney, and every time I’ve seen the ad, I’ve felt weird. (And I’ve seen it dozens of times.) It’s effective; I get why it’s effective; it’s got me talking about it right now, which is part of the point; and yet, I’m with Eve:
I’ve been wondering if/when folks might reconsider Tyson the Hangover star/Warner Brothers cartoon character who was convicted of rape in 1991 and whose Spike Lee-directed, one-man Broadway show included (at least in the performance I saw in 2013) Tyson laughingly acting out kicking his (pantomime) wife as she cowered on the floor, much to the delight of the crowd around us and without much question from interviewers and critics.
It’s a discussion we’re having a lot lately, and need to. It’s a discussion we had when Kobe Bryant died last year, the conversation about talented and admired people containing multitudes, and whether/when to “pick a side,” et cetera and so on.
And then on the other other hand, it’s high time for Mike Tyson to get a Made In America of his own — about the two Brooklyns, the one where he literally fought to survive and the one with the Park Slope Food Co-op; about the way just about every single professional sport exploits young Black athletes, then closes off opportunities to move into broadcasting or coaching; about the corruption of boxing; about the echo chamber of accusations in a celebrity marriage.
ANY-way, amidst all this comes the announcement that Jamie Foxx is set to play Tyson in a limited series. No word yet on the whens and wheres, but the topline whos automatically make this one worth a look:
The series, titled simply “Tyson,” is not currently set up at a network or streaming service, but will no doubt find one quickly given the names attached to it already. Antoine Fuqua is onboard to direct and executive produce via Fuqua Films, with Martin Scorsese also executive producing via Sikelia Productions.
The series is said to span the whole of Tyson’s life.
I like this casting, and Fuqua has more experience in the doc/bio space than I’d recalled; in addition to directing a 2018 docu on Suge Knight, he’s got an HBO Sports joint about the sports stoppage in March of last year called The Day Sports Stood Still that, as it happens, premieres tonight. I just wish we could throw the two projects in a blender somehow, if that makes any sense. — SDB
Eve also wrote about the sexual-misconduct allegations against Alexander Wang earlier this year. Wang is facing more than a few accusations of groping and sexual assault — accusations he continues to strongly deny — and in January, Eve noted the facet of the case that indicted not just Wang but the press that carefully waited for social media to take the lead:
[The] piece from Paper headlined “Where Does Alexander Wang Go From Here?” … begins, “‘Why aren't more fashion news outlets reporting about Alexander Wang?’ It's a question that's been asked quietly for years,” and goes on from there. The suggestion in the piece is that though journalists knew of allegations for years, fears of litigation in this post-Gawker world prevented them from reporting anything on their own…but they were free to report on the social media reports, if you follow me.
The rise of social media call-outs has made for a brave new world in crime reporting, with the news breaking on TikTok (etc.), and traditional media doing the rewrite and follow-up. In a certain sense, it provides a loophole for traditional journalists to write about stuff that, in other circumstances, a media company’s legal department would have tried to quash.
Apparently New York’s legal department felt pretty secure in Angelina Chapin and Matthew Schneier’s reporting in The Cut’s February 28 piece on the case, “Wang Off Duty,” because this one’s not just an aggregation of Instagram stories. In fact, a very early graf of the piece seems to be issuing a prophylactic disclaimer as to the piece’s journalistic bona fides: “New York spoke with seven people whose allegations range from groping on the dance floor to unwanted oral sex in clubs and corroborated their accounts through contemporaneous disclosures to friends and loved ones, text messages, photographs, and receipts from events.”
“We have receipts,” in other words. Chapin and Schneier’s article is an excellent read, and not just because it’s thoroughly reported; it also gives valuable context to power dynamics of the fashion world, and particularly to the ambivalence and shame that victims within the so-called club scene can amplify on themselves. I appreciated that, in one instance in which an accuser stayed in contact with Wang after a murky-at-best sexual encounter, Chapin and Schneier asided, “(It’s common for people to stay in touch after being abused, especially when there’s a power imbalance involved, for reasons that include fear of retaliation, denial, and self-blame.)” — and that they foregrounded difficulties particular to LGBTQ+ accusers in cases like these. —SDB
And now for something completely lighter: stupid author tricks! Many of you won’t need me to explain who Jay Robert Nash is, but in case you didn’t wander into a life of voracious true-crime consumption via one of his many doorstop-weight tomes, he’s the author of Bloodletters & Badmen, Hustlers & Con Men, The Dictionary of Crime, and half a dozen other doorstop-weight tomes that started coming out in the seventies. Here’s his Wikipedia page, which I visited today, and which is a fascinating meta story of its own — starting with a decades-old review of his Encyclopedia of World Crime: Criminal Justice, Criminology, & Law Enforcement by one Sally G. Waters. I certainly knew before Waters mentioned it that Nash’s work is not the most rigorously copy-edited — it’s one of the things I found welcoming about B&B as a kid — but I did not know ol’ Nashie was copyright-trapping his entries to prevent plagiarism:
There are errors, however, ranging from somewhat minor (William Cruse's murder spree was in Palm Bay, Florida, not Bartow) to more egregious (a murderer named Hickman is the subject of two entries--a two-page one with photos, and a shorter one under the misspelled name Hinkman). Such errors, combined with a claim on the copyright page that the set has somehow been "seeded with information to detect any unauthorized use or duplication," make this a fascinating yet flawed set, useful mainly as a background source for information to be verified elsewhere (and here the bibliographies will be handy).
Now, is this a bullshitty excuse to rationalize shoddy fact-checking and brain farts? Maybe. But it put me in mind of an entry from William Poundstone’s Biggest Secrets about how map-makers, who aren’t really able to vary their “narratives,” protect themselves against unauthorized duplication. …Well, “used to protect themselves”; I’ve got to be the only person under the age of 80 who has a physical Rand McNally in her car still. Anyway, the gist is that, while many map publishers wouldn’t admit it, at least a few cartographers with local and regional mapmaking concerns copped to adding fake streets to their shteez to prevent stealing. (If you were also a Poundstone obsessive as a yoot, this is on pp 87-8 of the paperback edition of Biggest Secrets.)
But wait, there’s more paranoid grandiosity! Nash sued the CBS network over a Simon & Simon episode (…is a thing I just typed, for work) over “a plotline based around his notion that bank robber John Dillinger was not killed by the FBI in 1934 (Nash focused two separate books on his theory).” That last parenthetical is prrrrrobably everything we need to know about Nash, but in any event, the judge in the case wasn’t having it, noting with a pH of roughly 3 that “Nash should not be surprised at the result, pointing out, ‘His own books are largely fresh expositions of facts looked up in other people's books.’” You should really read the entire decision that’s linked from Wikipedia: 1) the shade does not stop with the quote above (“Nash's reconstruction of the Dillinger story has not won adherents among historians - or the FBI”), and 2) it’s a relatively easy-to-follow walk-through of pertinent copyright law.
And it’s a lawsuit over a fucking Simon & Simon episode! What a time to be alive. Roger Ebert mentioned Nash in a remembrance of his favorite watering hole from his drinking days; if any Chicagoans can testify that Nash is still drinking there, or was before COVID, let’s hear from you! …En conclusion, writers are weird. — SDB
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Okay, back into the darkness, I’m afraid…with a series of unsolved shootings in Malibu Creek State Park may actually yet be unsolved, according to Dana Goodyear’s piece in the March 15 New Yorker. In “Shot In The Dark,” Goodyear doesn’t go so far as to assert that the man currently awaiting trial for the 2017 murder of Tristan Beaudette, as well as assaults on various other persons/their property, is the wrong guy. But the evidence against Anthony Gauda is, if not flimsy, not a slam-dunk either, and Goodyear does raise reasonable doubt as to whether Gauda is competent to stand trial — just one of the overarching criminal-justice issues raised by the longread, including
liability (park and local law-enforcement officials failed to post signage about the spate of shootings, or warn locals/visitors in any other way; Beaudette’s widow is suing the sheriff’s department, State Parks, “and others” for $90 million);
investigatory procedure and the rules of evidence (even if Gauda can stand trial, the cops who did the lion’s share of the investigating may not be able to take the stand, and several experiments got them disciplined…so they sued for a return to standing);
law enforcement’s frequent gun-jumping vis-a-vis declaring a case closed for better optics;
our society’s tendency to knee-jerk criminalize non-standard behavior like Gauda’s (the access to firearms is not his fault, and given that his stated chief desire is to not have anything to do with people/the grid, maybe just…let him do that and occasionally leave out a bag of non-perishables so he’s not vandalizing snack machines? Doesn’t seem that complicated to me);
and what happens when a defendant whose square peg may have seriously damaged a round hole 1) is denied the right to defend himself; 2) is basically forcibly stabilized; and then 3) ends up spending years in jail thanks to COVID delays.
It’s really well written; you know from the moment Beaudette appears that he’s doomed, and when the camping trip with his two little girls is mentioned, your ears go up around your shoulders and never really come down. Goodyear’s spare prose creates tension anyway — without spreading mustard on a situation that’s by its nature already intense. — SDB
Thursday on Best Evidence: In Eve we trust.