It's billed as a one-man show, an up-close peek into the madness and mayhem of a guy who was once called the "baddest man on the planet." And maybe that's the way it should be. Mike Tyson has seldom had to share center stage. The former heavyweight champion of the world has embarked on a three-month, 36-city tour with his show, "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth." It's his legend – how he sees his life away from the ring wars that once defined him and left the rest of us wondering what kind of beast he was then, what kind of man he is now. Directed by Spike Lee and written by Tyson's wife, Kiki, the one-man show stops at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Wednesday, April 17. I really learned a lot by expressing myself, that I'm an interesting guy, you know?" Tyson said during a conference call when asked how the show may have helped him better understand who he was and who he is. "I want to entertain people and I don?t know if that comes from my frustrations, from wanting to accomplish things. I don?t know. It just comes from a lot of things. I didn't want to be a failure in life. I want to leave a good legacy from a missionary perspective, caring for people."
Did he think he would ever live to age 46? "I didn't think I would make it to 25," he said. "God blessed me that I went to prison that time (for rape). I was just crazy. I was so out of control. I didn't know how out of control I was until I was in prison. I took that as a blessing." But the stage, with its rehearsed lines, captive crowd and set agenda, is one thing. The brutality of the ring, with no guarantees or promises, is another. How has Tyson adapted to the changes? How do the two arenas compare? "It's 100 percent (alike)," he said. "The doubt and the fear of being a failure are there. Not succeeding is there. The only thing that's different is I don't have to go to the hospital afterwards." Tyson said different crowds dictate what he does and says from show to show. And he does a lot of ad-libbing. "My life is a roller coaster of emotions," he said. "I hope they understand the story. It's not about loss, it's about victories and triumphs, mistakes and heartbreak. It's what you have to go through to be a complete human being." Hecklers? Tyson said he's familiar with them. There are still a few fools out there who challenge him when he's on stage. Tyson said he deals with them based on the mood he's in at the time. Give him a hard time on a bad night and you might find out how dangerous he still is. He doesn't think he would ever jump off the stage going after someone, but he leaves it open. ?" don't know," he said. "You never know. I may do one of those rock-and-roll things when a guy jumps off the stage. I don't know." He hasn't mellowed completely. Asked if he thought some people might be laughing at him instead of with him, Tyson said it was a tricky question, that his low self-esteem might make him think people were laughing at him. "That's the devil in me that would make me think that, that I'm not funny and I'm a clown. I don't feed into that. Change that channel. I have to perform." While his wife wrote the show, it was Tyson who steered it in the direction it took. "As I told it to my wife, she tried to sugar-coat it at first, but I had to explain to her that that wasn't the guy they know," he said. "I told her, 'that's not the guy you fell in love with.' She had to write it down as I explained it to her, what kind of guy I was back then." So what should we expect from the show? "Expect everything," he said. "You might cry and you might laugh. It's really not that funny, but it is interesting." UNDISPUTED TRUTH When: 8 p.m. Wednesday Where: Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater Tickets: $100, $75, $50; (727) 791-7400 and www.rutheckerdhall.com; limited VIP packages available with preferred seating and meet-and-greet photo opportunity