The World on East 2nd Street hosted a screening of the Tyson-Spinks fight on June 27, 1988. The nightclubs's door was handled by the tough guy mooks hired by the Bensonhurst fat boys hosting the event. The fee for televising the fight was $20,000. The Brooklyn boys wanted $25 a head. The NYFD occupancy limit for the old Polish meeting hall was 800. The gate had clicked 1200 entries. Another couple of hundred had been cuffed for free by the owner, Arthur Weinstein. He was my friend.
"Arthur, that's freebies 351 and 352." A fat boy whined as Scottie Taylor and I entered the club. His muscles looked ready for murder.
"Good thing you don't have to count on your toes." Arthur had faced down tougher mugs than these. The Russian Zeks from Brighton Beach never whined like the fat boys. They were stone-cold killers and we walked past the pseudo-wise boys into the downstairs lounge with a smirk on our faces.
"Three Vodka-OJs." Arthur ordered from the cute bartender, who resembled Little Red Riding Hood freed from two years of hard time at Bedford Hills. She only shared smiles with Arthur and bull dykes. The native New Yorker had a way with girls who played for the other team.
"Nothing for me." Scottie was not a drinker.
"I'll drink his." It was a hot night. My first sip downed half the drink. I threw away the plastic cup by the time that we stood before the big-screen TV. "Big fight."
Three years earlier Michael Spinks had won the heavyweight title from Larry Holmes in a 15-round decision. He had lost the crown after fighting Gerry Cooney rather than fight Tony Tucker.
"Spinks is nothing." Scottie loved boxing.
"He beat Cooney." A drug dealer barked over the roar of the crowd. The fighters were entering the ring. Blood fled through all our hearts.
"Cooney was a bum." Arthur said out of the corner of his mouth. He didn't like strangers hearing him. Sometimes I thought he should have been a ventriloquist.
"You got that right."
Scottie and I had seen 'the great white hope' huff cocaine a month before that bout. We had bet every dollar on the fight. 7-5. The outcome was never in doubt and in the 5th round Spinks countered Cooney's lumbering left hook with a overhead right to his opponent's glass jaw. The rest of the fight teetered heavily in favor of Spinks, who pummeled Cooney with a blinding succession of combinations. The referee called it with 9 seconds left in the round.
"Spinks ain't no bum." He had been ringside at the fight in Atlantic City. "But like everyone else he thinks Tyson is a rightie. Iron Mike is a southpaw. His left is his strength. His jab a killing blow. Watch."
"This is going to be Spinks night." A Columbian dealer pulled out a C-note. "Tyson is a punk from Bed-Stuy. He speaks like a girl."
"Bed-Stuy, do or die, but he grew up in Brownsville." It was famed for its hard guys. "Their motto is never ran, never will."
"Tyson runs like rabbit tonight."
I bet the yea-ho dealer straight up on the result. The big screen filled with the two fighters. Tyson versus Spinks. It was time to rumble. The robes came off and the two heavyweights stood in the middle of the ring. Instructions by the referee lasted about a minute. The bell rang for the first round.
Tyson landed a hard left hook quick. Spinks backed up into the ropes. He would have been better off jumping into the front row. The crowd on the dance floor sensed the kill. I grabbed the dealer's arm, as Tyson smashed the champion with a left uppercut and a right hand to the body. Spinks' knee touched the mat. Back on his feet he suffered a vicious left-right set-up and Spinks flopped on his back.
Down for the count after 91 seconds.
Tyson the victor.
The dealer paid the c-note on the spot.
I tried to buy a round of drinks, except Arthur said, "Fugedaboutit. Your money is no good here."
A few customers complained about the brevity of the fight.
"I wasn't in the ring, but tonight was long fight."
"Long?" I couldn't think of a shorter fight, although most of my brawls lasted less than 10 seconds. Tow or three punches and someone was saying 'enough'. I was good at knowing when to quit.
"Shortest fight was 10.5 seconds. Al Couture KO'd Ralph Walton. 1946." Arthur was too young to have seen that match.
"Welter-weight." Scottie added to the fray.
"That's short." Arthur snapped his finger. "But tonight was short, so drinks on me."
The Prince of the Night was generous to a fault. His friends loved him, as did his family and fiends, because Arthur was enough of an artist to see beauty in someone's faults.
"No one's perfect."
Later that winter Arthur and I are walking up 8th Avenue from the West Village. We're headed to the Tunnel on West 27th Street. A Saturday night fete hosted by Curfew. Crazy people. Free drinks.
"I gotta get warm." Arthur pulled me into a local bar at West 13th and 8th Avenue. "I don't like to hear my teeth chattering."
"Are you sure?" I asked inside the bar, for our entrance is greeted by glares from the clientele. Short people. Midgets. Only the bartender is big people.
"Fuggetaboutit." Arthur knew the bartender and dropped a $20 on the bar. "Drinks for all my friends."
We loved Mickey Rourke's line from the movie BARFLY.
"Drinks here are $5." A midget with buck teeth snarled from his stool.
"That's why I'm only buying this big man a drink. Two Vodka-OJs." Arthur headed to the bathroom. The odds of short versus tall went from 20 to 2 to 20 to 1. The bartender was out of the equation. I heard the crackling of knuckles over the music on the jukebox. I REMEMBER YOU by Skid Row.
"What you think of munchkins?" The snarled-toothed shortie asked with a smile, but before I could answer the front door opened and a dwarf entered the bar.
His head was as large as a small Easter Island statue and his hands twice the size of mine. He swaggered into the bar like he possessed an over-sized penis.
The midgets said in unison.
"No dwarves in here."
"No, well, go fuck yourself." The taller midget expanded his chest. All I could think was Munchkins brawl.
That comment sparked a little person riot. The dwarf fought off each midget with the skill of a wrestler. They flew against the wall. His big-handed punches knocked out three of them in rapid succession. The tide of battle turned with a swift right to the mouthy midget's nose.
The fight ended with a TKO.
The midgets were thrown into the street and the dwarf at the bar asked, "You got a problem?"
"Not with you."
Arthur exited from the bathroom and drank his vodka and OJ.
"Let's go." He nodded to the dwarf, who said, "Good seeing you, Arthur."
"How was the fight?" Arthur pulled up the collar of his jacket.
"Shorter than Spinks-Tyson."
"No, just the truth." It was over in 5 seconds.
"Dwarves are tough on midgets. Go figure." He handed a handkerchief to the midget with the bloody nose.
"My pleasure. Next time keep up the right."
The Prince of the Night knew everyone.
The tall, the small, and the in-between.