The Glows Are Off

With their marriage kaput, Mike Tyson and Robin Givens battle over the question: Was she only after his money?
October 23, 1988

Let's see, the last time we looked in on the Family Tyson, wife Robin Givens and her mother, Ruth Roper, were accusing husband Mike, the heavyweight champion of the world, of being suicidal, homicidal and chemically unbalanced. Then Givens and Roper got serious. Playing the New York tabloids the way Heifetz worked the fiddle, they succeeded in having Tyson labeled as manic-depressive after packing him off to a psychiatrist, who loaded him up with mood-altering drugs. Next, they accused Tyson of wreaking havoc in a Moscow hotel and at the $4 million New Jersey mansion where he and Givens lived. Meanwhile, they charged, he had been trying to do them serious bodily harm. In the ultimate humiliation, Tyson sat beside his wife on ABC's 20/20 and listened passively as Givens told Barbara Walters and the world how much she and her mom dearly loved Mike, but he was such a furious beast that they were terrified whenever he was around. "I felt about him as a son," Roper said during the show.

Having set up the pigeon, Givens and Roper fired. On Oct. 7, Givens filed for divorce in Los Angeles, and since she and Tyson have no children, she asked only for custody of half his money.

No longer on lithium and Thorazine, the antipsychotic drugs he had been taking, Tyson fired back. Last Friday he filed his own petition in New Jersey for divorce or annulment, claiming that he had married Givens after she had falsely told him she was pregnant. "The issue is not money," he told the Chicago Sun-Times that day. "...It's just the idea that they played a scheme on me.... They drew me in, they worked on my emotions because I was in love. They tried to separate me from my friends.... She [Givens] just tried to ruin me and destroy me. Not only did she want to take my money, but she wanted to ruin me, embarrass me, take my manhood and humiliate me on television so that no woman would ever want me again, and that was evil."

And there she was again last Friday night on 20/20—Givens the actress, working hard at her craft. Unlike during her first session with Walters, Givens managed a tear this time, if only from her left eye. "Nobody could love Michael more than I do," she said. "For people to bring it down to money, it's sad. As far as money goes, it's something I'm not thinking about. My lawyers will handle the money issue."

Lawyers are inclined to do just that, especially when the husband is a multimillionaire. And Givens filed her suit in California, where state law provides for a 50-50 split of communal property, instead of in New Jersey or New York, where the courts decide divorce settlements on a case-by-case basis.

Which is not to say that Givens doesn't have money of her own; she is a regular in the successful ABC television series Head of the Class. Another TV actress, Holly Robinson, of 21 Jump Street, attended Sarah Lawrence College with Givens. Delores Robinson, Holly's mother, says, "I'm privy to have known them [Givens and Roper]." According to Delores, Holly once knocked Givens down for calling Delores Robinson a slut and for falsely accusing the two Robinsons of stealing money from her. "I knew them in the old days before there was a Mike Tyson," says Delores. "This whole thing was a setup. Robin married him for the money. We predicted it when she married him, that she would stay with him however long it took to make sure she was in and could get the money. As soon as that point was had, she started to discredit him."

Kimberly Alexander, an Atlanta businesswoman, also attended Sarah Lawrence. Unlike Holly Robinson, Alexander never had a cross word with Givens. "But we weren't friends," says Alexander. "Robin didn't have any friends at Sarah Lawrence. She made her presence known, but she rubbed everybody the wrong way. At our graduation, they called her name and she was booed, loud enough to be noticed. I knew she had enough ambition to get what she wanted, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but I also knew Robin would do it any way she could. She thinks people are expendable, she uses them."

Whether Givens was using Tyson or not, their relationship appears to have been shaky from the start. Last November, Tyson and a friend, Sal Di Carlo, who owns a nightclub in Albany, N.Y., met with Colin Hart, a reporter for a London tabloid, The Sun, in the coffee shop of the Las Vegas Hilton. Tyson was in town to watch lightweight Edwin Rosario fight Julio Cesar Chavez. Tyson told Di Carlo and Hart that he had no intention of marrying Givens.

"She has wanted me to marry her for a long time but I ain't going to do it," Tyson was quoted as saying. "Hey, I'm only 21 and I want to play the field for a while.... Besides, we fight all the time. She thinks she is so much better than me, just because she has had an education.... It may be true, but I hate the way she goes about telling me. I retaliate by telling her I am the heavyweight champion and she should know her place. Man, she really gets into a temper at that and comes at me. She knows she can't hurt me if she kicks me in the head so she tries to kick me in the groin."

Early in February, Camille Ewald, the 83-year-old woman who helped raise Tyson and at whose house in Cats-kill, N.Y., he usually lives when he's in training, got a call from Givens. "She was upset about Mike and other girls," Ewald says. "I told her: 'Mike is young. He's a champion. He doesn't know how to say no. He may see other girls and he may let them kiss him, but that doesn't mean he goes to bed with them.' But she was worried. She said, 'I'm not one of his bambinos.' "

According to one Tyson insider, at about the same time Givens called Ewald, Roper phoned the late Jimmy Jacobs, one of Tyson's comanagers, and claimed that Givens was VA months pregnant with Tyson's child and that the couple would have to get married immediately. Bill Cayton, Jacobs's partner, says now that, partly because of morals clauses in Tyson's endorsement contracts, he and Jacobs encouraged the champion to marry, which he did. In fact, Givens and Tyson got married twice: first in Chicago on Feb. 7, although they had no Illinois marriage license, and then legally two days later in New York City. Givens and Roper deny that they ever called Jacobs (who died less than two months after the wedding) about a pregnancy or that they told anyone that Givens was pregnant.

"Michael called us a few days after he was married," says Jay Bright, a friend of Tyson's who lives at Ewald's house. "He was excited and happy that [Robin] was pregnant." In early June, Givens supposedly suffered a miscarriage.

On June 19, in Newsday, a New York newspaper, Stephanie Givens, Robin's younger sister, accused Tyson of beating his wife. He denied the allegation. On the rainy morning of Sept. 4, at Ewald's house, Tyson climbed into his wife's BMW and, before he could make it out of the driveway, slammed into a tree. Ewald says that Tyson simply skidded on the wet ground while on his way to buy some magazines, but Givens and Roper claimed that Tyson, in a rage against his wife who was in New York, had crashed the car deliberately. While Tyson lay in a New York hospital, with his manager, trainer and friends barred from his room on Roper's orders, Roper and Givens put the word out through the New York Daily News that Tyson was suicidal and homicidal and had a chemical imbalance that made him violent.

Givens, who has said that she and her mother and sister came as a "package" when she married Tyson, then talked Tyson into seeing a New York City psychiatrist, Dr. Henry McCurtis. Almost immediately, the Package let it be known that McCurtis had diagnosed the champion as manic-depressive and had ordered appropriate drugs. McCurtis refuses even to say whether Tyson has been his patient. On Sept. 9, Tyson and Givens left for Moscow, where Head of the Class was doing two weeks of location shooting.

Givens's description of the trip is in her divorce petition:

"After we had been in Moscow for about six days, Michael became manic and started to lose control over his emotions. On one occasion, he started throwing champagne bottles around our room. At the peak of his manic state, Michael went down to the bar and started drinking vodka, glass after glass, like it was water. He then returned to our room, grabbed a handful of lithium and locked himself in the bathroom, saying he was going to kill himself.

"Next Michael kept yelling at me that he was going to kill me, kill my mother and kill Phyllis Polaner, a former employee. Michael kept chasing me and my mother and Phyllis around the hotel from our room to the lobby. A Russian police officer tried to intervene and Michael threatened the police officer.... He dragged me into the room, before I was again able to flee from him. He then chased me down the stairs to the lobby and then hung from the hotel balcony for about 10 minutes saying he was going to kill himself. He kept chasing us from about 1 a.m. until about 5 a.m. Michael only stopped because we had to catch a plane."

Roper offered a similar sworn declaration, but others who were on the scene say the Givens-Roper story isn't true. "We had no incidents whatsoever while he was here, and if we had, I would have heard about them," said Anatoli Mikheyev, the house detective at the Rossiya, the hotel where the Head of the Class cast stayed in Moscow. Other sources say that Tyson and Givens may also have stayed at the Mezhdunarodnaya Hotel during their Moscow visit, but a security officer there says that he is unaware of any incidents involving Tyson.

Michael Elias, the cocreator and co-executive producer of the show, was also in Moscow. "He [Tyson] was exemplary at all times. I never heard him raise his voice to anyone."

Has Tyson physically assaulted his wife? When asked the question point-blank by Walters during the first 20/20 interview, Givens, who hasn't exactly been coy in discussing her husband's behavior, replied, "He shakes, he pushes, he swings.... Sometimes I think he's trying to scare me." Yet in her divorce petition Givens says that Tyson "has throughout our marriage been violent and physically abusive and prone to unprovoked rages of violence and destruction." The only specific instance mentioned in the petition of Tyson's allegedly hitting her was after that 20/20 interview. Givens says that two days after the interview aired she was awakened at the mansion when Tyson began "hitting about my body and my head." Givens has never publicly showed any physical evidence of having been beaten.

Olga Rosario, a longtime Roper employee, also gave a statement that was included in Givens's petition. "I noticed Michael running up the stairs [on the day cited by Givens] and said Good Morning to him," said Rosario. "He responded, '[Bleep you, you bleep, you bleep].' "

Rosario said that she went outside to look for Tyson and found him sitting on the roof. "He just sat there," said Rosario, "and yelled at the top of his lungs, '[Bleep you, bleep you].' "

Givens contends that when Tyson came back inside the house he began throwing bottles and dishes, and that she fled the house and called the police.

Tyson has since been examined by Dr. Abraham L. Halpern, the chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at United Hospital in Port Chester, N.Y. After conversations with Tyson's friends and family and then a session with him, Halpern found Tyson "...free of any signs of psychotic thinking or behavior. He showed no manifestations of manic-depressive illness, nor did I find any basis to believe that he had, in the past, exhibited symptoms...of manic-depressive psychosis or manic-depressive illness." Halpern said he had discussed his findings with McCurtis, who agreed with his conclusions.

In Tyson's divorce papers, filed by Los Angeles lawyer Howard Weitzman, Tyson claims that he had "been tricked into marriage by the defendant." The papers allege that Tyson was "the hapless victim of intentional fraud."

Tyson's fight with Givens has just begun. His next scheduled one in the ring, against British heavyweight Frank Bruno on Jan. 14, may seem a pleasure by comparison.

PHOTOMAASS/CAPITAL CITIES/ABCThe Tysons wore smiles on the set, but their visit with Walters led to nothing but trouble. PHOTOVINNIE ZUFFANTE/STAR FILEAfter busting a hand in a street fight, Tyson escorted Givens to the Emmy Awards bash. PHOTOGENE SHAW/STAR FILEIn Roper (left) and Givens, Tyson got himself a surprise "package."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)