Waiting for the Blow | Our Town | Chicago Reader

Waiting for the Blow 

Fight Night on Armitage Avenue

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The guy in the panama hat paced in front of the Park West, hunching down to get a good look at the passengers in every cab that turned in from Clark Street. He sucked on a cigarette, squinting his eyes as he exhaled a ghost of smoke.

"You have any idea what this date is costing me?" Pedro asked. He's a busboy at a downtown hotel and he'd just plunked down two crisp $100 bills for a pair of tickets to watch the Tyson-Spinks fight on closed circuit TV at the Park West. "After the drinks, and maybe a late dinner, I'm going to be out about 300, 400 dollars. She'd better be worth it, that's all."

Pedro peered into a cab that had just pulled up. Out from it emerged a pair of leggy white women and their thick-necked dates. "Wrong girl," he said sheepishly. His date, a "gorgeous woman," was making him sweat. She was supposed to have met him at the north side club at 7 PM, and here it was an hour later and there was no sign of her. "I called her apartment, but I just get her machine," Pedro said. "She must be on her way, right?"

Pedro doesn't like boxing, but this date of his does. "I'd been trying to get a date with this woman for months, but she was always busy," he explained. "Then I told her I had tickets to the fight and she said yes. Well, I didn't have tickets. I had to rush down here almost dying because I thought they were sold out. And then they're $100 each. I almost fainted."

Just a few yards from Pedro, looking considerably more relaxed, Wayne Haider leaned back in his chair, which was perched on a flat trailer, which was hooked to a station wagon. Behind him on the steel trailer loomed a huge satellite dish. The dish sucked in the TV signal that made viewing the fight at the Park West possible. Haider faced the back of the station wagon, where two monitors offered a crisp view of the fight.

"I give Spinks eight rounds, that's all," Haider said. He had sandy blond hair and was wearing glasses and tight jeans.

"This guy's a freeloader," Mike Dimiceli said with a good-natured laugh. "He got real friendly when he realized he could watch the fight for free."

"Oh, I did not," protested Haider, crossing his arms in front of a broad chest.

Dimiceli is a free-lance satellite commercial down-linker. In other words, he owns the dish and the rest of the $100,000 worth of equipment modestly sitting on the comer of the Park West. Without Dimiceli, a little man with a fuzzy mustache and fleshy lips, the big spenders at the Park West wouldn't get to watch Mike Tyson and Michael Spinks.

"Spinks is going to take it, you know," Dimiceli said. "Actually, I'll make a noncommittal guess: Mike's going to win." He laughed at his own joke as Haider shook his head, a little embarrassed. "Hey, how can I lose? Mike's going to win, then I win."

As the two men settled in to watch the prelims, the warm-up fights before the big one, more and more people noticed them and stopped to check out the TVs in the back of the car. Ron, a lanky security guard in a white satin Park West jacket, shooed away the unwelcome tailgate party. "Please keep moving," he told a trio of young men who'd stationed themselves at the corner.

The boys stood far enough away to be unobtrusive, but close enough to hear the TV announcer. Chris Rohrer, 25, a salesman who lives in the neighborhood, saw Dimiceli and Haider setting up when he got home from work and decided to try and see the fight on their TVs. "I thought about buying a ticket for about a half second," he said. "It's important. I mean, it's the heavyweight championship, the last of the gladiator sports. These are the Romans," he added, and with a sweep of his hand indicated the crowd now gathering in front of the club. "If there were gladiators today, you know these people would be in the front row."

"What inning are they in?" asked a young woman as she passed the dish.

"Three to nothing, Sox are winning," Dimiceli answered back, grinning.

"What round are they in?" a man on a bicycle asked.

"Hasn't started yet," Ron and Haider yelled back, almost in unison. "You can still get a ticket," Ron added, nodding toward the Park West.

"How much?"

"A hundred dollars." The man on the bicycle laughed and rode off. Ron shrugged.

"This is like a rock concert," Dimiceli explained. "You have a couple of fights as a warm-up, just like warm-up bands. You see, promoters used to do just the championship, but if it's a three- or a four-round fight, then people get mad. So they have to do this as a kind of insurance."

"Good idea for this fight," Haider said from under a red-and-white cap that spelled B-T Electronics.

Dimiceli wore its twin on his head. "Nah, Spinks will go the distance."

"Hey," sing-songed a paunchy man as he looked up at Dimiceli's dish. Ron stepped toward him. "If I swing on this thing, will it affect the picture?"

"Get outta here," Ron said. The man teetered a little, then stepped away, a loose smile floating on his face. He left a cloud of beer fumes.

Dimiceli looked up with pride to the looming dish. "I'm a licensed broadcast engineer," he boasted. "I've been in electronics since I started at a TV repair shop when I was 11. I built a TV station in Tennessee in 1969. I really know this stuff." He pointed to the back of the car. "I've got two computers in there worth $30,000 alone. Anybody who's got a dish can bring in the same program, but not this quality. Of course, you've got to be able to decode it, a dish alone won't do it. That's what the computers do. This way, it's almost impossible to pirate it."

Back at the Park West entrance, Pedro was still waiting for his date. "You know, I hate fights, and here I am, around like a fool waiting for this woman so I can see a fight," he said, shaking his head. "I feel like a real pendejo. I'm thinking maybe I could scalp these tickets, but they're not even sold out."

"The tickets are too expensive," said Abdul Hesso as he and a couple of friends walked away from the box office. They'd just left a downtown jobs fair and thought the fight might be fun until they heard the price. "I would say, maybe $25, $50 maximum."

"Tickets are $30 at the Chicago Stadium," a woman said as she exited the club lobby.

"Nah, too far," said Elian Shabbou. "I don't want to see it that badly, looking for cheap tickets all over the city."

Pedro was still stalking the taxis. "She stood me up, didn't she? Man, I can't believe I just put out $200 and this bitch stood me up. I mean, I hate boxing. It's brutal."

Back at the dish two guys were trying to talk Ron into letting them join the technicians in watching the fight. Ron kept pointing to the box office.

"C'mon, man, that's $100," one of them said. His tie was loosened and his shirttail hung out. "We can't afford that. Look, well pay you $25 apiece, how's that?"

Ron walked away, shaking his head and laughing. "Please keep moving," he told a couple of women who'd gathered around Dimiceli and Haider.

"Why?" one of them demanded. She held an ice cream cone as if it were a weapon.

"Gotta keep this path clear," he said.

"So? This is public property, it's a sidewalk," she retorted.

As she spoke a pair of policemen walked up and a paddy wagon parked itself behind the dish. The woman quickly walked on. It was past ten now, and the fight was late getting started. Soon, more and more cops showed up, at the dish and at the Park West door.

"I'm not going to say who's going to win," one of them said. "They're both good fighters. Tyson can win but Spinks is real slick. See, if Spinks wins, then they have to have a rematch, and that's more money for everyone."

On the monitors in Dimiceli's car, things were gearing up. After a little controversy over whether Tyson had taped his hands illegally, the two fighters finally came out of their dressing rooms. "It's all part of the show," Dimiceli said.

"It's all show business."

At the Park West door, Pedro was all aglow. A tanned blond has just walked up to him and wrapped her fingers around his arm. "I'm really sorry I'm late," she cooed. He blushed and hurriedly led her inside.

"Oh my god, he's down! He's down!" screamed salesman Rohrer from the corner. He was practically 20 yards away, but his eagle eyes had zeroed in on the TVs under the dish. "What a pud! Man, am I glad I didn't pay to see this!"

"That's it?" asked Ron, incredulous as he watched the referee counting over Michael Spinks. The fight consolidating all the titles for the world heavyweight championship had lasted 91 seconds.

"Quickest $26 million Tyson ever made," Haider said, laughing. "Hey, Mike, you blew it!"

Dimiceli smiled as he started collecting cables and playing with his equipment. "Well, Spinks didn't do too badly either," he said. "I mean, $13 million for 91 seconds isn't too bad a deal."

Dimiceli hadn't touched a button yet when literally hundreds of people began pouring out of the Park West: Cap Boso and a handful of Bears teammates cursed Spinks as they left. Channel Nine anchor Pat Harvey and her date walked away wearing stunned expressions. Alderman Edwin Eisendrath and a gaggle of friends chuckled at the futility of the evening.

Back on the sidewalk, Pedro was frantic. "Where the hell is she?" he asked. "I'm going to kill her. You know what happened? We didn't even get to our seats, the fight's over. You hear me? The fight was done, over, Spinks, is dead even before we sit down. And then--this is the best part--she has to go to the bathroom and I see her leaving. I mean, the bitch has totally abused me! And I hate, hate, hate boxing." As he talked, he balled up his fists and scanned the jam of taxis and limousines in front of the club. "But I swear, I'm gonna box that lady, I really am, I'm gonna box her."


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