MGM Grand and Heavyweight Boxing

by Sarah Morris

Las Vegas and heavyweight boxing presented a hidden pleasure for me. These are my feet in the MGM Grand bathroom in 1995. It was my first time in Las Vegas and I watched the city transform itself into what is known as "fight night." I went to see Mike Tyson have his first fight since he was released from prison. I was also there with my future dealer, Jay Jopling, getting into trouble. The idea was to fly out to Vegas with no tickets and see if we could actually get into the fight. To place ourselves in that room on that night for that event has since become a modus operandi for the way I make my films: create an excuse and position oneself where the action is, where something will or will not unfold. Also the study of bathroom floors.

Back to Las Vegas . . . Traffic became impossible. Scalpers sold tickets outside the MGM Grand and everyone seemed to be dressed in bright canary yellow. Not me—I was in a white dress that I had quickly packed in my treasured white leather suitcase with violet satin lining. I was curious as to why everyone was wearing yellow. Did it mean something specific? Was it pro-Tyson? How did it work that Don King represented both sides? I had a cocktail with various characters outside—we talked, we laughed, but no one would tell me the significance of the yellow. I am not sure if anyone knew. If the color was a code, maybe it just meant adrenaline, suspense, and hyped-up desire for an outcome. What I loved was the footage as we waited for Tyson to come out before the fight. We saw him projected larger than life coming down the subterranean corridors of the MGM Grand hotel. The camera was handheld but low, tracking his slow, confident walk. The satin robe. Ironically this sequence was later imitated at the 2000 Democratic National Convention held in Los Angeles when they followed President Clinton coming out on stage. Coincidence? Certainly not. Jon Stewart called it our "Moment of Zen."

Sarah Morris is a New York and London-based painter and filmmaker.