It's 1:10 a.m. Sunday, and we've been waiting in the lobby of the Loews L'Enfant Plaza Hotel for more than an hour. We're pretty sure the hotel staffers think we're hookers. (At least we don't look like tourists.) Just before we're about to slink out, Rock Newman bursts in, dispensing kisses and ready to roll.
We skipped Mike Tyson's fight but had a midnight date with Newman for the after-parties. The boxing match was just a warm-up; the test of a real champ is to muscle your way into the VIP spots and sip Cristal with Diddy. If anybody can get us in, Newman can. He's a walking AmEx black card.
Boxing promoter, entrepreneur, political insider. Knows everybody. Goes everywhere. He was in D.C. this past week as adviser and spokesman for Tyson's promoters.
So, we're riding with Rock. We assumed there'd be a white stretch limo, but no. Rock is rolling in a new $165,000 emerald green Bentley GT (much like the one Ben Affleck bought Jennifer Lopez), which Euro Motorcars lent him for the week in hopes he'd fall in love. The car itself is like a celebrity: showing off and breaking rules. "It's awesome," Newman tells us. "It's been stopping the show all week." We've been in it 10 minutes, and we're already feeling like we deserve to park any [expletive] place we want.
P. Diddy aka Puff Daddy aka Sean Combs is rumored to be at Dream, but we're going to H2O on the waterfront because Tyson is expected to show up. No one knows when, but we pull up to a scene straight out of a 50 Cent video : police lights flashing, helicopter overhead, a crowd of at least 1,000 held behind barriers, and cops breaking up street fights and diverting traffic. Newman sticks his head out of the window, and one officer -- recognizing Rock instantly -- waves the Bentley, along with his three other vehicles, through the roadblock.
The fire marshal has already shut down access to the club when Newman steps up with his entourage of 10. A few words are exchanged, and suddenly we all climb under the police tape and make a beeline for the entrance. Rock never gets mad, never pulls rank, just good-naturedly assumes everyone will give him what he wants. And they do. "Face time," he explains.
A couple hundred people hover near the door, all trying to be someone or see someone. "Rock!" shouts one. "Rock!" calls another. The crowd parts for him. He has a beard, he's wearing a white tunic and pants -- he's starting to look like Moses with a cell phone.
It takes four security guards to deliver us to the back room, where about 400 VIPs are packed in, booty to booty. We spot Wizards star Gilbert Arenas behind eight bottles of Cristal chilling in a huge bowl in front of a private banquette.
Rock introduces us to "the most famous pimp in the country," Archbishop Don "Magic" Juan. "I'm here in support of Mike Tyson," the Archbishop says. "He's a personal friend."
He's wearing a giant gold and diamond "Magic" ring on his right hand and a gold "Juan" on the left, accessories for a gold suit and hat covered with images from the Sistine Chapel. "God told me in 1985 to give up prostitutes," says the Archbishop, who lives in Beverly Hills. "Now I'm Snoop Dogg's spiritual adviser."
It's hot and crowded and almost 2:30 a.m., so we bag hope of seeing Tyson and head out. The crowd outside has grown and is restless. "Happy bedlam," grins Rock. Suddenly, a large woman in a pink dress grabs our arm.
"Are you leaving?" she demands. "Can I have your VIP bracelet?"
"I don't think I'm supposed to do that," we stammer.
"Give me your damn band, girl," she says, ripping it off. It's our first brush with celebrity by proxy.
Back in the Bentley, the 53-year-old Rock is in a cheerful mood despite Tyson's defeat: "In one sense I'm sad. You could see he gave it everything he had and it just wasn't good enough. And so it's an inglorious ending to a long career. On the other hand, Tyson seems to accept this as his final chapter."
In the next second, he makes a sharp 180-degree maneuver with his mechanical boy toy. "An American car cannot make this turn," he says admiringly.
We pull up to the City Museum, where the first thing we see is a white Rolls-Royce Phantom. "That's Steve Francis's," says Newman, pleased. That means we'll find the NBA all-star inside, which we promptly do. "I am having a ball," says The Franchise, waving a cigar.
Unlike the H2O scene, this is fun. Chuck Brown, Washington's legendary "godfather of go-go," is onstage and has the entire crowd dancing. On the wall above the dance floor, Tyson's bout with Kevin McBride is replaying on a giant screen. Chuck gives a shout-out to Rock, who's standing at the edge of the stage watching the fight. Anwan "Big G" Glover, the go-go star who landed a role on HBO's "The Wire," jumps onstage after a very long swig from a bottle of Veuve Cliquot.
At 3 a.m. we visit the VIP room upstairs, where we discover the dregs (meatballs, cheese and empty champagne bottles) of what was probably a lavish buffet. We leave a few minutes later -- the festivities are over and the revelers spill out into the street. Rock leans into a new black Mercedes to greet Kenny Westray, founder of the We R One clothing line. World welterweight champion Zab Judah, sporting a diamond grill on his front teeth, comes over to say, "Rock Newman is the greatest [expletive] in the world!"
Everyone's got a second wind and a few friends are meeting at Zanzibar, so it's back to the waterfront. At 4 a.m. traffic is still bumper to bumper, although the crowd out on the street has thinned out. Turns out, Tyson and entourage went down there about 3 a.m. but couldn't talk their way through the roadblock, so they turned around and went back their hotel without setting foot in the club.
We hang out in Zanzibar's VIP balcony overlooking the Potomac long enough to order our first and only drink of the night: a Coca-Cola. Nobody in Rock's posse, including longtime friend Zena Benard and her 15-year-old son, Tyler, Rock's godson, has had a drop of alcohol the entire time. Their friends are no-shows, so we do the only logical thing: go for Greek diner food at the Georgetown Cafe on Wisconsin Avenue.
For the first time all night, Rock has to wait . . . for a table. A procession of tattoos, crop tops and stilettos shuffle by before an early breakfast of lamb shawarma, chicken tenders, waffles and gyros -- with OJ and coffee.
One customer walks by and says, "Hey, Rock! What happened, man?"
Newman shakes his head and says: "He ran out of gas."
It's already light when we leave the diner at 5:45 a.m. A new day. Tyson may have lost, but Rock's still got the Bentley for a few more days before going home to Las Vegas. Life is sweet.