Tupac Lives

I’m pretty excited about this whole Tupac/hologram thing, and not just because it means that at some point in the near future, as the technology develops, I might actually have a shot at fulfilling my lifelong dream of boning Bea Arthur. Now that they’ve manged to create an image of Pac so lifelike and compelling that ‘he’ may actually tour, I can hope to repay a small debt I incurred two decades ago.

It happened in early November, 1994, when Tupac was starring with Mickey Rourke in a movie called Bullet. I was profiling Mick for GQ; it was Fashion Week in New York and when he wasn’t shooting on location in Brooklyn, Rourke was pseudo-stalking his estranged wife, supermodel and quasi-thespian Carre Otis, as she flounced through Manhattan. Rourke was a mess, professionally and personally; Shakur was shortly to be tried for sexual assault (and would soon catch five slugs in the lobby of an NYC recording studio, a capping he survived); and I wasn’t feeling so good myself.

I’d seen Tupac a couple of times during the week. I had only a nodding acquaintance with his biography and his work then. Whether out of deference or temperament, he was as quiet as Rourke was loud; each had his own small entourage, and each clearly liked the other. By week’s end, I’d gotten pretty much everything I could from Rourke in terms of interviews, but I wasn’t about to miss out on the chance to tag along to a strip club that Saturday night. The main event — aside from Rourke vanishing into a private room with one of the ‘dancers’ at one point in the evening — was the Michael Moorer-George Foreman heavyweight championship fight, shown on a huge screen behind the club’s stage.

Rourke, Tupac, and company took up most of the first row. For nine rounds, Moorer had his way with the 45-year-old Foreman, who resembled a tranquilized bear. In the tenth, Foreman caught Moorer on the chin with a short cannonball right, knocking him out clean. Mickey couldn’t have been more delighted; I can still hear him screaming, over and over, “Age don’t mean shit!” (He told me later he’d won thirty large betting on Foreman, a claim I found precisely as credible as everything else he’d said that week.)

From the strip club we head to a dance club, where — in a scene choreographed by their publicists and designed to keep them on the front page of the tabloids for one more day — Mickey finds Carre seated in his VIP section. She and her party leave for another region of the club and she sends up a tray of drinks, whereupon Mickey has Tupac deliver a bottle of Cristal to her. It is more than a little like high school, more than a little silly. When Tupac rejoins us, he pulls out a baggie of weed and begins rolling and smoking joint after joint. It’s too loud to talk, but not so loud that I can’t signal my willingness — nay, eagerness — to partake, and Tupac, may God rest his noble soul, seems happy to share.

I felt bad that I’d left my own stash at the hotel, mainly because it was vastly better than Tupac’s. But I’ll always be grateful to him for his kindness that night, and I hope someday I’ll get to buy his hologram a thank-you gift of some sort. I guess dinner’s out of the question.