Fight Club

David Leslie Throws His Art Into the Ring

When Ames invited the naked woman to take a punch at Leslie, she got into the ring and lit a cigarette. Someone tied a glove onto her nonsmoking hand, and Leslie stepped forward to offer a target. She kept backing away. "I thought that was very passive-aggressive," Ames commented at the end of round one. In round two, she punched Leslie in the nose.

"Come up here, and David will give you a blow job," Ames announced. A man later described to me as a Hanger On jumped into the ring and pulled his pants down. Leslie pushed him away and out of the ring. It seemed staged, but as it turned out, it wasn't.

A few contenders—including two women—got some good pummeling in, as Ames kept trying to solicit "professional hockey players" and other "Canadians" from the audience.

Portrait of the artist as a pugilist
photo: Dennis Kleinman
Portrait of the artist as a pugilist

What can happen with violence is that the "performance" cracks open.

The 11th contender looked about 15. As that fight got under way, the Hanger On rushed back in, swinging a chair at Leslie's head—and erasing any doubts about his realness.

"Security!" called Ames. "Do we have any security?" Well, no. But several spectators jumped in to subdue the Hanger On as others chanted, "Go home!" They got him to the contender's corner, but when they let go of him, he turned and punched the man behind him: David's brother. Then even more people jumped into the ring. Now it had the uncontrollable lurch of real fighting. The Hanger On kicked furiously as a whole crowd tried to hold him down. Finally five or six carried him out bodily.

Leslie removed his headgear and took the mike. "The show's going to be over," he declared. "We were here to have a little friendly horseplay, and it just switched over into something that was not intended."


Box Opera bouts are scheduled for October 28, November 11, and December 9 (when Leslie will fight Harry Keitt, Muhammad Ali's old sparring partner). Reservations recommended: 212-219-3053.

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