Who knows what role money ultimately played in the sad life of Rodney King, but the sketchy accounts suggest a guy who had trouble making it, and given his lifelong struggles with substance abuse, holding on to it. King's big payday was a $3.8-million settlement in his civil suit, but much of that went for lawyers fees and misguided purchases. He invested in a rap music label that went nowhere, appeared on a VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab 2," and cut a book deal with HarperCollins that led to publication of a memoir, "The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption." None of which amounted to a real living, and yet he showed an interest in real work. From Patt Morrison's reflections in the LAT:
King was not one to deny his failings: liquor, drugs, a kind of happy-go-lucky drifting from messed-up moment to messed-up moment. He loved being a construction worker - during my talk with him at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April, he came to life talking animatedly about the work he did on sidewalk curb cuts, how proud he was of it, and how his brother, his fellow worker, had to make sure he didn't sign his handiwork with initials in the concrete. He had set two dates in black tile in a backyard wall: the date of his beating, and of the riots ... He found himself sometimes unemployed, and sometimes unemployable. He told me that someone had even proposed a boxing match between him and Laurence Powell, one of the four LAPD officers in the videotaped beating, and who served federal prison time for violating King's civil rights. Nothing ever came of it.
From KPCC's Matt DeBord:
On balance, it seems that King's finances were pretty shaky, but his book advance did prove that, on the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots, publishers saw value in his story. But we don't know how much debt he might have been in, nor how much he'd spent over the years dealing with his legal run-ins. Money-wise, he was getting along, but just barely. It's worth noting, however, that a lot of people are like King these days: a few steps from broke. They just don't have his sad backstory.