Filth and Glitter
Wavy, muddled black hair. Smudged eyeliner and pouty lips. Tight jeans over slim hips and tattoos scrawled across pasty white skin. Mickey Avalon is the quintessential trashy musician, a hipster from the Sunset Strip who's risen up from the dregs of prostitution to bust a rhyme about his drugged-out past and, more importantly, his dick.
"My dick? Rumble in the jungle/Yo' dick? Got touched by yo' uncle." The 69th track on Avalon's self-titled debut album is a three-minute battle of "My dick/Yo' dick" couplets, featuring Dirt Nasty and Andre Legacy. Laid over funky bass lines that sound like the intro to an old-school porno, lyrics like this can hook an entire subculture of slumming, underage, white hip-hop fans. In Avalon's case, he's already mesmerized much of young southern California. In a promo video on Avalon's MySpace page, many of the girls attending his shows are under 18, and they find Avalon irresistible. "He's the shit, all right?" says one brunette who doesn't look a day over 16. "He's like feces in my intestines." Another girl lists her hopes for his performance that evening: "One time his pants ripped off, so if that could happen, that'd be nice." In another clip, two girls awkwardly make out, for no apparent reason.
But why are the well-maintained daughters of privilege so attracted to this hard-living ex-hustler? Even Avalon is mystified by the throngs of budding socialites who scream his name and beg for kisses in the front row. We spoke on the phone while he was between takes for a magazine photo shoot. "I've known street hookers that are more sane and more level-headed than a lot of these debutantes," he says. But "maybe inside of themselves...they feel just as desperate and sleazy and disgusting." Insults only seem to incite them more. In his song "So rich, So pretty," Avalon raps, "I like a girl who eats and brings it up/A sassy little frassy with bulimia."
It's hard to imagine that these girls, with their Dior pumps and fresh manicures, could understand the hard-knock life that Avalon claims to have led. He spins a story of mythological proportions. His parents split up when he was young, and the burden of raising Avalon and his sister fell on his mother. She sold weed to get by, and when Avalon was older, she brought him into the business. His father was a chiropractor with a heroin problem who got busted for selling workers' compensation papers. "He was strung out most of my whole life, but he was real fun to be with," Avalon recalls. Avalon attributes his interest in music to the fact that he and his dad spent much of their time together listening to old blues and Tex-Mex records. His dad eventually sobered up and stayed clean for two years, although by then he was afflicted with both tuberculosis and hepatitis. In a cruel twist of fate, a drunk driver hit him as he was crossing the street after attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Avalon, only 16 at the time, had to make the decision to take his dad off life support. "His mom—my grandma—she still doesn't know that I was the one who took him off."
Avalon's maternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors. "[They] were in the camps," he says. "But they weren't religious at all." Avalon, on the other hand, took an interest in Orthodox Judaism during his drug-using days. He grew a beard, he recalls, and convinced his then-fiancée to take conversion classes. They were living in Oregon at the time; Avalon flew back and forth to California, conducting large marijuana deals with his mother. Eventually, he says, his fiancée got pregnant and stopped getting high, but Avalon couldn't quit. "I thought when we had a kid I would just magically get sober and stay sober," he says. "But that didn't happen."
Their marriage didn't last long. Avalon moved to Portland, found a job at a bagel shop, and shacked up in a residential hotel. It was during that time that, as he says vaguely, "things got gnarly." His heroin habit worsened and it became difficult to find enough cash for a fix, so he hit the streets. "At first I would just go and rob tricks," Avalon explains. "Then the more fucked up you get, you don't have any strength really, where you can't pull a robbery, so I just was...I did compromising things." But, he's quick to add, "I never had to grab my ankles or do anything like that."
Avalon chronicles his downfall in his lyrics: "A motherfuckin' hustler kamikaze/I used to bus tables, but now I sell my body." Some of his critics find Avalon's claims too self-servingly outlandish to be true. "Yeah, I know," he admits. "When I read it in the paper, it seems like a bunch of lies put together." But he's adamant that it all happened, although he says his eight-year-old daughter and his mother receive the censored versions of his life story. "At eight, she doesn't need to know. When she gets older, I can explain some more." Avalon realizes that there's only so much he can hide from his mother. "As far as the tricks, I told her that part I made up," he says, but "maybe she knows inside and it's just easier for her to say that she doesn't."
Avalon's mom quit dealing pot and now works for him, selling merchandise online. "I don't need to borrow money from her anymore," he laughs. Signing with Interscope and MySpace Records has assured his cash flow, for now. Avalon expects to tour for the next three to five years, in addition to putting out a couple more records. He describes his live shows as a kind of "sexual exchange." "I just give it everything I have. That becomes the show."
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