When Mickey Avalon took the stage Sunday at Velvet Jones co-eds started making out, tattooed women began to dance on their beau’s shoulders and spastic groupies began to writhe and grind up against anyone in sight. Meanwhile Avalon sauntered around the stage taking puffs on a joint from an audience member. And that was just the first five minutes.
Before the night was over, there would be fistfights in the crowd, Beastie Boy sing-a-longs and naked strippers. Somebody definitely got pregnant that night. And this was a tame show by the usual standards of this male prostitute-cum-glam rapper. The last time I saw him, he was pouring tequila down his chest for an almost-certainly-underage girl to drink from his tattooed navel at the Roxy in L.A.
There is one word and only one word to describe Avalon’s debaucherous persona: virile. The man oozes a kinky, queer, circus-freak sexuality that has made him the hero (and bedmate) of thousands of the most beautiful women in Los Angeles.
Half of Avalon’s act is 1970s pop-culture gimmicks, delighting in the androgynous, smeared makeup snarl of early heavy metal and the is-he-or-isn’t-he rumormongering that launched David Bowie. Even his face seems like a mixture of Mick Jagger and Ozzy Osborne. The other half is reconfiguration of hip-hop clichés; the hyper masculine bravado and the devil may care swagger, the vile, proudly misogynistic boasts and the ultra violent flights of fancy. Avalon remixes the pimp and ho dichotomy of the current zeitgeist, compressing them into one and the same. “I am the pusher man / I am the product” he croons on one of the tracks from his upcoming sophomore album.
These elements juxtapose against one another to create one of the few truly engaging and fascinating pop culture icons of the modern L.A. hipster scene.
At the core of this appeal is just how unlikely the man is. The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Avalon grew up in a low-income neighborhood near Beverly Hills, learning the drug trade early from his dealer parents. By his early 20s, Avalon had already been married, separated, and found himself in deep into a downward spiral of heroin addiction and prostitution. After getting clean, Avalon moved to L.A. where he met a former MTV VJ who had his big acting break parodying Eminem in “Scary Movie 3.” Together, the two created a hardcore rap record that should have sounded like a wouldbe K-Fed, but it wasn’t. In fact, Avalon’s self titled debut was one of the most provocative and genre bending albums of this decade.
What separates Avalon from the rest of the wannabe wiggers rapping about fame and bling is the sense of cost to it all. He may have a giant tattoo reading “Thank You” across his pelvis today, but the scars and track marks that litter his body add a sense of gravitas. He may be joking, but he’s not kidding. There is a mournful quality to his lyrics that is accentuated by the slippery flow of his exquisitely grotesque live performance. Behind all the snark and hip nihilism on stage, one can see his puppy dog eyes, pleading with the audience, begging for love and acceptance. Too, his family’s tragic history weighs heavily on the self-effacing humor of even his most crass references to his Jewish heritage.
Unfortunately, I am almost certain that 90 percent of the audience missed the whole of the subtext, instead focusing on the broad humor of Avalon’s constant references to the size and girth of his member and his lothario antics, not to mention the backup dancers that could be professionals on tour, or girls he picked up 30 minutes prior at the local strip club.
In L.A., Avalon’s audience is made up of the most unbelievably beautiful women imaginable. The mood in Santa Barbara, however, was a touch different. It skewed older and more homely. Some of this is to be expected: L.A. is a town of wannabe actresses after all, but I was frankly shocked to see the huge percentage of Ed Hardy-wearing fashion dweebs. The kind of guys who would spit in Avalon’s face and call him a “fag,” were he to write a poem about his life instead of a rap song. And yet here they were, cheering on “My Dick” and the none-too-subtlety gay-themed “Fuckin’ Em All.” Perhaps it’s a sign of progress, because it looked like Avalon could have had his pick of the boys too.