When I call him Friday afternoon, he's multitasking - cleaning his house for his daughter's visit, making a PB and J for a friend crashed on a nearby couch and lamenting the decline of air travel. It's hardly what I expected, but it seems fitting, considering that Mickey Avalon is an anomaly. The Jewish glam-rap emcee's stage presence has all the makings of what mothers warn their daughters about at a young age. A closer look reveals that while his mostly autobiographical lyrics are frank and shocking, Avalon's stage personality and his real life one are not the same - at least anymore.
As the product of an untraditional childhood rife with the kind of seediness that makes for after-school special fodder, Avalon is surprisingly laid-back when he talks about performing for a living. Raised near Hollywood by a mom who sold pot with him and a father addicted to heroin, Avalon became a hustler, doing anything he could to earn money. He left home and by age 20 was married with a daughter and needed a way to make money fast.
"When you're on drugs and you're super poor and you've got to pay child support and stuff like that, you got to have a way to do that," Avalon said.
It was during this time that he was turned on to prostitution after being released from a two-day stint in a Portland jail alongside a man who returned to Avalon's Burnside apartment with him.
"I know a lot of kids would panhandle in Oregon and that wasn't really my thing, there were a lot of people who would rob people and then there were people who would turn tricks," Avalon said.
The bio on Avalon's website chronicles this period as, "living in cheap motels, eating dollar hamburgers, working the boulevard with ex-models, thorazine freaks, transvestites, mothers, fathers, drunks, junkies and punk rockers alike."
When I inquire about it, he talks freely about the days when "robbing tricks" was his way of getting by, with the sort of detachment that means he's either sick of getting asked about it or is entirely over it, but likely both.
"That one comes up a lot and I guess that it's relevant; it doesn't really affect me a lot so I don't talk about it too much, but I don't like to go out and deny stuff," said Avalon.
Avalon is equally honest in his lyrics, like in the track "Dipped in Vaseline" from his 2006 self-titled album; "a quarantine in this California dream/all up on the scene dipped in Vaseline/my foster parents told me that I could be/ anything I wanted to, so I became me."
While it's songs like "Jane Fonda" and the surprisingly catchy anthem "My Dick" (which by my count says the word "dick" 57 times in three minutes) that put him on the map, these were unexpected hits that he didn't think much of at the time.
The dick-centric tune sounds like a locker room smack-talking session between Avalon and Dirt Nasty and Andre Legacy, both former members of Dyslexic Speedreaders.
"A lot of the big songs like that one... I thought they were super stupid and I didn't want to do it. Me and Dirt Nasty were like, 'No, it's not gonna work,'" Avalon said.
Yet it's won over males and females alike and even comedian Margaret Cho spoofed it with her own version, referring to her own anatomy. It's instances like this, as well as getting lured over to Jane Fonda's Christmas party to sing over his own track while Fonda looked on, that have Avalon sitting back and enjoying every second of the ride.
"I'm actually super stoked to go to Bend because my daughter lives in Oregon. That's the main thing about my job, it's like someone said, as artists we play for free, but we get paid to travel," said Avalon.
While lyrics about drugs, sex and the male anatomy don't always make for easy listening, Avalon tries to ignore the controversy that inevitably follows him, like most recently at a show at Mount Holyoke College during which students protested him for being pro-rape.
"That's just offensive. That is a serious topic," Avalon said.
Avalon's music is like bleu cheese; people know instantly whether they're repulsed by it or want more. Yet behind the person who fans think they know, there's a man who's dealt with a ton of heavy stuff only to come out largely unscathed and able to make wiener jokes about it.
When my interview with him winds down and his house has been tidied to his liking, I find that I'm still laughing alongside him like I'm in on the joke.
9pm Friday, January 21. Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave. $20/advance, $25/door. Tickets at Bendticket.com. All ages.