By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
They spent the first years of their marriage like many of their generation, trekking through exotic locales like Katmandu, Afghanistan and Iran, smoking hash and meditating with Buddhist monks. It wasn’t until the couple settled back in Los Angeles that things took a turn for the worse. The father became a chiropractor, and they had two children — Mickey and a younger sister. But the father’s blossoming heroin addiction proved too much, and the couple soon divorced. “He eventually spiraled out of control, and it wasn’t safe anymore, mainly because of the people he was associating with.”
Avalon’s aunt later tells me it was when his father started hanging out with some “greaser” types, young Vietnam vets from nearby towns like Fontana and Covina, that he started getting into downers and then heroin. She says her brother had always considered himself a poet and was attracted to the darker places, something she theorizes might have been a result of near-constant exposure to their parents’ Holocaust experience. Addicted and on his own, Avalon’s father quickly descended into the seamier underside of L.A. life.
It was for that reason, the mother says, that she moved herself and her two young children to within the Beverly Hills city limits. “Back then, L.A. County had a reputation that if you had trouble, you would be dead before the police ever arrived,” she says. “That wasn’t true in Beverly Hills. His father was hanging out with some very dangerous characters back then. Do you remember the Wonderland murders in Laurel Canyon with Eddie Nash and his crew?” (Porn star John Holmes snitched, four people brutally beaten to death with lead pipes.) She goes on to tell me that the father’s chiropractic practice had evolved into an insurance scam involving Nash’s crime syndicate and the RTD (Rapid Transit District). After the divorce, she got word through the grapevine that some of Nash’s henchmen had volunteered to knock her off. “They offered to take me out as a favor to him,” she explains, “and with those people, that was serious.”
By the time Mickey Avalon was 16, he was living on his own. An aspiring painter and part of a well-known Hollywood graffiti crew, he supported himself working for his mother in what the aunt refers to cryptically as “the biz.” I have heard several innuendoes about “the biz,” yet sitting with his mother over an organic salad, I have a hard time asking about it. As we’re about to leave, I finally chance a question. “So what exactly were you doing to make money back then?” She stares at me for a beat, her eyes narrowing, and then nods. Her voice is suddenly less June Cleaver and all business.
”Okay, let me tell you how it was,” she says. ”It was really hard for a single mother to make it in L.A. My husband’s family raised my rent, and he wouldn’t give me anything. I was on welfare before that, and then I had two kids in Beverly Hills to support, so I made a living on the black market selling pot. Have you seen that television show, Weeds? Well, that’s how it was. I didn’t tell Mickey about it until I caught him selling his own pot in front of our house. Then I had to sit him down.”
Avalon was 14 at the time, and from that point on, he was part of “the biz.” They both tell the same story — his mom showed him the best weed he had ever seen, then asked how much he was smoking and how much money he needed a week. He learned the trade well and eventually became one of “the biz”’s biggest moneymakers, moving out of the house and into his own apartment.
“She told me how to do it, and I was good at it,” he tells me later. “She said, ‘If you live outside the law, you got to be totally honest. And your car always has to be perfect. No broken headlights.’ ” He suddenly becomes a little protective. “She was still a good person,” he cautions. “I think she would rationalize it as a means to an end for me. So I could keep painting and pay the rent. She never wanted me to end up the way I did.”
It wasn’t until his late teens, when Avalon’s mom noticed blood on his arms and the all-too-familiar fuzziness of heroin intoxication, that she fired him.
“I just had too much to lose,” she explains, sipping herbal tea. “I had worked so hard to achieve a certain lifestyle, and then he was going to throw it all in the toilet because he was on heroin. You can’t trust somebody on heroin. You would never pick somebody like that to be on your team. He was making good money and would have made a great partner, but I just saw too much of his dad in him when he was like that.”