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
His dad eventually entered treatment and surprised everyone by staying. He was in for a year and emerged clean, if not physically restored. Afterward he began attending 12-step meetings and forging a new identity, adjusting to life without narcotics.
“He realized he could still be cool without using drugs,” Avalon’s ex says. “One night, we started talking, and he said I must hate him for what he did to his children. I could tell he felt all this intense guilt, and he broke down and started crying.”
Six months after leaving treatment, Avalon’s father remained off drugs. Then, almost like the punch line to a cruel cosmic joke, he was leaving an AA meeting one night and was hit by a drunken driver while crossing La Cienega Boulevard. He was taken to the hospital, but a liver destroyed by decades of abuse and disease proved unable to process the infections, and his eyes turned yellow. He never fully regained consciousness. Doctors eventually approached a then-19-year-old Avalon for consent to turn off his father’s life support.
“I remember Mickey and his little sister were in the room,” Avalon’s ex tells me. “And the doctors told us, ‘That’s it,’ and his father just stopped breathing. Mickey just seemed so calm.”
When asked about it, Avalon is initially fatalistic about his father’s death, saying, “He was sick, and we knew he was never going to live that long. Death don’t really faze me much.”
Later, though, as we drive through the West Hollywood neighborhood where the two grew up, he softens. “Just because my dad was a junkie didn’t mean we didn’t go to baseball-card conventions and he didn’t turn me on to Marlon Brando movies. We still had all those moments. And I miss him. Not on Father’s Day, but right now. I mean, who can I call, all excited, to say, ‘Yo, I’m going to be in the L.A. Weekly?’ Not my dad. He doesn’t even know I ever wrote a song.”
Both Avalon and his sister had toyed with heroin in their midteens, but their father’s death appears to have accelerated an ingrained yen for the drug. Avalon attempted to curtail this seemingly inevitable path to self-destruction in the same way his father had, by starting a family. A year after his father’s death, Avalon and his teenage bride had a daughter. “It was like my dad took his last breath, and a year later, my daughter let out the loudest scream you have ever heard,” he says.
The three of them moved away to Portland to start anew. He had become increasingly disillusioned with the rigid laws of Orthodox Judaism and shaved off his beard the day his daughter came home from the hospital. But as with his father, a family wasn’t enough to check Avalon’s own descent. He had been smoking and selling pot while attending the Orthodox temples back in Hollywood (there is technically no rule against it, he says) and began using heroin more and more as they settled in Portland, eventually abandoning his wife and daughter altogether for the drug.
Then, at perhaps his lowest point, addicted and living amid the hustlers and street urchins of downtown Portland, and selling his body to support his habit, Avalon called his mom back in Los Angeles to say hello. She told him to come home and says she was genuinely surprised when he called a day later from the downtown L.A. bus station. He moved into his mother’s home and managed to kick his drug habit.
Everyone I’ve heard describe Avalon’s younger sister says that she could light up a room and that when she spiraled downward, it was with a stunning and frightening intensity.
“She was just like a light,” says Avalon’s mother. “So charming and beautiful, but she could go to those lower depths just like her father. Mickey would be homeless at a friend’s house in Malibu. People take care of him because he doesn’t take up much space. And he would never let anybody consciously hurt him. I can’t say the same about her. She would be down in MacArthur Park.”
Inspired by Avalon’s unexpected success, the family managed to track down his sister and bring her home as well. “I thought it would all work out, that we would do it with love,” his mother tells me sadly.
“That was the best year of my life,” Avalon says without hesitation. “It was the closest I had ever been to my sister, and we were both in my mom’s house, which we had left before we were supposed to. It’s as if we created and re-created memories during that time.”