If you notice Michael Avello running down Aramingo Avenue one morning, you might do a double take.
That’s because this 45-year-old Port Richmond resident prides himself on his resemblance to superstar Sylvester Stallone — or, more precisely, Philly’s favorite movie son, fictional boxer Rocky Balboa.
Born and raised in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Avello moved here about two years ago with hopes of being the next best thing to the real “Italian Stallion” in the City of Brotherly Love.
“I’m an actor, and other actors there told me, ‘If you go down to Philly, you’ll be the next ‘Rocky’,” recalled Avello during a Jan. 6 interview.
And while that’s not quite where Avello has landed here, he does claim to have a number of projects in the works.
Not that he needs them, he said.
Unlike his soft-spoken, working-class doppelganger, the fast-talking Avello claims to come from wealth — his New York family made millions with a paving business, he said.
But Avello doesn’t count on his family for money, he proclaimed.
He’s comfortable with his current income, which, it seems, he generates mostly through public appearances as Rocky and the sales of unlicensed Rocky T-shirts and memorabilia — though he claimed he’s just days away from having the needed permissions.
“I don’t need to work,” he said with a grin.
For the record, Avello’s Rocky impersonation is pretty good. During the interview, he seamlessly morphed in and out of Rocky Balboa’s voice. He also likes to proclaim himself as the “best Rocky in America.”
Through his own production company — which he calls Rocky Boy Productions — Avello said he is making a “biography” about the fictional Rocky Balboa. Of course, this also is unauthorized at the moment, though Avello says, “I’ve called Stallone, but he’s busy filming Expendables 2.”
But a little thing like not having the seemingly necessary paperwork for the use of Stallone’s image and film character isn’t stopping the steamroller that is Avello; he already has begun production of his project, including filming himself while recreating the scene of Rocky chasing a chicken while training for a boxing match in 1979’s Rocky II.
Yet, it’s not all dreams of movie stardom for Avello.
He’s also starting a hot-dog business — in fact, he plans to sell the wieners as Rocky in a few area locations, including in front of Planet Fitness at York Street and Aramingo Avenue and, of course, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The city, and Port Richmond in particular, have been good to Avello, he said.
“I never knew what to expect when I moved down here, but now that I’m here, I’m going to stay for the rest of my life,” he said. “Port Richmond treats me like a celebrity. When I go running, kids come out and run with me (just like Rocky).”
In fact, Avello claimed that the last time he was out running, police pulled him over, simply because of his resemblance to Stallone.
“I heard ‘Yo Rock!’ and I saw the police lights,” he said. “They just wanted to see who I was.”
Apart from his preoccupation with everything Rocky, Avello said that, at heart, he’s a spiritual man who cares about charity work. He said he visits local hospitals in character to help cheer up patients and has volunteered at the Cavalry Chapel of Philadelphia, at 13500 Philmont Ave. in the Far Northeast.
Calvary’s pastor, Jerry Paradise, said that’s true, though he noted that Avello has not pulled out his Rocky persona.
“I know exactly who I am. I’m Michael Avello … I’m a preacher,” he said, whipping out a laminated card that described him as a licensed preacher. “Rocky was a motivator, an innovator … well, I try to do that too.”
Avello, indeed, has found ways of re-inventing himself. For example, he notes, he once was an accomplished “roller boogie” dancer.
“I’m like M.C. Hammer or Michael Jackson on skates,” he explained.
So what else is down the road for Avello?
If nothing else, Port Richmond residents can stay on the lookout for him and what he promises will be the “best hot dogs in Philadelphia” when he starts his cart business in a few weeks, he said.
Before that, he’s making plans to attend a convention in Florida — as Rocky, of course.
“I’m doing good. I’m having the time of my life,” said Avello, a gold boxing glove dangling from a chain on his neck. “I’m making a big wave as Rocky … I love and adore Philadelphia.” ••
For more information or to hire Avello for public appearances, call Rocky Boy Productions at 267-584-6312.
Managing editor Hayden Mitman can be reached at 215-354-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org