Northeast Times

Port Richmond's 'Rocky'

Port Rich­mond res­id­ent Mi­chael Avello is hav­ing a great time im­per­son­at­ing his fa­vor­ite Philly box­er. He's plan­ning to turn the op­por­tun­ity in­to a new busi­ness ven­ture.

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 hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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