Mickey Royal. All photos courtesy of Mickey Royal
When I was 18, I liked to trawl through Facebook to try and find the strangest people I could. I guess it was my slightly creepy way of trying to understand people I'd never have the chance to meet in real life—Tanzanian lawyers, Portuguese surfers, British crack addicts, and Cambridge boxers have all been on my Friends list. Most of them still are.
At some point, I ended up becoming Facebook friends with a pimp called Mickey Royal. He's incredibly eloquent, speaks like a Baptist preacher, lived through the LA crack wars of the late 80s, is a published author, and has a pretty compelling collection of Facebook profile pictures. Of all the people I virtually befriended, Mickey was one of the few I really learned anything from. Looking at his life (and the pimping it seemed to mainly consist of), I realized that the idea that you can apply a rigid moral code to every situation in life is a limiting one, and that morality depends as much on circumstance as what your parents tell you is right and wrong. Even if the basic idea of making money by farming out women for sex is fundamentally abhorrent.
Considering Mickey had already taught me something without us ever actually communicating, I figured I should get in touch and have him teach me about something else: the nuances of pimping.
VICE: Hey, Mickey. So what are the different types of pimp?
Mickey Royal: Gorilla pimp is the universally accepted term for a pimp who is constantly heavy-handed. Chill pimp or boyfriend pimp is a universally accepted term for a pimp with one ho, who he’s romantically involved with. Most of the terms depend on the region that particular pimp is from. The confusion comes when the word pimp goes from noun to verb. You have pimps, macks, and hustlers (nouns), and all three can pimp (verb) or be pimps (noun again).
What type of pimp were you?
As a martial artist in my youth, I learned positioning from a mathematical standpoint.
OK. What does that mean?
When I was just a white belt in Kenpo, I would have to attack from a certain stance. Once I reached a certain level, I could fight from any position using proper weight distribution. When you reach a certain level as a pimp, you can morph into any particular style in order to achieve your intended goal.
What does this morphing entail?
Almost changing physically in appearance, comparable to a vampire. Once a vampire becomes a vampire master, then he or she can morph temporarily into a wolf or bat. In the same way, a master pimp—a true, experienced, skilled pimp—can morph into mack or hustler to achieve the desired objective.
I see. So what type of pimp were you? A gorilla?
I wasn't a gorilla pimp, no. I had very little respect for them because of the absence of psychology involved in their methods. I’m a psychological scientist who was known for using the mind to control individuals.
Mickey (on the right) in his youth.
So you were a kind of hypno-pimp, then?
My violence wasn’t ever unleashed on the women I regarded as my family, sisters, co-workers, etc. I exercised extreme violence against those who threatened them. Sadistic tricks [customers], rapists, gang-bangers, and drug dealers were my main enemies. These were the abusive ones in the game, so we were often at odds. I was fair, honest, and no-nonsense.
What was your inspiration for becoming this benevolent master pimp?
An egg is delicate. Hold it too loosely and it falls and breaks. Hold it too tight and it cracks and breaks. It’s a delicate balance when dealing with the fragile human psyche.
I noticed that the majority of pimps were gorilla pimps. The rest were just macks who were pimping, or trying to. Coming off of the streets of Los Angeles, you won't find too many pimps in pink or yellow flamboyant suits. I grew up in LA during the crack wars of the 1980s. Those [flamboyant] pimps would have been robbed and raped in my neighborhood. Coming out of the gang/OC [organized crime] world, when making the transition to pimp, I took my reputation with me.
What was your business like?
I chose to run my "royal family" the same way I lived in the family I was raised in. Just because I was a pimp, didn't mean I was going to sacrifice my principles or lower my standards and methods because of the occupation I was in. Me and the girls are human beings first. I treated my ladies with the utmost respect. We ate, operated, and lived as a family—like firemen at a firehouse who are always on call.
If you're so concerned with people's wellbeing, why get into pimping in the first place?
Why did I choose to be a pimp? It wasn't like Monday I was in a choir and Tuesday I was on the block. It's a gradual descent—or ascent, depending on your particular perspective—into the game. By the time I was 14, I had been shot and stabbed. It's the same as working in a grocery store in the stockroom. One day you decide to work at the checkout counter—it’s not much of a switch. I was 19 or 20 when I became a fully-fledged pimp and stopped being a gangster, but I'd had one foot in the game since 16.
Was the money good?
Drug dealers I knew and worked for since I was 13 lived with more money than any pimp could ever dream of, so it wasn’t the money at all.
So what was it that you liked about pimping?
I was attracted to the fact that, on Sunday night on Crenshaw Boulevard, the pimps always seemed happy. They had no bullet holes, no police brutality. No one was trying to kill them. Everyone loved them and they were classy gentlemen. Their mannerisms and overall presence made the drug dealers seem like rich savages. Pimps seemed like well-read aristocrats compared to the knuckle dragging loan sharks, bookies, and drug dealers I knew. I was taken under a master pimp’s wing because he saw qualities in me being wasted on the streets. I knew the biggest muscle in my body was between my ears and I wanted to develop it.
Can you share some of that wisdom with me?
I was once asked, "Which one is more powerful, love or hate?" I answered the question this way: I would run into a burning building, risking my life to save someone I loved. But I would not run into a burning building and risk my life to kill someone I hated. My leadership abilities, style, and technique stem from a point of love. I referred to my ladies in private, as well as in public, as my “wives.” A man or woman will do ten times to please and protect someone they love as opposed to someone they feared. So fear was a weapon used only against outside agitators. My homes ran as finely tuned sorority houses.
Cool. And do you have any advice for future pimps?
Some get caught up in the intoxicating allure and essence of the pimp game. It’s the indescribable feeling of fantasy and reality having a baby—a love child named "ecstasy." In that moment you become stuck—trapped, willingly. I live my entire life in that moment, but without losing sight of the destination. Most pimps upon reaching this level abandon the destination and the journey becomes an endless one. They begin to get cycled into and get stuck in a downward, upward spiral. I kept my eyes on the destination at all times, not the journey. That way my navigational decision making won't be affected.
Read more from Mickey Royal on his website.
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