Mickey Forkenstein: Sex, Drugs, and Elevators

“Step into an elevator in 1995, and what do you hear? You don’t hear crying babies, or business people talking. You don’t hear those fags Yanni or Kenny G. No sir. All you heard was Mickey fucking Forkenstein.” –Kurt Loder

Mickey, before his first sold out show in 1992.

Mickey, before his first sold out show in 1992.

The music world was finally redeemed this week with Mickey Forkenstein hitting his milestone; after 15 years, his critically acclaimed album, “Going Up?” sold triple platinum. This will mark Mickey into the pages of history as the greatest elevator music composer of all time. However, this success did not come without constant struggle. To help tell his story, we were able to sit down with Mickey himself and his closest friend and confidant, Ben Hooper.

It all started in 1990. I was shopping for discount tools at Sears when I decided to ride the elevator. The rest was history.

Mickey Forkenstein stomped into the elevator music scene in the early ’90s. By this time the market was filling up, but it was a music genre without direction. A music genre that needed a leader. Mickey was destined to be this leader. He cut his first album in May of 1991 using simply a Casio keyboard and a sound mixer that he stole from Radio Shack. This was proven to be a very easy task, considering that Ben was the 2nd assistant manager at the time.

He came in one day, and looked at the equipment and asked if he could have it. I said yes. So he walked out of the store with it. Easy as that.“, Ben explains.
If it wasn’t for Ben, I wouldn’t have a music career at all.“, Mickey glows.

Selling his first album was not a hard task. It was at a time when elevators were becoming the “next big thing” and businesses, department stores, and nurseries from all over were hungry for some fresh music to play in their newly installed elevators. Mickey never got no for an answer. His music became infected into every elevator in the greater Chicagoland area. It even came to the point when he was replacing other people’s elevator music.

Whenever someone told me ‘We already have elevator music’, I would just be like, ‘well this is better’, and they would be like ‘woah. that’s cool’, and I’d be like ‘I know, right?’ It was easier than taking a gun from a baby

In 1992, Mickey rose to stardom. After the release of his second album, “Born To Ride”, he started touring the Midwest, and played for diverse crowds. Much like most artists at the time, he was a stud with the ladies.

You play a Mickey Forkenstein song outside of an elevator, and chicks will just go wet. That guy got more ass than Steve Perry and James Taylor combined and multiplied by 62.“, Ben glows with jealousy.

For years after, Mickey continued to produce more and more albums. More albums than people can even remember. However, in 1999, he hit a road block. After playing at a popular music festival, he was offered drugs for the first time, and it just may have ruined his life.

I just got done with my set at Lollapalooza when this dude came up to me and said ‘great show. would you like some drugs?’. I said ‘sure, but what is the coolest drug to do’. He gave me a wide grin and proclaimed ‘asbestos is the best-os!’ I will never forget those words.“, Mickey laments.

He started to become addicted to huffing the crystallized dust from asbestos, a silicate material commonly founds in building materials. Mickey became distant from the outside world. Despite of this, his music was still supreme. In the height of his drug addiction, he produced his magnum opus, “Riding With Someone Else”. Because of his constantly high state, he could not write his own music, so he made an album of cover songs. The piece was a true hit, featuring covers of popular songs like “Living La Vida Loca”, “Inside Out”, “Steal My Sunshine”, “Tearin Up My Heart” and “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. This caused a big wave in other elevator artists attempting popular covers, but nobody did it like Mickey. Many would say that it was the last great elevator album ever made.

Even though he was as famous as ever, he was a very far away man. There was a time when he wouldn’t even speak to me. He would just sit in his basement all day and huff asbestos, sometimes not even touching his Casio.“, Ben exclaims in tears.

Fame got to Mickey’s head. Convinced that he was on top of the world, he started spending his money frivolously. He filed for bankruptcy in 2003 after blowing all of his earnings on the construction of an elevator inside his house.

At the time I thought it was a great idea. It was a symbol of everything that I had worked for. However, it was kind of lame because my house was only one story high. The elevator went to the roof, which was also a worthless function considering that you can’t have any traction at all with an adobe slab roof.

After filing for bankruptcy, Mickey knew that he needed help. In 2004, he released his darkest album, “Out of Order. Please Use Stairs.” and checked himself into rehab. While in rehab, he met fellow elevator music composers, Dan Diddley, Beau Roberts, Steven Blueberry, and Pauly Tanner. They all become good friends, and after they were rehabilitated, they decided to produce an anti-drug album collectively. During the production of this album, Mickey received news that would change his life. On July 21, 2007, Mickey was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. The news shook his universe:

I was in denial for the longest time. I thought that only bad people got Mesothelioma. That was when I realized that maybe I was a bad person.

Since the diagnosis, Mickey has not touched his keyboard. To show their support, Dan, Beau, Steven, Pauly, and even Ben joined forces to cut a tirbute album for Mickey. The album was a huge success, and even spawned a tribute concert.

About 120,000 people showed up to the concert. They were all dressed like elevator operators and bellboys and businessmen, and shoppers. It was truly a cathartic experience to see all of these people supporting my best friend.“, Ben reminisces.

Mickey’s fight with Mesothelioma will continue until the day he dies. Through all of this, Mickey remains optimistically bleak. He knows that he will never be normal again, and he is slowly learning to accept it.

I may die today, I may die tomorrow, I may die next year, I may already be dead. The important thing is that my music will live forever. In every empty hallway, in any vacant department store, and in any empty elevator, I will be there. As a ghost. Whispering shit to you. If there’s one thing I hope, is that there is elevators in heaven.

So do we, Mickey, so do we.