In early November, Iolan Mike Aronson took a stroll on the Great Wall of China. A month later he spent two weeks in Europe.
A part-time job as a bodyguard for the Ying Yang Twins, Atlanta rap stars, has made Aronson a globetrotter. He has worked as an Iola firefighter and police officer since 1994, and served in Iraq during Desert Storm, 1990-91, with the Marine Corps.
His latest venture, working on-stage security for the rap duo, unfolded last year.
His father, Dennis Aronson, is business manager for the duo, and brother Ben Aronson is road manager. When need arose for a bodyguard, father and brother recommended Mike Aronson, who stays buff as a bodybuilder.
With off-days and vacation time available in his Iola public safety roles, he seized the opportunity.
The first assignment was a two-week tour last June in Germany and Ireland. “We started with shows in Germany, flew to Dublin and then back to Germany,” Aronson said. Next up was a weekend of shows on the University of Texas campus in Austin and in Tucson for a University of Arizona fraternity.
The November trip to Beijing opened opportunities to do more than take in Ying Yang Twins performances from the sidelines.
“We had a day and a half for sightseeing,” Aronson said. “I got a chance to walk on the Great Wall and see Tiananmen Square, where the protests were in 1989.”
The duo was a hit in Beijing. In the crowd were many Americans.
“There was a big group of U.S. students on a semester-long study cruise that came to the show,” he said. “But seeing Americans at concerts overseas isn’t unusual. The twins are popular, particularly with the under-30 crowd, and they have American fans who follow them around.”
The second December tour was a little trying for Aronson.
“There were 18 shows in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland and by the end I was ready to come home to my wife (Mindy) and kids,” he said. “It’s kind of hard being gone right before the holidays when you have a family.”
ARONSON allowed he hadn’t a great deal to do from the security perspective on stage or while traveling with the entertainers, except when they decide to take a side trip to a mall.
“They’re both 30 years old, grew up kind of poor and now are millionaires,” Aronson observed. “I guess when they get in a mall they try to make up for what they didn’t have when they were kids. Part of my job is to try to steer them away from shopping too much.”
At concerts, his role is more one of assurance.
“Most of the time me being on stage is just to make them feel good, so they don’t have to worry about anything but performing,” he said, and to discourage anyone — women more often than men — from climbing on to the stage.
“The clubs we are in, usually with 1,000 to 1,500 people attending, provide off-stage security,” he said. “In Beijing, the Chinese Army did local security. They had a row of soldiers in front of the stage dressed in black with their arms locked.”
The only on-stage confrontation Aronson has had was in Germany when a drunk tried to fight with him after climbing onto the stage. The intruder wasn’t much of a challenge, he said.
The Ying Yang Twins — Kaine, Eric Jackson, and D-Roc, De’Angelo Holmes — aren’t thugs, a characterization some rappers like, Aronson said.
“There is profanity in some of their songs, but they don’t go around with the pants hanging way down low,” a fashion statement they’ve publicly rejected, he said. “They sing hip-hop rap and they kind of like to portray themselves as one good and one bad, but not real bad.”
The duo debuted in 2000 with the single “Whistle While You Twurk,” which reached No. 16 on hip-hop charts. They grew more famous in tours with established rappers and their song, “Halftime (Stand Up and Get Crunk)” is a standard in many NFL football stadiums, including where the New Orleans Saints play, Aronson said.
ARONSON lived in Iola until early in his sophomore year of high school when he moved to Atlanta, where he was graduated from high school.
He joined the Marines, served a four-year stint and then returned to Iola and took a job as an Iola firefighter. He switched to the Iola Police Department in 2000.
“After a year I told Rex Taylor (then police chief) I missed firefighting and asked whether I could do both part time,” Aronson said of an arrangement he had until December.
Then Aronson decided he’d prefer to work full time as a police officer on a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift, which permits him to be home with Mindy and their children, Caine, 15, Mia, 8, and Piper, nearly 4, every night.
“Working as a firefighter you’re on duty 24 hours and I was missing out on too much at homes,” he said. “All along, Mindy has been a real trouper. She’s always been supportive.
“I probably could go with the Ying Yang Twins full time, but I’d be gone at least 150 days a year and I don’t want to do that. I’d rather just fill in now and then.
“My goal lately has been to slow down and be with my wife and kids more,” said Aronson, who will be 40 Aug. 8.
Aronson’s daughters like the rappers’ music — Caine prefers rock ’n’ roll — but, “We make sure what they listen to is clean,” he said.
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