Back in July, Swells and I were enjoying a stroll through the South Philly Italian market when I noticed a small hand-painted sign in a shop window. I recognized it as an ice cream cone, but it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill ice cream shop sign. Intrigued, I searched the window for clues, and noticed a small decal advertising that the shop was an ice cream parlor—and art gallery.
I called to Swells, who had walked on, to tell her that I was going into the business. She came back, and we entered together. The owner, Ben, who was just opening, was incredibly cordial. He explained that the gallery in the back was filled with Mikey Wild’s paintings. Since it was clear that I never heard of Mr. Wild, Ben explained that Mr. Wild was a “punk rock legend” who’s also known as “the mayor of South Street” and “the prince of Philadelphia.”
“Hmm,” I thought, “but are his paintings any good?”
Ben turned on the light in the “gallery,” which was really more like a small storage room, and we saw hundreds of canvas boards, stacked on tables and standing in boxes like records in a crate. From what I could see, I really liked Mr. Wild’s stuff. I felt my heart sink a little as I realized I would inevitably want to own some of these treasures surrounding me, but that original paintings by local legends are usually a little out of my price range.
Ben stuck his head in the door and said, “They’re five bucks each.”
“Okay,” I thought, “I can really go off the deep end here – I need to set a limit.” So I decided that I’d buy four paintings.
The first one that I settled on was of a subject that Mr. Wild painted over and over, Vincent Price:
The second one that grabbed me it this portrait of King Kong:
Next I found this little gem, “Dr. Blue:”
Finally, I went for this one just because it’s so darn sinister:
We paid for our paintings and thanked Ben, who told us that Mikey, who’s now in his 50s, is in the throes of battling cancer and that a bunch of local punk rock bands had just staged a benefit for his medical expenses. I lingered for just a little while longer and chatted with Ben (really because he reminded me a bit of my grandfather). But on the way out I just had to know if the ice cream cone painting was for sale. It was:
Here’s a youtube clip featuring Mr. Wild. I find his tough-guy act so darn endearing.