Mikey Wild: punk art legend

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:

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:Cone

Here’s a youtube clip featuring Mr. Wild. I find his tough-guy act so darn endearing.


9 responses to “Mikey Wild: punk art legend”

  1. LP says:

    ScottyGee, I can’t wait to see these in your home. What a find! I think Dr. Blue and Ice Cream Cone are my favorites.

  2. J-man says:

    Who knew that behind those paintings lies such a fascinating character? The King of Philly indeed.

  3. Tim says:

    Scotty, I love these paintings! I’ve seen them in real life, too, and believe me people, they’re even better that way.

    I love that you almost missed the whole trove entirely. Imagine if you had walked a different route, or had not glanced in the ice cream shop window? Ah, life and all its happenstance.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Farrell Fawcett says:

    Hey Scott,
    Very entertaining. And those pictures, what a steal. I’m proud to be from the city that made it all possible. Weird, that Ive never heard of him or run into him. He seems like I’d see him everywhere. Or atleast in the public mental health clinic where I work. He sounded familiar with some of the meds I use. Although nothing cures narcissism. And, like you said, his persona seems pretty manufactured–and, yes, endearing.

  5. farrell fawcett says:

    Hey Scott,
    Your post and those comments next door reminded me of this compelling youtube video I encountered recently. I know you’re from North Jersey, not South Jersey (a world apart right?) but still, you must’ve known people like this. Very special and disturbing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eqCBCUawKY&feature=player_embedded

  6. ScottyGee says:

    Wow! Janet (the “it’s different” girl) is absolutely captivating! Thanks for this. I’ll have to find my Wild Wood ’88 3/4-Tee.

  7. swells says:

    After watching this clip I then got sucked into another one on the same page called “Guido Beach.” I don’t think I’m being naive when I insist that the beaches in San Diego where I grew up were JUST NOT LIKE THIS!!!!!