I just learned that rock hero, Mikey Wild (born Michael Deluca) died this morning after a three year battle with lung cancer. Mikey, “The Mayer of South Street,” was well known throughout Philadelphia’s music scene as a local clelbrity, rock icon, artist and local oddball figure. He was crass, lewd, obscene but still one of the sweetest human beings on the planet. I first met Mikey in 1994 through my friend, Ed Wilcox of Temple of Bon Matin. Ed had taken it upon himself to create a career for Mikey, forming a band, playing numerous shows and eventually releasing a record “I Was Punk B4 You Were Punk” on my label, BULB. Mikey likely was one of the first punk presences in Philly, emulating much of an early punk scene that included echoes of the Velvets, the Ramones and the early CBGB scene. However, Mikey was special. Mikey spent years in and out of group homes and institutions in childhood, suffering early attempts at shock-therapy and psychiatric medications to fight his mental ailments. Mikey was born the true misfit that punk claimed to represent. Punk for Mikey was a welcome home, at a time when punk took in the misfits, the freaks and unwanted.
I remember I went to Mikey’s house with my friend Justin in late 1999. It was an unforgettable experience. Mikey welcomed us to his home, a converted apartment in the back of a baseball card shop. We interviewed the man and drank coffee with him while he checked the phone literally every five minutes. “My girlfriend is going to call.” He would obsessively check the phone to make sure that it was securely hung up, making sure that he wouldn’t miss this important call. He showed us his paintings at the time, which spanned themes such as a portrait of Vincent Price (Mikey imagined himself as Vincent Price), a Wolfman, portraits of John Lennon playing the piano, and pictures of his new band playing “Punks on the Loose.” Most memorable was a painting of what we assumed was a naked girl, but later, over Mikey’s protestations, discovered to be the Holy Virgin Mary.
One of the most memorable moments of my rock career was playing bass in Mikey’s band, “The Magic Lanterns.” I had the incredible privilege to play one show with Mikey at my warehouse space in Providence, RI, a bill we shared with Andrew W.K. Mikey was completely unknown in Providence, yet this 50 year old mentally challenged man was able to swoon a crowd of 19 year old college kids into a daze even getting them to spell all 15 letters of “Chicks with Dicks” aloud. Amazing.
Mikey’s genius was in his incredible charisma. Despite his obviously incredible physical and mental challenges and a terrifying past, Mikey’s positive attitude and his ability to mold himself in the others of everyone around him made him a bigger than life figure. He never achieved any sort of measurable success or fame in the traditional, commercialized sense. Through his own incredible personality and true honest character, he turned himself into one of the most legendary figures in the eyes of everyone he ever met, from freak to musician to painter to actor to absolutely amazing human being.
Mikey will be missed. Here’s to you, Mikey.
Please watch Ed Wilcox’s documentary of Mikey. You won’t regret it: