In a city known for its love affairs with characters of varying and often debatable historical significance, Michael DeLuca, aka “Mikey Wild,” was one of a kind.
The recent death of the so-called “mayor of South Street,” a developmentally disabled punk rocker/man-about-town, is a bittersweet reminder of the inevitable passing of time and the aging of Philly’s punk-rock pioneers.
Friends of DeLuca, who died of lung cancer a week ago at age 56, have started a movement to have his memory preserved with a mural placed somewhere along South Street.
The idea, says local disc jockey Robert Drake — who also was once among the crew who converged on “the hippest street in town” in the late 1970s — is to commemorate not just Wild but others who kept South Street offbeat even after one-of-a-kind places like the Grendel’s Lair theater, and punk/goth music and clothing stores Skinz! and Zipperhead, gave way to bland national chains, including McDonald’s, the Gap, and Starbucks.
More than 1,000 people have signed on to a Facebook page about the mural idea, paying tribute to a guy who could be in-your-face, inappropriate, and downright out of line, but was as much a part of South Street’s colorful history as the Krass Brothers’ menswear “Store of the Stars” or Isaiah Zagar’s celebrated Magic Gardens gallery.
Not only was Mikey Wild, as he put it, “punk before you were punk, punk,” he was an irreplaceable part of a disappearing Philadelphia.