Journey to Mingering Mike’s Magical, Musical World

Lots of kids create their own fantasy worlds, populating them with monsters or superheroes—representations of friends and family, persecutors and allies, foils and alter-egos. For some, it’s a way of getting by when they don’t fit in, or of escaping the hard reality of their daily lives.

Mingering Mike was one of those kids with a vivid fantasy world. IMG_0138As a young man growing up in Washington, D.C. in the late 1960s, he didn’t think of himself an artist. He was Mingering Mike—a made-up character for the musical world he inhabited in his mind. “Mingering” was jabberwocky, a mash-up of words he created. Mike wasn’t his real name, either. But even as he toiled behind closed doors—insulating himself from a sometimes chaotic home life and then a bit later from those who might report him for evading the Vietnam draft—he strove for stardom and recognition. Now, decades later, at the age of 64, his early fantasy-life creations are on display in the new exhibition “Mingering Mike’s Supersonic Greatest Hits” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through August 2, 2015.

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