"[Michael Miksche] was a giant Paul Bunyan type, very strong, with a magnificent physique", wrote Glenway Wescott (1901-1987). "He had gone to war at about twenty, and within a year he was in command of four or five jet bombers, and he went on two flights a night over Berlin [...]. At that age he hadn't had homosexual inclinations and didn't have much experiences with women. One of the men in his flight crew was in love with him and confessed it. And Michael just said, 'This is all nonsense. I'm not going to report you. We'll be friends but we're not going to talk about in anymore'. He had this tyrannous, psychological sadism. [...] He wanted to dominate everybody, by his very nature. He took this boy and told him to calm down, that it was an idealistic thing, and they were having a love affair without sex. Two or three nights after this, the young man opened the door of the plane and threw himself out over the Rhine. And Michael almost went mad. I think he came back from the war with a sense of guilt and a sense of frustration, because by that time he wanted to go to bed with that boy."
After the war, Miksche drifted from California to New York. Having originally studied medicine, he did so well on his anatomical drawings that he switched his major to art. "He was a very successfull amateur artist and made twenty thousand dollars a year, way back then, doing windows for Bloomingdale's and trashy advertising of all sorts." Sam Steward confessed : "For relaxation and fun, he produced many pen-and-ink drawings of heavily tattoed men doing erotic and cruel things to each other; there he signed with his pen name of Steve Masters (note the S.M.)". His muscular leather men in painterly drawings, flat graphics, bright colors and faceted surfaces epitomized the "pop" look of Sixties commercial art.
Wescott recommended him for Alfred Kinsey's sexual films : "He did a lot of films with Miksche, one or two I looked at but most of which I didn't want to see! Michael was a terrific performer, [...] he was such a showoff." Deliberately, Kinsey had matched the aggresive Miksche with the masochistic Sam Steward (1909-1993) for two days of filming. In Chapters from an Autobiography, Sam Steward remembered his two-day sex session : "Mike was quite a ham actor. Aided by the gin, every time he heard Bill Dellenbeck's camera start to whir, he renewed his vigor and youth like the green bay tree ; his whackings took an enthusiasm that brought small exclamations of astonishiment and joyful shock from the few favored souls who were in attendance. At the end of the second afternoon I was exhausted, marked and marred, all muscles weakened... "
Wescott recalled "an exhibition piece for Kinsey [...]. Stark naked with an electric pencil, [Miksche] drew pornographic pictures, fornication, dancing and so on, in the air, and they were photographed in the movie. I must say it's one of the most extraordinary things you can see on earth." Kinsey was impressed but he warned Wescott that Miksche could be dangerous. In a long letter, Wescott conceded " A good many of the young masochists express fear of him. They fancy he will murder someone someday." Kinsey's instinct would prove correct. A married man, guilt overwhelmed him, leading to a nervous breakdown. In 1962 or 1963, remembered Wescott, "he'd thrown himself in the Hudson River and got fished out and put in a nut house." After seven months in Bellevue Hospital, he had been released and Wescott saw him one last time nearly a year later : standing large, calm and tragic in the night.
Two weeks later he was dead. It was in 1965. This underground artist and sexual athlete took his life with pills on a Manhattan rooftop. Wescott could not miss the irony of such an end for an exhibitionnist. "Imagine that : him going alone", he said. Miksche's wife found the studio where he worked on his erotica and had S/M scenes with other men. Then she destroyed all his works. It only remains those that the artist had gifted to others and the printed ones (in BIG magazine for example). Fortunately he had donated much work to Kinsey. With only six drawings (including a big collage), The Leather Archives and Museum holds the second largest collection of Miksche's works.