By Karl Abrams
In an emotional ceremony at Venice’s Beyond Baroque on Sunday June 21, 83-year old Swami X, famed 1970’s and 80’s boardwalk comic, writer and muse, was presented with a Los Angeles City Council Resolution by Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa “proclaiming” the city-wide recognition of his life’s work. The award followed a rare public appearance of Swami X, produced by the Free Venice Beachhead, to a large crowd of fans who seemed to delight in every one of his words, insights, jokes and observations. At times, Swami was a little choked-up.
Suzy Williams, “Venice Songbird,” sang a great song dedicated to Swami with beautifully appropriate lyrics like, “Swami X left us what is true” and “Swami X examines life with awe”. Swami transformed from choked-up to soak-it-up.
An informal Q and A followed as raised hands showed how much Swami’s fans wanted to know delicious details of his life. Yes, he was a merchant seamen, he actually did spend 20 years in an east-coast Ashram and he really did perform on the Venice Boardwalk, at UCLA and Berkeley campuses, and Hyde Park in London, Greenwich Village in New York and anywhere else Swami’s dharma took him.
The Mayor explained to the audience how he first met the iconoclastic comic while studying at UCLA. When Villaraigosa was searching for words to describe Swami’s early influence on him, a distinguished member of the audience, donning a dress as well as a beard caught the mayor temporarily off guard. Some remember the Mayor exclaiming “Jesus Christ! What is that?” Others say the Mayor simply shouted “Whoa.” You’re in Venice now Mr. Mayor, lighten up.
After the awards ceremony and before heading home, Swami probably posed for pictures with almost everybody. It was an unforgettable afternoon for the audience as well as for the performing genius himself. Swami, once called the “world’s greatest sidewalk comic”, was on again like a vintage firecracker who had caught the audience in the palm of his hand.
Swami X continues to write for the Free Venice Beachhead. His articles are not to be missed. Check your Beachhead Calendar for more Beachhead-sponsored events at Beyond Baroque.