Sad news – Swami X, the irreverent comic who was a fixture of Venice Beach for years, passed away at the home of former Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl on Saturday, just two and a half months shy of his 90th birthday.
“He was a great man, he made a big difference in the world, but we all gotta go, and he was ready,” says Rosendahl, who runs a hospice in a back room of his Westside house. Swami X had lived there for the last 19 years or so. “The last few months was tough,” Rosendahl says. “His whole body was shutting down. All the medicine, nothing could keep him going. He passed quietly, with two friends from way back when at his side.”
Once asked to describe himself in an interview with the Free Venice Beachhead, X replied:
Well, I’m listed in Who’s Who as “What the fuck is that?” The man whose mother is still suing his father for ill-founded and meaningless entry. The man who leaps from tall buildings into small moist boxes.
His real name was Harry W. Heart, and he was born in Philadelphia, or, as he called it, the “City of Brotherly Incest.” He was mostly a street performer, though he did work a few clubs in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. He did stand-up in Washington Square Park in New York, and Hyde Park in Chicago, as well as San Francisco and Berkeley, where one of his fans was future L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who presented Swami X a commemorative plaque in 2009.
He spent most of his time between 1971 and his retirement in 1985 performing around Venice Beach.
“He was just one of these guys who performed on Venice Beach that was really talented,” Rosendahl says. “He would get up in front of 300 people and make them laugh hysterically.”
His act touched on sex, religion and politics. He took nothing seriously. His most famous quip: “Sex is not the answer. Sex is the question. 'Yes' is the answer.”