Paul Swift, 'Eggman' in Waters' 'Pink Flamingos'

October 10, 1994|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Sun Staff Writer

If you were one of the adventurers who passed through Ledbetter's bar in the early days of the Fells Point hippie era, you may remember Paul Swift. He was the guy dancing naked on top of the bar.

"Paul ended every night like that," said Mary Vivian Pearce, who starred with Mr. Swift in several of Baltimore director John Waters' early movies. "I guess he did it for the same reason he always wore 400 bracelets."

Mr. Swift, best remembered for his role as the Eggman in the Waters' classic "Pink Flamingos," died of AIDS Friday at Francis Scott Key Medical Center. He was 60.

His other screen appearances included "Multiple Maniacs," "Female Trouble" and "Desperate Living."

It was in 1972's "Pink Flamingos" -- in which he played the late Edith Massey's boyfriend -- that Mr. Swift delivered one of his more famous lines: "Beauty, beauty, look at you. . . . I wish to God I had it, too."

In his own way, friends say, he did.

"I can't imagine Paul ever being normal," Mr. Waters said. "I wouldn't say he was an actor in the Shakespearean sense, but he was an actor people remembered. Paul always led his own life."

Susan Lowe, a former roommate, met Mr. Swift in the mid-1960s after he left the Navy and was relieved of a brief bar-tending job at Haussner's because of an LSD arrest.

"Day in and day out, Paul was a dramatic person, and Fells Point gave him his life," Ms. Lowe said. ". . . Paul wasn't ashamed of being gay, and that's why Fells Point was cool for him."

Or, as restaurant owner Frances Haussner put it, "The last time I saw Paul Swift he was wearing high heels, argyle socks, white shorts, and about 42 pounds of bracelets."

The son of the late Clyde and Dolores Swift, Paul Vincent Swift grew up in the Miller Island community near North Point.

Little could be learned about his early life; friends said they didn't even know where he went to high school. He apparently studied nursing for a while and was Catholic, receiving communion and last rites in the hospital a day before he died. He had lived next door to the Horse You Came In On Saloon since about 1980.

"He loved to cook for a bunch of people," Ms. Lowe said. "Big dinners of American food -- meat and potatoes. Mr. Swift befriended Edith "the Egg Lady" Massey when she owned her fabled "Shopping Bag" curio shop on South Broadway. For about 10 years before falling ill in 1992, Mr. Swift worked at "Oh Susannah's," another store on South Broadway.

Bob Adams has established a small memorial in the front window of the "Flashback" a store he operates at 728 S. Broadway.

"John's movies have a cult following all over the world, and fans would come into the store and ask: 'Where's the Eggman?' " Mr. Adams said.

"I'd say: 'You can meet him right up the street.' Paul always had photos to autograph and give away. He never minded meeting a fan."

Said Mr. Waters: "There's a lot of ghosts in those early films. Now there's another one."

Mr. Swift is survived by an aunt, Mildred Fowler of Baltimore.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 8:30 a.m. today at St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church, 700 S. Ann St.

Contributions may be made to A Movable Feast Inc., Old York Road and 34th Street, Baltimore 21218.

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