Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Stevie Starr had one piece of advice for the assembled crowd: “Don’t go home and tell your friends what you’ve seen, because they’ll say ‘No way, man, you’re smashed out of your [freaking] head!'”
But four hundred other Swatties will back me up when I say that last Friday night, this campus was shocked and awed by the one and only man who can solve a Rubik’s Cube with his stomach.
Starr swaggered onto the LPAC stage like a young David Bowie, wearing a silver jacket and extraordinarily tight black pants. We heard coins clink against each other in his stomach, gasped as he swallowed soap and proceeded to blow bubbles, and trembled as he gulped down cigarette smoke and an entire can of butane. Starr blew the butane into a soap bubble; a student volunteer used his lighter on the bubble and left the stage missing most of the hair on his right arm.
When Starr swallowed a billiard ball–joking meanwhile that he was “very popular with the Columbians”–he slapped his chest violently and made delightfully pneumatic noises to aid the ball on its way. He swallowed a balloon and a nail and let us hear him “pop” the balloon and also swallowed water and sugar before regurgitating dry sugar into a girl’s hands. He swallowed a locked padlock, a key, and a ring and returned the ring locked onto the padlock.
With his extraordinary showmanship, Starr has turned a somewhat disgusting talent into a spectacular piece of entertainment. How did he discover his talent? According to his website, “I think I was about four when I started swallowing my pocket money… and then I tried other things like going out into the garden and swallowing a bumble bee and then bringing him back and letting him fly away.”
Starr has clearly been cultivating his talent for several years, but the audience was ready to believe him when he told us that he could hypnotize a girl into swallowing a live goldfish. He gulped down twelve rings from women in the audience and told us that the last one to get her ring back would be his lucky assistant. He would swallow a fish, and then cough it straight into her mouth. “You’re probably wondering, why does she have to swallow a little fish? Because it’s FUNNY!”
We watched “his little tail go flicky-flicky” on the way down, but on the way up Starr confessed to the quaking volunteer that he was “only joking… I can’t believe you had your mouth open to take the fish!” Amazingly, the fish flopped back into the tank as alive as ever.
As a finale, Starr swallowed a closed film canister and two small fish, and then returned the same canister with the fish inside. A group of girls near the front screamed and may even have fainted; the students behind me expressed a burning desire to “try this at home.” On my way out, I heard a girl declaring that the act had been “too cool for Swarthmore.”
I go to a lot of campus events, but Stevie Starr is the only performer I have ever seen receive a standing ovation.