Count Desmond: The Evel Knievel of the Sword

Happy 80th birthday to Edward Benjamin (b. 1941) who performed under the billing Count Desmond, sometimes with the tagline “The Evel Knievel of the Sword.” Benjamin made the Guinness Book of World Records three times, and his most notable feat is perhaps sticking a sword UP his throat while hanging upside down from a helicopter 200 feet over Niagara Falls in 1980.

Originally from Binghamton, New York Benjamin performed professionally circa 1956 to 1994. Staring out with the King Brothers Circus, he later went on to ply his trade with Circus Bartok, the Royal Hanneford Circus, and others, and to appear on television shows like That’s Incredible, 20/20, a David Frost special, et al. Costumed in a bright crimson costume (to accentuate his red hair and beard), in addition to swallowing swords (and other sharp objects), he also was a fire-eater, outside talker, and ringmaster. He also swallowed sundry other items, like coat hangars and live microphones, and has been injured multiple times over the course of his career. Learn more more about him here at the Sword Swallowers Hall of Fame.

For more on show biz history, please read No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous