The West

Sword swallower Matty Blade dies
Tributes flow for Perth's sword-swallowing "king of the carnies" Matty Blade.

Perth's sword swallowing "king of the carnies" Matty Blade died earlier this week, sparking a flood of heartfelt tributes from Australia and abroad.

Blade, whose real name was Matthew Henshaw, was a popular Fremantle street performer who mixed sword swallowing and other amazing feats with his own brand of dark comedy.

He was raised in the US, Papua New Guinea and interstate but spent most of his adult life in Perth.

His sister, Lily Gower, confirmed that he died on Tuesday.

Infatuated with imagery of pirates from a young age, Blade was taught the dangerous art of sword swallowing by a native America some 20 years ago.

At the Fremantle Busker's Festival in 2000, he set a new Guinness World Record by swallowing 14 60cm swords simultaneously.

That record was broken by a New South Welshman in 2008, but Blade reclaimed the Australian record in 2010 by swallowing 21 swords at the Perth Tattoo Expo.

He also held the record for most swords swallowed in a year, with 3782 in 2003, and appeared in the 2007 Guinness World Record Book after swallowing a sword that weighed 20.1kg.

In 2007, Blade wrote in _The West Australian _that he had found his calling in street performance.

"I love my life and I love my job. I'll keep doing it for as long as I can," he said.

"I guarantee that one day, I'll hold the Guinness world record for the oldest sword swallower."

A tribute page has been set up on Facebook to honour his memory, with messages flowing in from across the globe.

Patrick Fraher from Arizona knew Blade before he had a profile as a sword-swallowing street pirate.

"I knew Matty Blade during his time in the States. We worked security together at the Flamingo Hilton and he would entertain us at after shift parties with his magic," Fraher said.

"He was just starting with his life's passion, but even then he could amaze a crowd."

Kelly Cook, from Perth circus cabaret show Twisted Vaudeville Circus, said a show would be dedicated to his memory through charity Beyond Blue.

"Matty Blade, thank you for gracing our stage and our lives at the Twisted Vaudeville Circus," she said.

"You are a sweet guy, so soft spoken and kind hearted - a complete contradiction to your dark stage persona.

"If this is an April fools, I will be so glad, as no one is ready to let you go.

"I wish I had have called you for a chat and helped you break through your dark clouds."

Rev-Spud McGeek, from Australian punk rock band The Clowns of Decadence, echoed the sadness of dozens of other friends and fans who have left tribute messages.

"Only speaking to him just before Christmas, he was happy and said he could not wait to catch up with us all, possibly a gig or two," he said.

"Matt was with us from the start, and I also had the pleasure of touring with his Freak Show.

"He had his ups and downs in life, but recently things were looking up with his pirate band and prison shows.

"Our thoughts are with Lucy and his family. Words cannot express how much we will all miss him."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or follow @LifelineAust @OntheLineAus @kidshelp @beyondblue @headspace_aus @ReachOut_AUS on Twitter.

The West Australian

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