It might be the oddity of seeing a man in his fifties wearing a Slayer T-shirt. But then maybe it’s the 70-centimeter-long sword he’s got protruding out of his mouth and the nine-inch long nails he’s driven up his nose. That’ll do it every time.
Sitting at his usual spot at Můstek, Ondráček, 51, performs his sword-swallowing routine for tourists during the summer months and has become one of the best-known members of the city’s prestigious club of street freaks. Velvet had a little heart-to-heart with the man who brings new meaning to the phrase "deep throat."
Velvet. What do you call yourself?
Ondráček: I call myself a fakir, but I do not agree entirely with the definition, which includes being a wandering beggar.
V: What exactly is a fakir?
O: I consider myself a real fakir, someone who is able to eat knives.
V: How did you learn to swallow swords?
O: I trained for one month using a plastic stick, and on November 6, 1989, I began my show. I didn’t have a teacher. I was often vomiting.
V: Why did you choose that date?
O: Because I predicted that Havel would be president, and that there would be capitalism here, so the Gypsies and the handicapped would not have jobs anymore … I was preparing myself. [Ondráček has only limited use of his legs, which are in braces.]
V: Does swallowing swords hurt?
O: Not really, you just feel it, but sometimes at the beginning, it scratches. I had some scratches.
V: What’s the longest sword you’ve ever swallowed?
O: The longest I do, did, and can do is 56 centimeters, because that’s the distance from my lips to my stomach. The total length of the sword [including the handle] was 70 centimeters. I must be completely sober to do that!
V: Have you set any records?
O: In 1991, I won a festival competition in Pelhřimov, the City of Records, swallowing seven swords! And one year later, I swallowed eight!
V: What do you eat for breakfast?
O: I’m a vegetarian, so usually bread and butter with marmalade, and a lot of yogurt. No carbonated drinks, no alcohol.
V: Is there anything you ever tried to swallow, but couldn’t?
O: No, I only swallow swords.
V: Are you married?
O: I’m divorced, and my wife is dead. She didn’t swallow swords.
V: What other jobs have you had?
O: I often work in films, but I’m not worried about a job. I also get a small state stipend for the handicapped.
V: What do you do when tourist season is over?
O: I don’t care. I have free time!
V: Which tourists give the most money?
O: The Japanese and nuns can’t look at me. They hate me. Americans are fine, Italians smile, and the French give quite good money. The Germans and English are interested, and give good money, too. The people who always love me are the children.
V: How do you get along with the hair-wrapping people and the other performers at Můstek?
O: Very, very, very well! With everybody-except the Bolivian guys playing music. Horrible!
V: Do you have any hobbles?
O: Television; cinema, especially murders, blood, thrillers, punch-ups in bars, and crime.
V: What book are you currently reading?
O: I don’t read books. It’s not amusing for me to read anymore. I used to read crime novels.
V: What music do you listen to?
O: I like Yugoslavian, Hawaiian, and Tahitian music. I hate those Bolivians, as I said!
V: What’s your favorite bar?
O: I don’t go anywhere anymore. It’s boring, I don’t have the time, and I don’t drink, because I must be able to concentrate.
V: Do you dye your hair?
O: Yes, for film shooting and so on . . . It’s important for the image.
V: What have you done with your privatization vouchers?
O: I gave them to Česká spořitelna.
V: What do you think about while you swallow swords?
O: About the sword.
V: Have you considered another line of work?
O: If I had proper legs, I would be a fire-eater. I can’t move fast enough to be one now.
V: Do you like Elvis?
O: I do like him and I don’t like him. My relationship with Elvis is neutral.
This article was originally published in Velvet Magazine and is archived here.