This April marked the 40th anniversary that Harry Perry, the legendary Kama Kosmic Krusader has been performing his lovingly bizarre feedback-filled songs to tourists and locals alike on the Venice Boardwalk. At first mention of his name, many scratch their heads in puzzlement. Harry Perry? Kama Kosmic Krusader? Who? But when given a little nudge… “Ohhhh, that guitar playing, roller skating, turban- wearing guy who sings songs about space aliens in Venice!?! He’s been there FOREVER!!!!”
In fact, Harry’s story began in Detroit, Michigan when he was 19 years old and auditioned for a local production of the musical Hair. “I lined up with about 5,000 other kids. Ever hear of Meatloaf? Well he was in that crowd too… We got in. They liked the Detroit show so they used it for the touring Bus & Trunk show. It went all over. I’m a superstar, I think…
“So I’m playing at the Rainbow parking lot. All the rockstars are there. 1974. And this other kid, Craig, from Detroit says, ‘You gotta go to the beach!’ I say, ‘Dude, I’m not going to the beach, we’re at the RAINBOW. This is HOLLYWOOD, man. I’m not going to the beach.’”
So after much arguing and convincing from his friend, Harry was finally persuaded to take a public bus from West Hollywood to Venice Beach. When he got there he was shocked to find that it was crowded and fun. He and his buddy played guitar with a pignose amp that they loaded with 6 rechargeable batteries. “In 1974 when people gave you two bucks they were giving you real money. My girlfriend worked at Macy’s and with commissions she only made $100 a week. A week! We came down here and at the end of the day made $100. The next morning I woke up, ‘Come on Craig, we’re going to the beach!’ He was stoned, he couldn’t get up. The second day I came down by myself.”
In about 1976 his friend Alice bought Harry a pair of roller skates, thinking that would make his working day a little easier and help him cover more ground. His first skates were bright blue, a color offensive to Harry, who preferred basic black. “She got me blue swede skates and I couldn’t believe it. Anyway, I put them on and wore them for a long time. At first I was falling. I couldn’t skate you know, it was crazy. But then I got got into it. I was skating.”
The turban was added to the repertoire in the mid-’70′s as well. “I was doing sessions with this bass player who I was songwriting with. He said, ‘we need to do something different in this session. Let’s go do yoga.’ That’s what got me started in kundalini yoga. It was a metamorphosis. I kept going back and practicing that yoga. They gave me the turban and I started wearing it. Just ’cause. Why not? It looked cool.”
By 1979-1980 Harry started making records and selling them to the tourists on Venice Beach who he performed for. “I went to Corlick’s in Hollywood and made little 45′s. We were trying to create a hit record and get started down here. All kinds of people were down here, you know.” This led to a certain notoriety for Harry. He began to be used in cameo appearances in many TV shows and movies to establish the quintessential L.A. setting.
Nowadays, Harry primarily makes his money from selling t-shirts and posing for photos with tourists. This is a sore spot for him when people try to take a photo without paying. “The downside about being here for so long is that people want to fight with me over taking my photo. Everything has escalated to the point that I make people pay me. There’s no girl in a box office here. How else are you supposed to come here everyday and do this?
“Look at it this way… I’ve been on big television shows, big tours, played almost every Live Nation stadium. But guess what? It comes to an end. This doesn’t come to an end. I come here everyday. This is just like an accident, but it’s the best gig I never had.”