Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stuntman John Hauri

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John began performing with Aut Swensons Thrillcade in 1949 chiefly with motorcycle performances such as motorcycle polo, firewall crashes, wheelies and jumps using stripped down full dress Harleys, Indians, and other manufacturers of the era. John then worked for the Joie Chitwood show, performing the human battering ram in the movie "To Please a Lady" starring Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck.
He then took a small hiatus from performing to marry and start a family. In 1964 he began performing with Dan Fleenors Hurricane Hell Drivers. A versatile stuntman, John performed crashwork, motorcycle stunts, precision driving and served as chief mechanic until 1969. He relocated from Tampa Florida to Owosso Michigan and made guest appearances with the Hurricane Hell Drivers until 1978.
John began his own business ventures as a mechanic, began his own tool and equipment rental shop and a towing company. With the help of family members he began his own show in 1997, the Old Time Hell Drivers using abandoned cars from his towing company. In 1978 he began touring with his show until 2001. Diagnosed with cancer he had to disband the show and retire.



Saturday, March 03, 2012

Ken The Mad Canadian Carter

Click this link below to go to Ken's facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/Ken-THE-MAD-CANADIAN-Carter-210866445776100/?fref=ts
Devil At Your Heels:Trees Pose a Definite Risk
National Film Board of Canada
Reviewed by Magnus on May 25th, 2004
The Devil at Your Heels:
Trees Pose a
Definite Risk

by Magnus


It’s astounding the things you come
across in a physics class. Powerful electromagnets,
giant garage-door springs,
a man absorbing uncanny amounts of electricity into his hand, even
Chuck Mangione.
However, none of these can compare to the rediscovery of the
1981 National Film Board feature Devil at Your Heels, a spectacular
documentary
about the life of Canadian daredevil Ken Carter and his quest to set a
world record by jumping across the St. Lawrence river in a
 rocket-powered car.

Yes, you heard me right. This man tried to jump a mile in a rocket car.
 The insight this film gives into the now-extinct world of stunt drivers
and daredevils is astonishing. But what makes this one of the greatest
documentaries of all time is a combination of the spectacle itself,
 Ken Carter himself and the way this film eerily resembles a
 Christopher Guest mockumentary (i.e. This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show,
Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind).

The main character in this feature is Montreal-born stunt driver and
 daredevil Ken Carter (née Kenneth Gordon Polsjek). Coming from
 a very poor family, Carter became a stunt driver at the age of 18 with
only a Grade 4 education. When the film begins (around 1975) he has
already established a steady career for himself jumping cars, taking his
 entourage all over North America. At this point in his career, however,
 his injuries (suffered from his numerous failed jumps) are taking longer
and longer to heal, and he knows his days as a stunt driver are numbered.
Hence, he wants to establish himself as the world’s greatest daredevil by
 setting a world record for the longest jump in a car. Carter, however, isn’t
simply satisfied with breaking this record: he wants to shatter it by
 jumping a distance of one mile, over the St. Lawrence river at Morrisburg.
This becomes his quest, his raison d’être, his career’s crowning glory.

From there, the film follows his project through its successes and setbacks
 (which occur much more often). In order to make this jump, Carter needs a)
 a 100-foot high launch ramp, b) a rocket-powered car that can leave the
 ramp at 270 mph, c) lots of training
(Carter has never driven a rocket-powered car), and d) lots of financial backing.
Each component has its problems; the fuel tank keeps rupturing, the ramp
construction is constantly slowed by rain, the sponsors get impatient and
leave, etc etc. It takes five years before Carter even makes an attempt to
complete the jump, before everything is in place.

From the opening helicopter shot of the massive launch ramp, you will
constantly be astounded by what this man is trying to do. It becomes
easy to forget that this man is trying to fly a car at to an altitude of 300
or so feet and survive. Even Evel Knievel, who is sent by ABC’s Wide
 World of Sports to cover Carter’s jump labels it as poorly planned. unsafe
 and just plain ludicrous. Despite all his detractors, however, Ken remains
 bound and determined to see this through.


Now, you may be wondering why on earth I would compare this documentary
to Spinal Tap. Well, allow me to give you a few examples of Ken’s antics
which are guaranteed to split your sides (or at least make you wonder
how messed up this guy’s head is).

 For Ken’s first ever trial run in a rocket-powered car,
he borrows Lew Arrington’s car and all his safety equipment (including
 helmet, fire suit, etc.) The problem is, the car and fire suit are all
custom fit for Arrington’s body, which is considerably slimmer
than middle-aged, pot-bellied Ken—who doesn’t quite fit the car.
The result: Ken takes a trial run in socks and
 a t-shirt, with no fire suit.

 Ken speaks about his multiple personalities:
Ken Carter the showman/daredevil/maniac and Kenneth Gordon Polsjek, the promoter/organizer/calmer half.
When he talks about how “the two are getting to know one another
 better” you can’t help but wonder.

 Ken’s new Hollywood backers stage his “training” for the jump so they
can make a half-decent movie out of it. The result: Ken paddling
around the Rideau Canal in a Kayak.

Anyone who sees this will be reminded of moments such as
 “The dials on this amplifier go to 11—that’s…um…one more.
” (Spinal Tap) “I think the floral arrangement here poses a definite safety
hazard. Look at those pointy sticks!” (A Mighty Wind). Carter and his
 entourage of stunt drivers, mechanics and promoters are sometimes just
 unbelievable—
such as the two mechanics who are at a loss for words as to why
their fuel tank keeps exploding.

It’s priceless moments like these (and so many others) which help
 capture the atmosphere of this bizarre faction of North American
20 century culture (daredevils, I mean).
 It’s because of the sheer foolishness of guys like Carter that rocket
cars were banned in the US in the early 1980s and daredevils have
all but disappeared from the face of the earth
(or at least from popular culture). It records the dangers and excitement
of a profession that was common to rural North America 30 years ago,
 but today has vanished amidst our society’s shift towards personal safety.
 The Devil at your Heels gives insight into a fascinating and terrifying culture,
 and does so in such a humourous way that it clearly deserves to be ranked
as one of the greatest documentaries of all time.

I may appear to be gushing a little too much over this film, but I sincerely
 encourage you to get your hands on a copy
 (the Ottawa Public Library has at least one) and see for yourself the sheer
incredulousness and humour of Ken Carter’s attempt to set a world record.
Rating: ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ (5/5 infinities)














Addendum:
Ken Carter died tragically a year after this film was made.
While trying to jump a body of water at a stunt show he cleared the water
 by so much that he sailed into an empty grandstand and was killed instantly.
 Truly a tragic ending.
Also, just for kicks I nominated Ken Carter as the Greatest Canadian in
 CBC’s shockingly pointless contest. I encourage you all to vote for him,
 should his name ever appear on TV.

Sources: Film Reviews
Copyright © 1921 - 2012

Ken The Mad Canadian Carter's History

The Devil at Your Heels
Directed by
Robert Fortier
Year
1981
Running Time
102 min 08 s
THE FILM
The late Ken Carter's long-time obsession to be the world's greatest
daredevil is the subject of this feature-length documentary. Seen are the
five years of preparation that went into raising one million dollars,
 building a rocket-powered car, and constructing a ten-storey take-off
 ramp for his attempt to jump a car across a mile-wide stretch of the
St. Lawrence River. A portrait of a stunt driver who made his living by
 risking his life.











Also Featutring:


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

JANET LEE

Jan started her stunt career in Texas after watching the Death riders Motorcycle stunt show perform in the summer of 1973. It was at their third show that she was hired by stuntman Billy Ward, owner of “Billy Ward’s World Champion Auto dare devils, another stunt show. After Billy had heard her volunteer to get into the box to be blown up with Danny Reed, aka “Mr. TNT”, of the Death riders, he invited her to join his show. Billy was looking for female drivers at the time and would be performing the next few weeks locally. The Death riders would be gone the next day. Since Billy was impressed by Jan’s willingness to perform stunts in public, he was willing to teach her. The first show she appeared in was June 22, 1973 doing precision driving. Over the next few months she would be crashing cars, driving through dynamite, being a human battering ram, crashing through ice and even having a head-on crash with another female driver. In 1974 the first show of the season, in California, she would do her first Human Bomb act. From there the show went east, mostly through Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. The Human Bomb would be her specialty that year. Although she still did car stunts, the other stunt people did most of them. Sometimes during that season, there were so many racetracks that they would work 6 nights a week.
   
1975 would be a slow start for Jan. For the first 8 and ½ months she was pregnant. During the summer, she and other members of the team, at the time known as Janet Lee’s International Daredevils, would drive cars from Albuquerque to Denver doing shows every weekend. A Labor Day Special was planned for August 31st. Jan was promoted all summer to be in that show to do a Human Bomb Act, a Leap of Death, and a Suicide Twist. The joke was that she would have to “be in labor” before Labor Day or she would miss the show! Finally on August 13th Billy, Jr. was born and 17 days later accompanied his mom to Denver for his first show! They finished out the season in New Mexico and Las Vegas, Nevada. Spent the winter in Phoenix where they met Gary Wells. Before the year was out Jan traded a Ford Pinto to Gary for one of his CR 250s. She spent as much time as possible in the desert with it becoming proficient enough to start doing stunts.  
        The 1976 season would be the first time the show carried a motorcycle jumper. At first the jumps were done by a male jumper, soon, though, Jan would be destined to fly. On May first the show was to perform in Mexicali, Mexico in a local baseball field to benefit the blood bank. All of the usual acts were to be done, the motorcycle jump, the human bomb, the leap of death, the suicide twist, the firewall, the tunnel of death, the human battering ram, the t-bone and even a roll-over. It was a late afternoon show and the crowds had already been waiting for hours as the crew set up for the show, Jan was in the U.S. at the time. On her return to the baseball field in Mexicali she was informed, with only one hour’s notice, that she would be doing the motorcycle jump. The jumper had been injured earlier, wrecking the jump bike in the accident, the only bike she had to use didn’t have a speedometer on it. Much like the rest of the stunts she had done before, she just said “OK”. She may never have gotten into cycle jumping had it not been for this twist of fate. She did practice runs by the jump while someone else, owner of the motorcycle shop in El Centro, rode another bike (with a speedometer) along side her to help her gauge her speed. At the time for the jump she just went for it. Her back wheel landed at the edge of the catch ramp leaving a small dent on the top. She went on to do a Leap of Death, a Suicide Twist and the bomb act (Miss Dinamita in Mexico). From that day forth she was the motorcycle jumper. The season continued with more motorcycle jumps, bomb acts and car crashes throughout Arizona and Texas. In one of the shows, for Independence Day, she was called the Human Firecracker. One of her next jumps would be in a show at a Honda and Kawasaki Dealership. The promotion was a Grand Opening and she would jump over 60 motorcycles, twice. Although both jumps went well the second was almost canceled due to rain. It was only a few minutes after the jump that the rain started.  

The 1977 season started in February with a benefit jump to raise money for the family of a police officer who had been killed in the line of duty. Most of the shows now were motorcycle jumps and the crew had been reduced to only two stunt people. One of those jumps was done in the parking lot of a shopping center in Las Cruces, New Mexico. This is where Jan met Mr. Bob Duffey, who was extremely benevolent in attitude considering this was his hometown! He had given her an autographed photo. The jump went as planned over five cars with barely enough room to stop the bike before she would have gone onto the highway. In May she was to do another double jump at a Kawasaki dealership, this time in the gravel parking lot. The first jump was a little short but she still made it without a problem. This caused her to overcompensate on the second jump. The approach was too fast. As she overshot the landing ramp altogether, landed in the gravel and the bike went out from under her. This was the first crash she had done without intending to! With minor injuries on the chin and left elbow, both requiring stitches, she was released from the hospital to check out the damage to the new bike. Since it was superficial, the dealership fixed it within a day. Her next set of jumps would be in the same town, but a different venue, the fairgrounds. In this show a car dealer had provided some used cars for the jumps. The first jump was just a little short. This didn’t end in a crash, though, the back wheel landed on the top of the last car, leaving a very distinguishable tire track! She was afraid that she might have to cover the damage financially but the dealer was so excited about it that he put the car on his showroom floor with a sign and a photograph of the jump! The second jump went fine. The next week she did another jump as a battle of the sexes. The other jumper was a local motorcycle dealer. The jump went well and his jump was a crowd pleaser in his hometown. The next jump would be her last.  

June 25, San Angelo, Texas, the Concho River. Donny Winn had tried to jump this river two years in a row crashing both times. Janet had the idea to cross from the opposite direction so that is how the jump was set. It was a Saturday afternoon show during the “Fiesta del Concho”, with huge crowds of people standing on both sides of the river waiting for the jump. The time had come for the performance and she was a little apprehensive, still making practice runs. The speed just didn’t seem to be enough. Another few minutes went by, and as she had learned so well in the passed few years, the show must go on. She went out into the street where she started her approach with a wave of her hand meaning that this was the real thing. As she neared the up ramp, went over the curb and onto the grass, the accelerator decreased just a little as she hit the ramp. The jump ended on the opposite bank of the river. Janet hit the bank with her head and right elbow. Paramedics (called the emergency corps at the time) where at her side within seconds, one of her brothers was there to take her helmet off, another one there to pull the jump bike out of the river, the engine still running. If the bike had been going any faster she would have hit the landing ramp full force, not landing on it but into it. . She was in the ICU with a concussion, still not conscious and paralyzed on her right side for six hours before any response. She had dislocated her right elbow and broken it in three places. No one knew how this story would end but everyone waited, until on Tuesday morning she awoke to reporters at her bedside waiting for the story. Although at the time she was still thinking she would jump more, in fact, after weeks of recovery, she retired from stunt work at the age of 22. She is now gathering photos, film and any other memorabilia she can to include in a photo journal of her stunt career.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jack Kochman

Thrill show legend Kochman dies at 97 

NASHVILLE -- Jack Kochman, the last great thrill show impresario, died Tuesday at his home in Yadkinville, N.C. He was 97.

Kochman put on automobile thrill shows for more than four decades before his retirement in 1989.

After Earl "Lucky" Teter's fatal crash at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis in 1942, the late stunt driver's show equipment was purchased by Kochman, who debuted his World Champion Hell Drivers that summer. Teter's show was part of a benefit for the Army-Navy Medical Relief Fund.

A former gas station attendant, Teter had put together his Hell Drivers in the early 1930s. B. Ward Beam is credited as the originator of such a form of entertainment, debuting his Congress of Daredevils in Toledo, Ohio, in 1923. In 1928, Beam's show amazed spectators at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, the first time an auto stunt show played a fair.

Beam continued to operate at state and county fairs into the late 1950s, but it was Teter who added the precision driving of new automobiles over elevated ramps. The cars did reverse spins, and stuntmen were added to the show to act as daredevil clowns.

Kochman wasn't blind to the marketing capabilities of the automobile thrill show business, and he started a long-standing sponsor relationship with tire companies and a major automobile manufacturer. With the popularity of the auto thrill show growing, Kochman started production of a second thrill show team in 1957 and a third in 1960.

A fourth unit was produced for 1964 and 1965 to perform shows at the New York World Fair. That unit did 1,200 performances and was featured on NBC's "Today" show. Over the next five years, Kochman cut back to one unit, which toured the world, selling out venues including the Houston Astrodome.

In 1989, Kochman retired from the thrill show scene. At the time, the show was the longest-running thrill show production in history. He passed the torch to his most respected employees, Charlie Belknap and Tonny Petersen. They continued to produce the show until retiring from the business at the end of the 2004 season.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Indy Car Visits CloverdaleSURREY NOW (19-JUL-2003) Written by: Tom Zytaruk Photo by: Brian Howell
Celebrated Harrison woodworker Pierre J. Lachance is showing some of his handiwork at his old hometown library in Cloverdale from now into August.
Library visitors can see Lachance's Indy car, which was commissioned by Molson Vancouver Indy and displayed at BC Place during the race in 1996.
The car is made of oak and yellow cedar.
"The car itself took me three months to make," Lachance said. "It was made off photographs only, and it was requested by Market Molson at that time."
Lachance also makes motorcycles, cars, ships and assorted toys out of wood.
King of wood automotive crafts
" I've been designing and carving wood models for 35 years" states Pierre. "My handcraft wooden modles range from miniature cars to full size motorcycles."I preserve past and present elite stunt driver's legacys online at www.autothrillshows.com. I've been building models for them, including Jumper Evel Knievel's XR750 wooden Harley stunt bike that was built with his permission. My dad, Bobby Chance, worked for Evel in the 70's. I've also built the only official Vancouver Molson Indy wooden Firestone Fire Hawk replica model. The model is presently on display at the Agassiz public library"."I always had a passion for automobile things, crafting my vehicles out of oak, alder and black walnut, etc".Whether it's a boxy jalopy, a sleek and aero dynamic sports car, or a Chevy with oversized fins, I approach each piece with equal enthusiasm"."Every year, I handcraft wooden toys and donate several of my pieces to childrens hospitals"."I don't carve for money, but rather as a labour of love. This is also great therapy for me since my accident when I was hit by a car at the age of seven"."I have an entirely different and aesthetic vision; I transform the metal sculpted lines of vehicles into the warm radiance of wood'.'Ive parlayed my love of constructing vehicles into an art form, and have been winning raves at past shows from automotive enthousiasts"."As for Evel Knievel's wood model, I'm almost done and proudly plan to display my hand-crafted wooden classics at Harrison Hot Spring Beach for the public to view for free"."Folks can also visit my Art Gallery online at www.pierrelachance.com".
Pierre J. Lachance has an entirely different and aesthetic vision: he transforms the metal sculpted lines of vehicles into the warm radiance of wood.
Lachance, 32, has parlayed his love of conveyances and construction vehicles into an art form that is winning raves–and plenty of sales orders–from automotive enthusiasts. His handcrafted wooden classics were proudly on display at Willowbrook Shopping Centre's "Just for '95" car show two weeks ago.
Lachance started his wood carvings while still an adolescent. The Cloverdale resident explains, "I always had a passion for automotive things and I dreamt of owning a Porsche. I just started creating my own. I thought, if I want it, I'll build whatever I want. I'll fill my hearts desires."
Twenty years later, the father of four continues to work from books and magazines, enhancing his designs into "instant specs" with computer graphics before crafting his vehicles with oak, alder and black walnut.
"I'm using a primitive format and integrating it into a very high tech format. I go with the past and the future and integrate them together for the now," he says.
Whether it's a boxy jalopy, a sleek and aerodynamic sports car. a chrome laden Chevy with outsized fins, Lachance approaches each reproduction with equal enthusiasm.
"I build everything–everything you can think of. You name it, I've got it. No one does what I do at the scale and the speed and with so much variety. I go from a Harley Davidson to a tractor trailer to a Jaguar."
"I spend two to three days on one item and start on another...It's unlimited. It doesn't stop. I like creating, creating, creating and creating with new concepts."
Lachance also hand crafts wooden toys and this Christmas donated 160 of his pieces to the children at Langley Memorial and Sunnyhill Hospitals. He took the remaining packages and gave them away door to door to children in lower-income housing complexes.
Sizes for Lachance's pieces range from miniature cars and trucks to expansive ships to full size motorcycles. Most of the pieces are custom built to order.
His joy comes in experimenting with the sculptural appearance of a vehicle and the challenge of perfecting each piece. His lifelong ambition is to become "The King of Wooden Automotive Crafts" and he believes that goal is well on the way to being realized.
"I do it as an art and I survive off it. I don't do it for the money–if I did I would have been out of it a long time ago. I do what I do because I love what I do."


 "little haywire school of aviation" (as my aunt, Helen Kay Schunck, described it in a Saturday Evening Post article, 1927) that may have been started by B. Ward Beam of Celina Ohio.  Such schools were often small in the number of students and facilities, but they produced some of the early giants of aviation.  I've found five such people already with regard to the "Beam School of Aviation" in Celina.
    I can corroborate little of the following so any corrections and updates are very much appreciated.   Ward Beam (who may have been born Bert W. Bean 11-18-1892) may have started the Beam School in 1913.  It probably folded in 1920-21 when Mr. Beam went to Toledo where he is credited with inventing the auto thrill show.  During the teens, he had become famous for air thrill shows in the midwestern U.S.  He eventually wound up in New York State and ended his career with his "Ward Beam Agency" in Goshen, Orange County, NY.   He died there in September 1979.
   Ward MAY have been married several times... and probably had two children by his  first wife Kethryn (sic).  They were Arthur (b. 1916) and Ruth (b. 1917)
   John Thorn (of Thornpricks fame and a legendary sports historian) helped me research Beam's auto career.  For instance,  I found out he launched the "Congress of Daredevils" in Toledo, 1923, and may have moved to Albion NY in 1931.  Ward continued his daredevil shows at least into the 1950s.

Steve (Simon) Hookk
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Auto Thrill Shows.com / Free Video Download Charlie Belknap's Hollywood Stunt Show Video. This Hell Driver Video was provided by Charlie Belknap's Hollywood Stunt Show and produced by Tom Murphy & Associates, Inc. It is a large file but worth watching. Expect it to take a few minutes to download as it is 320x240 and 5:28 minutes long. Download Video any time for Free. autothrillshow.com Official home of past and present elite stunt drivers for the 21st Century. an Official site , There you'll see Pierre J. Lachance wood vehicle models he made for the drivers for over 35 years. Pierre is considered the King of wood automotive crafts by the Press Media. You'll see Evel Knievel XR750 Harley Davidson wood stunt bike model. We even got the only World build Molson Vancouver Indy Firestone Firehawk wood car model replica. Maybe one of you who like a wood stunt vehicle build? Please visit autothrillshow.com/ Pierre Lachance project gallery online. Lots of free stuff ,Posters,Sticker,Images and more. Thank's alot for posting us. Pete Chance Auto Thrill Show video Auto Thrill Shows.com / Free Video Download Charlie Belknap's Hollywood Stunt Show Video. This Hell Driver Video was provided by Charlie Belknap's Hollywood Stunt Show and produced by Tom Murphy & Associates, Inc. It is a large file but worth watching. Expect it to take a few minutes to download as it is 320x240 and 5:28 minutes long. Download Video any time for Free.
CAN THE GREAT AMERICAN THRILL SHOW BE SAVED?
It is not featured in any tourist books and the locals don’t brag about it, but from an elevated stretch of Route 6 in rural Maine, you can see Jim “Crash” Moreau’s junk car sculpture garden. Painted red, white and blue, the 1970s sedans are frozen in action poses from Moreau’s illustrious 40-year-plus daredevil career.
It’s New England’s version of Nebraska’s magnificent Carhenge.
“When I die,” the aging stuntman says, “whoever puts my obituary in the paper has to put the name ‘Crash’ in there or nobody would know me.”
Known as the “Maine Maniac,” Moreau is one of the last auto thrill show veterans still on the road. Back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, there were several dozen “Hell Driver” stunt teams who criss-crossed North America and staged elaborate auto accidents for family entertainment. The most successful operation, the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show, had up to five daredevil units simultaneously performing at race tracks, sports stadiums and county fairs.
The late great Evel Knievel, inarguably the biggest name in daredevil history, was inspired to jump motorcycles after he saw the Chitwood Show visit his hometown fair in Montana. Before Knievel launched his spectacular mega-events, such as the ill-fated jump over Snake River Canyon, less ambitious motorcycle leaps over a few cars were enchanting the regular thrill show crowds.
Regardless of whether a stuntman was driving on four wheels or two, there was one sacred principle about the level of risk involved. Unlike Knievel, who had several months of hospital time to recuperate between events, the thrill show guys had to repeat their stunts night after night. But before new live audiences, the repetition was far from boring.
Hell Drivers smashed through tunnels of fire – and barreled through walls of ice.
Animal rights activists be damned, they also jumped cars and pick-up trucks over circus elephants — with the elephant’s trainer assuming a much higher risk of getting smushed.
In their heyday, Hell Drivers were sex symbols, the closest small town folks would ever get to seeing a movie star. Joie Chitwood, Sr. doubled for heartthrob Clark Gable in the 1950s movie, “To Please a Lady,” the first film to use complex automobile stunts. Several thrill show-influenced James Bond movies would later follow.
Automobile manufacturers used to fight with each other for the sponsorship rights to Hell Driving shows. Nash Motors signed a long-term deal with Lucky Lee Lott. Ford and later, Chevrolet chose the Chitwoods to represent their brands. Plymouth had the Hurricane Hell Drivers. And Ford also advertised with the Aut Swenson Thrillcade (the elephant guys) and the Rotroff All-Girl Auto Thrill Show.
Today, the lucrative sponsorships are all gone. The money dried up as Hollywood special effects made old-school style stunts appear less impressive – and cable TV specials seemed to feature more dangerous acts 24/7. Demolition derbies, which are much cheaper to produce than a thrill show, have since taken over as the premiere event at county fairs.
These economic realities have made it extremely tough for the thrill show to thrive, but luckily the tradition is not dead. We had the privilege of following Crash Moreau around the United States on one of his seatbelt survival tours.
“Monster trucks have come in, demo derbies, extreme bike riders. They’ve all taken over a piece of the pie,” Moreau admits. “But as long as you’re doing the stunts that people see on TV, there are still many people who want to see a live stunt show.”
The Maine Maniac pays tribute to the thrill shows of old with his divebomber act, which involves driving a car off a ramp directly into a pile of junk cars. The hood of the airborne car usually sticks into the windshield of a junk car like an arrow.
He has also attracted a cult following for his Steel Wall stunt, which involves racing a car into vertically propped-up vehicles balanced on their front bumpers. The magnificent chain reaction crash looks like a motorhead’s fantasy game of dominoes.
Realizing the fickleness of young crowds raised on video games, Crash is adding a new car trick to his repertoire in 2008. It’s called the Kamikaze Death Drop, and like it is branded, it seems to be a suicidal.
At county fairs in Delaware, Maine and Pennsylvania, Crash plans to be strapped inside a car dangling from the top of a crane – and then released into a frightening free fall into a pile of junk cars. He’s still booking this act for future dates this summer and fall, so he’s probably lined up a decent chiropractor!
The 59-year-old Crash undoubtedly lumbers on with his career for deep personal reasons – the roar of the crowd, the thrill of life on the road – but each time he performs, he honors the memory of the original Hell Drivers. To the countless millions of kids who grew up looking forward to the county fair every year, auto thrill show stars were superhuman.
They kept our childhood sense of wonder alive for a little longer. And let us vicariously live on the edge that (fortunately) few of us dare to experience. For a small and gutsy group of automobile lovers, almost dying is the only way to live.

Auto Hell Drivers
Williams Twins Lucky Teter Jack Kochman Charlie Belknap CANADA • INTERNATIONAL • USA Official North American Auto Thrill Show Website Stunt World Daily News Click Here to View... http://www.autohelldrivers.com Joie Chitwood OFFICIAL PAST &…

Seven Inch Daredevil (Evel Knievel Toy Entertainer)

video




"You come to a point in your life when you really don't care about what people think about you, you just care what you think about yourself."  "Evel Knievel" 1938 - 2007
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THE GREATEST CHASE OF ALL

An inside look at how they filmed BULLITT, 

the granddaddy of car pursuit movies.

BY: Susan Encinas (Muscle Car Review, March, 1987)



Where were you in 1968? You might have opened up the movie section of the newspaper and read a review about the newly released movie BULLITT. One such review, by the National Observer, said, " Whatever you have heard about the auto chase scene in BULLITT is probably true...a terrifying, deafening shocker." Life magazine wrote, "... a crime flick with a taste of genius...an action sequence that must be compared to the best in film history."
With reviews like that, and sharing double billing with the hit BONNIE AND CLYDE, BULLITT devastated audiences with incredible scenes of leaping, screaming automobiles that seemed to fly off the screen. Among all of Hollywood's road movies, BULLITT unquestionably made film history with its original car chase sequences. There may have been chase scenes before, but nothing before or since has equalled the intensity and impact of BULLITT. The scenes, which were novelty then but classic now, were brilliantly executed. Over the years, fans have asked questions about the two cars used in the movie, a 1968 Dodge Charger and a 1968 Mustang GT. Of all the musclecars offered in the late sixties, why were these two cars chosen, and how were they modified to survive the torturous driving?
It's been 19 years since BULLITT was filmed, however the magic of this special movie has not diminished. We questioned some of the crew who participated in the filming, and asked them how the chase was coordinated and shot, who was involved in the chase scenes and what happened during the filming. Steve McQueen and director Peter Yates brought in some of the best names in the business in preparation for the filming of BULLITT's chase scenes, and we were able to track some of them down. We interviewed Carey Loftin, stunt coordinator for BULLITT and occasional driver of the BULLITT Mustang; Bud Elkins, the main stunt driver of the Mustang, aside from McQueen; and Loren Janes, who had doubled for McQueen for nearly 20 years and stunted for McQueen during the airport sequence at the end of the film. We also interviewed Max Balchowsky, the man responsible for maintaining the Mustang GT and the Charger throughout the filming. Finally, we spoke with Ron Riner, who acted as transportation coordinator for Warner Brothers on the BULLITT set.
We set out to learn what the recipe is for such a successful chase sequence. What we found out was that there is none; it was pretty much a hit and miss thing and, as Ron Riner put it, "other people have tried to put the same combination together to get the same results and haven't really done it. Before we'd shoot a scene, everyone, the location people, the police department, the stuntmen, the director and Steve, would get into discussions. We realized we didn't know what to do because no one had ever done this before." What hadn't been done before was a chase scene, done "at speed"(up to 110 miles per hour) through the city streets and not on a movie studio back lot. Bud Elkins said, "I think it was the first time they did a complete car chase at normal camera speed. What you saw is what really happened. It was real!"
McQueen was determined to have "the best car chase ever done," recalls Carey Loftin. "I told Steve I knew a lot about camera angles and speeds to make it look fast. You can undercrank the camera so you can control everything in the scene. Then when it's run, it'll look like high speed and the car will appear to be handling real well." McQueen refused to hear of it, and advised Loftin that money was no object. "Fine," Loftin replied. "Until you run out of money, you've got to stop me!"
In an interview with Motor Trend magazine, Steve McQueen related his desire to bring a high speed chase to the screen. "I always felt a motor racing sequence in the street, a chase in the street, could be very exciting because you have the reality objects to work with, like bouncing off a parked car. An audience digs sitting there watching somebody do something that I'm sure almost all of them would like to do."
BULLITT was also the first picture done with live sound (some of which was added later as needed). For example, additional sound was needed because on occasion a tire squeal was not picked up by the microphones. Bud Elkins remembers blowing the rear end of the Mustang at Willow Springs winding the gears for engine noise to be added to the soundtrack.
To prepare himself, his crew and the cars for the movie sequence, McQueen and company went to the Cotati race course near San Francisco. "Steve handled the Mustang real well," recalled Riner. "He flowed well with the car." Also on hand was the late Bill Hickman, the fantastic stunt driver who would handle the menacing Dodge Charger in BULLITT. "Bill came in with the Charger," Riner said. "And he flipped it around and he slid in backwards. He was excellent."
The BULLITT chase scenes were shot around Easter of 1968. When city officials were first approached about shooting in the streets of San Francisco, they balked at the proposed high speeds and the idea of filming part of the chase on the Golden Gate Bridge. Eventually, it was agreed to keep the chase within only a few city blocks. McQueen was the prime motivator behind the chase sequence, and then director Peter Yates and Carey Loftin worked out logistics behind the scenes.
McQueen hadn't planned on having a stunt driver. Relates Carey Loftin:"The first thing Steve said was, he was going to do his own driving. Well, I wasn't going to argue, so I said, 'okay, fine'." McQueen's stint as a stunt driver didn't last long, however. "He overshot a turn, smoked the tires and everything. It's in the film," said Bud Elkins. "When Steve did that, it wasn't on purpose. He goofed up, and they said, 'that's it, get him out of the car'. The next morning they were spraying my hair down and cutting it. Consequently, it was Elkins who drove the car down hilly Chestnut Avenue. Also, according to the book entitled The Films of Steve McQueen by Casey St. Charnaz, the other reason for McQueen's removal from the Mustang was that McQueen's wife at the time found out that he wanted to do all his own driving and apparently SHE had some input into the decision not to have him do all the driving.
As director Peter Yates prepared to begin filming the chase scenes, there were four drivers, McQueen, Bud Elkins, Bill Hickman, and in a few scenes, Carey Loftin. Loren Janes tells up, "Carey Loftin was easily the best car man in the business. He brought in Bill Hickman to play a part and drive the other car." Loftin recalls: "I asked (the studio) what kind of guy were they looking for? And they described Bill Hickman, who was working on the LOVE BUG at the same time. Well, I said, he's sitting right here. They really described Bill Hickman."
The screenplay of the movie was written by Alan Trustman, based on the novel, Mute Witness by Robert L. Pike. But the story, according to Ron Riner was not the key element to the success of the movie. Riner says, "I think basically the story was long and confusing, so when the chase came along it was so good it gave more substance to the movie. I think it really saved the film, because most people don't remember the story, they remember the chase. You couldn't really remember the complete story, if somebody asked you, unless you read the script, because the script was much better and made more sense."
As filming of the chase progressed, Loftin wanted to see the daily work (rushes). He was told that Mr. McQueen wouldn't like that. Loftin insisted, and threatened to quit unless he could view the daily work. "It worked out really good," Loftin said with a smile. "Because as we watched the rushes, you could hear a pin drop. I was sitting 3 or 4 rows in front of him (McQueen) and when it was over, he came down, stuck out his hand, and said, 'Mr. Loftin, when you need me for a closeup you WILL let me know, won't you?"
As for the cars, Max Balchowsky tells us, "I suggested they get a 390 GT. I had suggested using a Mustang, and a Dodge Charger, or else there would be too may Fords in the picture. I thought we'd mix up the cars." The two 1968, four-speed Mustang GT fastbacks were purchased primarily because, promotionally, they were the best deal at the time. As far as Bud Elkins can recall, he feels the reason they used the Mustang was because "they wanted it to look like a cop car. This was his personal car and he wasn't a rich guy, he didn't have a real nice car. And it was Steve's idea to put the big dent in the fender, to show that it got banged up and he didn't have enough money or the time to fix it."
Warner Brothers purchased two four-speed Dodge Chargers... "at a Chrysler dealership in Glendale California," recalls Ron Riner. He also said the Dodge Chargers had to be purchased without promotional consideration, but after the success of the movie and the increase in Charger sales, Chrysler was more than willing to be generous with their vehicles to Warner Brothers for future projects. Mr. Riner posed an interesting premise: "did you realize that there wouldn't be an 01 car (the General Lee in Dukes of Hazzard) if we hadn't done BULLITT and Dodge hadn't sold so many Chargers?"
Before the filming could be done, the Charger and the Mustang required preparation. One of the best wrenchmen in the movie business, Max Balchowsky, recalls the Mustang in particular needed considerable modifications so it could hold up during the relentless beatings it would take during the filming. "Carey said they were gonna do a lot of jumping with it, and he said it had to be strong. So I was a little hesitant. I didn't know if they wanted to go over 50 foot cliffs. I had no idea what they wanted to do until I got there." To beef up the Mustang, Balchowsky started with the suspension, reinforcing the shock towers, adding crossmembers and reinforcements, exchanging the springs for replacements with higher deflection rates and replacing the stock shocks with Konis. All suspension parts were magnafluxed and replaced where nescessary. The engine also came in for some modifications, including milling the heads, adding an aftermarket high performance ignition system and reworking the the carburetor and adding headers.
On the Mustang, Mr. Balchowsky recalls, "everybody suggested I put a Holley on the Mustang, it was better than the Ford carburetor. I've always had good luck with Fords, and didn't want to spend money if i didn't have to putting a Holley on. It ran good, needed just a few little adjustments. I changed the distributor and all, but basically never had the engine apart on the Ford." Ron Riner remembers "the stock Mustang had undercarriage modifications, not only for the movie, but for Steve McQueen. Steve liked the sound of the car and he wanted mags. We hopped it up because Steve wanted the car hopped up. He was still a kid."
Balchowsky remembers "I hardly had to anything to the Dodge's engine, but what I was worried about was the strength of the front end." To shore up the front, Balchowsky revised the torsion bars, beefed up the control arms and added heavy duty shocks. As with the Mustang, all parts were 'fluxed. For the rear end, Balchowsky told us, "I got some special rear springs, what you call a high spring rate, a flat without any arch in it, and using that spring the car would stay low. It's similar to the same springs they use in police cars, which makes a good combination. When the police specify a package, they have more spring here, a little bigger brake there, a little bit more happening in the shocks, and it makes a good car. But the director of BULLITT wanted a brand new car instead of an ex-police car, so I got the springs from a friend at Chrysler. We had to weld reinforcements under the arms and stuff on the Dodge. We did lose a lot of hubcaps on the Charger. We'd put the hubcaps back on, but I suppose it probably would have been better if we had lest them off."
"I'll tell you this," said Max Balchowsky, "I was really impressed with the Mustang after I got done with it. I didn't think it'd make that much difference beefing it up. Later, we took both cars out and went playing around with them over by Griffith Park (near Los Angeles). The Dodge, which was practically stock, just left the Mustang like you wouldn't believe." Ron Riner has similar recollections. "The Charger ran rings around the Mustang. We trimmed the tires down (on the Charger), we practically made them down to bicycle tires to try and handicap Hickman, and Bill just run them." Carey Loftin also recalls," we test ran the car at Griffith Park near the Observatory, up a long hill. and if you can run a car real hard up and down that hill it's working pretty good."
"The day before the chase scenes were to be filmed, we went up to Santa Rosa and rented the track,"said Balchowsky. "Steve wanted to test the car. A production manager would have cut your throat if you wanted to do something like that. An accident would have ruined the cars, and we were slated for Monday morning, 6:00 a.m. to start shooting. Hickman and Steve were buzzing around the tracks, and it was pretty even. McQueen and Hickman were both tickled with the cars. So, fortunately everything worked out."
Generally everyone seemed to agree that the chase went smoothly, although filming went a "little bit slow," Bud Elkins recalls. "Yates and Steve were particular. You would rehearse it once- it's got to be choreographed- then you would rehearse it again, and if it looked good, they shot it. You rehearsed at about 1/4 speed or 1/2 speed, then you went in to film it at full speed."
For the in-car scenes, two camers were mounted in the cars and painted black. The jarring landings after the cars were airborne are the result of the cameras being tightly secured and not cushion mounted. The effect was more than McQueen had bargained for. "It's a funny thing," he told Motor Trend. "That was what shocked me and I didn't expect it, because we were using a 185 frame which is a very small frame. We weren't even using a big super Panavision or anything. Even on the 185, they (the audience) jumped out of their seats. I didn't do the shots going down the hill, they pulled me out of the car. Bud Elkins did that."
In the Motor Trend interview, McQueen recalled there were some close calls and incidents that looked good on film but weren't exactly planned to happen, some of which occured in the memorable downhill sequences. "Remember that banging going down? That was about 100 mph. I was bangin' into Bill. My car was disintegrating. Like, the door handles came off, both the shocks in the front broke, the steering armature on the right front side broke and my slack was about a foot and a half. The Mustang was really just starting to fall apart."
There was an incident which alerted the crew to take extra precautions while doing the car chase. "A child," Riner told us, "maybe five years old, came out of a building and stepped out on to the street. We stopped and brought in more stunt people and more cars and I think the theory was if anybody had a problem, they'd make a barricade out of the vehicles. The problem never came up again, or I never saw a problem." Incredible, considering there were only two policemen on the scene as compared to the 40 policemen utilized for the chase in MAD MAD WORLD. Carey Loftin says, "the extras were a big help. If there was an alley or any place that wasn't covered, they'd come and tell me. They were real good."
Because some of the stunts were so well orchestrated, they did not look like stunts at all. Recalls Carey Loftin: "Several years after BULLITT, an extra (on another set) was talking about BULLITT, and he was saying how it was amazing how accidents get into films and he said that the best one he ever saw was the scene where Bud Elkins did the spill off the motorcycle. I let him go ahead and tell it. He said 'the cops were watching the action and weren't watching the traffic and this motorcycle guy slipped through, and got into the scene and ended up in the picture.' I said, 'you really think that's what happened?' The extra said, ' I know, I saw it, I was there.' And I said that's the way it's supposed to look, because it wasn't supposed to look like a stunt." Ron Riner comments on the scene, "I didn't know about the stunt and I was supposed to get the information!"
There were THREE cars racing wildly through the streets of San Francisco, making car chase history, although only two are seen in the movie. The third vehicle, a camera car, was driven by Pat Houstis, while cinematographer Bill Fraker manned the camera. Said Ron Riner, "Pat Houstis was excellent and he was in his prime at the time." Carey Loftin has nothing but praise for Mr. Houstis and an amusing recollection. "Pat Houstis, a terrific driver, had just built the camera car, and he showed it to me. He did a real good job on it. It was a Corvette chassis, and he had stripped all the stuff off and built a good suspension, good engine and everything. But it looked like hell."
His confidence in Mr. Houstis is evident as he relates another incident. " We had one scene where Pat was following Steve on Guadalupe Canyon Highway, a beautiful road. We wanted some shots of the Mustang really burning the corners. We did it several times. The operator of the first camera said, 'Steve's not getting his foot into it, he's a better driver than that.' I went to Steve and said, 'you know Pat Houstis is a terrific driver.' Steve said 'yeah, yeah he is.' I said, 'he knows responsibility too. You know what that man would do if I was driving the car in front of him and anything would happen? He'd run into a parked car or hit a tree just to miss me. Now think what he'd do for the star? Now get into that car and get your foot into it!' We got the shot on the next take."
One particular scene that impressed Max Balchowsky was the gunman in the Dodge firing a shotgun blast at the pursuing Mustang that shatters the right front of the windshield. "The guy who did special effects devised the chain balls that bust the Mustang windshield. I thought it was terrific when the guy whips the shotgun out and the way the special effects fellow devised how those pebbles cracked the windshield and it made it so realistic like he really shot the windshield. It sure made Ford glass look good."
The gentleman in the car, playing Bill Hickman's partner in crime, was actor Paul Genge. According to Ron Riner, Mr. Genge, who played a very realistic tough guy, "seemed like he had hardly ever seen a gun before. They scared the hell out of him. In the scenes in the Charger with Hickman, he was scared to death. After two or three time we almost had to bodily put tranqiulizers in him, and put him in the car. Mr. Hickman was one of the coolest drivers I've ever met." Max Balchowsky tells us, "there was a scene where the Charger passed a truck, and they only wanted to leave so much room on one side, and Hickman did it perfectly when he came by and took the bumper off the truck. That was a super shot. Throughout the chase sequences, some of them were accidents but, they looked fantastic- Hickman was terrific."
To achieve the stunning conclusion to the chase in which the Charger loses control, leaps an Armco fence and plows into a gasoline station, Loftin rigged up a tow and release set up hidden from the camera's view between the Mustang and the Charger. Dressed to double McQueen, Loftin laterally towed the Charger at 90 mph with its two dummy passengers and at the right moment released the Charger into the nitro-loaded gas station. Unfortunately, the Charger missed the station, but the charges were set off and the explosion, thanks to some deft film editing, had the desired effect and was added to the movie.
There seemed to be a general atmosphere of professionalism and mutual admiration on the set. Loren Janes tells us, " I loved to see a lot of the little things in Steve's films. The best teeny things came up in it, the best stuff was Steve's ideas. Like when they're (Hickman and Genge) going up the hill and they're after Steve and all of a sudden he disappears and they can't see him and the guy (Hickman) looks up and Steve appears in his rear view mirror. In other words, he changed it, now he's chasing them. Well that was a great turn of events. It was fantastic. It was WILD reckless driving, but it was planned and coordinated. There was class to the BULLITT chase, there was a reason for it, and that's one of the key things people forget: the greatest stunt in the world is worthless if there isn't a reason or story to it and BULLITT had a story point all the way through and a reason.
The enduring scenes of the forboding Charger and the powerful Mustang have etched themselves in film making history. The sequences were the brain child of Steve McQueen; He knew what he wanted and how he wanted it to appear on film. No one has duplicated the electricity or the savage ferocity that manifested itself in BULLITT chase scenes, and it's doubtful any one ever will.

DeTomaso Pantera Last update: 16 July, 1998 geovisit();
Imperial Stunt Drivers - Home
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Ken Carter StuntmanKen Carter (1938 – September 5, 1983), born Kenneth Gordon Polsjek, was a Canadian stunt driver.Contents1 Early years2 St. Lawrence Seaway jump3 Peterborough jump4 External links//Early yearsCarter was born in Montreal and grew up in a working class neighborhood. With little education, he dropped out of school to perform car stunts with a team of traveling daredevils. Soon he was a solo act, jumping at racetracks all over North America. He became a notorious showman, earning the nickname "The Mad Canadian" for his death-defying antics.St. Lawrence Seaway jumpIn 1976, after 20 years of car jumps, Carter launched his most ambitious project: an attempt to jump over the Saint Lawrence Seaway -- a distance of over one mile -- in a rocket-powered Lincoln Continental. The preparations for the jump were the subject of a documentary called The Devil at Your Heels, directed by Robert Fortier and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.For months, Carter prepared his car and looked for sponsors, with his persistence in self-promotion paying off when U.S. broadcaster ABC gave him $250,000 to air the stunt on the episode of Wide World of Sports scheduled for September 25, 1976. Carter anticipated a live audience of 100,000. Construction of a 1,400-foot takeoff ramp began on fifty acres of farmland near Morrisburg, Ontario. Evel Knievel visited the site as a special correspondent for ABC and concluded that there was little chance of success. Delays in finishing the car and completing the ramp caused Carter to miss the broadcast date and ABC withdrew its support.Carter resumed preparations the following year and again in 1978, but the jump was cancelled both times. On September 26, 1979, Carter got to within five seconds of takeoff before aborting the jump following a mechanical failure. The planned jump had been sponsored by a film producer in exchange for exclusive film rights. Believing that Carter had lost his nerve, the film crew secretly arranged for another stunt driver, American Kenny Powers, to perform the jump while Carter was in his hotel room in Ottawa. The Powers jump was a failure, with the car travelling only 506 feet in the air and falling apart in flight before crash-landing in the water. Powers broke eight vertebrae, three ribs and a wrist.Peterborough jumpCarter returned to stunt driving and in 1983 attempted to jump a pond in Peterborough, Ontario. During the jump his car -- a modified Pontiac Firebird -- had a malfunction and Carter crashed badly but vowed to try the jump again. Several months later he did. The vehicle overshot its landing ramp by 30 meters and landed on its roof. Carter was instantly killed. He is buried in a unmarked grave at the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery in Montreal.External linkshttp://canadiannews1.com/archive/StuntDriver1/stuntdriver1.com/Ken_Carter.htmCategories: Canadian stunt performers 1938 births 1983 deaths Accidental deaths from falls

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Stunt World 1


Those Magnificent Men & Their Flying Machines
Stunt drivers Jimmy Canton and Bumps Willert once toured the country performing death-defying feats with ordinary cars. And they lived to tell about it.
It's hard to believe, but there was a time when auto thrill shows drew larger crowds than NASCAR races. Spectators packed rickety wooden grandstands to watch daring young men in spiffy white uniforms do the "slide for life" or the "T-bone crash," to drive cars on two wheels, or to jump cars or motorcycles from ramp to ramp. In the late 1950s as many as 29 stunt shows - including Jack Kochman's Auto Hell Drivers, Joie Chitwood's Tournament of Thrills, and Jimmy Lynch's Death Dodgers - toured, the country.
Last year there were only three. Live shows of flying, crashing, and spinning automobiles have been supplanted by TV programs like World's Greatest Police Chases, Car Crashes, and Stupid Driving. Today, only a few drivers know how to do a T-bone crash, crawl from the wreckage, and salute the crowd with a cocky smile and a jaunty wave.
One of Lucky Teter's Auto Hell Drivers catches significant air in the late '4Os (above), and an unidentified member of Jimmy Lynch's Death Dodgers does likewise (below right).
Bumps Willert and Jimmy Canton are two of them.
Loren (Bumps) Willert joined Joie Chitwood's auto thrill show as a mechanic the day after he graduated from high school, in 1953. The next night, Willert did the slide for life, where the stunt man lowers himself off the back of a speeding car and slides on his posterior through a circle of flaming gasoline. "I'd only seen it once, the night before, when the original guy got hurt," says Willert. "Two days later I did the firewall stunt, where you drive a car through a burning wall, and two days after that I barrel-rolled my first car. I guess I was either real gullible or a quick learner."
Jimmy Kolstow was already a seasoned auto thrill show veteran when Willert joined Chitwood's show. Kolstow ran away from home to join Chitwood in 1951, and performed as "Jimmy Canton" so his parents wouldn't recognize his name on posters advertising the show. After 52 years as Jimmy Canton, that's the way he's listed in the phone book - "in case somebody from my thrill show days needs to find me."
Canton, like Willert, was recruited to do the slide for life after only one day on the job. "You had the leather pad you slid on, gloves, coveralls, and a helmet," he recalls. "You slid through the fire so fast you barely felt it. The trick was to keep your hands and legs up and just slide on your fanny till you stopped. Later on, it was a tradition that for the last show of the year, before we laid off for the winter, that the crew would hide the leather pad. They'd be generous and give you an extra pair of coveralls, and you'd do the slide that way, without the leather pad. That was the one time you'd want to roll instead of slide. As soon as you cleared the fire, you'd tuck your arms in tight and start rolling like a log. It's pretty amazing how far you can roll like that, and not really get much more than a few bruises. The coveralls were pretty much worn out, though."

Canton specialized in motorcycle stunts. His talent for jumping 30 or 40 feet in the air pales in comparison to today's flamboyant motocross jumping exhibitions - until you compare the equipment. "I usually jumped a 300-pound BSA 350 Scrambler with maybe three or four inches of suspension travel, and both the take-off and landing ramps were two feet wide," he says. "The other guys used to tease me that I was showing off twisting the handlebars and my body in the air, but I wasn't. I was manhandling the bike so I'd hit that narrow little landing ramp."
Canton's most memorable motorcycle crash came when he rode an imported Benelli motorcycle, marketed briefly in the United States by Montgomery Ward department stores. When he left the take-off ramp, the front forks separated and the front wheel fell off. He pole-vaulted over the handlebars when he landed. "I did a lot of serious rolling, until things finally stopped moving," says Canton. "I was laying there face down, taking mental inventory of body parts, thinking, Hey, I got away with it. . .and Bam! That damned Monkey Ward motorcycle landed on my back. No permanent damage, but I was sure sore for a couple days."
If there were a Hall of Fame for the Wall of Flame, Canton would surely be in it. Note the many scars on top of his helmet.
While Canton and Willert downplay their injuries, they acknowledge that their jobs humored few mistakes. Freak accidents were their greatest concern. "The first year I was with the show, Snooks Wentzel died doing a simple barrel roll," says Willert. "There was a fire in the engine compartment, just a brief flash fire that put itself out, but when the car rolled, the hood buckled up at the rear and the fire flashed into the driver's compartment. Snooks must have taken a breath at the wrong time, and sucked fire down into his lungs. He was sitting there, dead, when we got to the car. There wasn't a burn on him. Just one of those freak things that kept you awake at night sometimes."
Neither man admits to ever being afraid before a stunt, but both agree that the T-bone crash worried them. The stunt required them to jump a car off a ramp and land nose-first on a car parked sideways, then finish with an end-over-end roll. The potential for odd twists and flips was high. Willert says the secret was to "get in the cellar and hang on for dear life."
Canton executes a T-bone crash in 1958 (above). You can't see him because he's already hunkered down in the "cellar" to protect himself from the inevitable roof collapse. This was the stunt that worried even the most seasoned of thrill show drivers.
The "cellar" or "basement" was the area below an imaginary line that ran from the top of the dashboard across the top of the seats to the rear deck. No matter how many times a car rolled, or how violently, the roof couldn't crush lower than that imaginary line. "For the T-bone, we'd take off the back of the passenger side of the seat, and wear a seat belt about half tight," says Willert. "You'd kind of sit toward the middle, steer with your left hand until you left the ramp, then throw yourself face first down onto the seat and wrap your arms around the passenger side, with your feet wedged up under the dashboard so they didn't flop loose. Then you just hugged that seat like it was a pretty girl until everything stopped moving."
Both Canton and Willert are proud of their ability to wreck cars, but take special pride in the cars they didn't wreck. Both men were aces at driving cars on two wheels. Spectators often swore the cars bad hidden "training wheels." "One time in Oklahoma, an oilman came down after the show and told us he had $1,000 that said the cars were rigged," recalls Canton. "Our bosses had left for the night, so we looked at each other, pooled our money to take the bet, and set up the ramp. Once we got the car up on two wheels, we drove real slow, so the guy could run alongside the car with a flashlight, looking for extra wheels or trick stuff. It was easy money, because the cars weren't rigged. The sponsors wouldn't allow us to do any suspension or drivetrain or engine modifications to the two-wheel and precision-driving cars," Canton says. "They wanted the thrill show to be a demonstration of how tough those Chevys or Fords or Dodges were. We finally convinced them to let us lock the rear end on the two-wheel cars, and that's how we were able to drive them all the way around the tracks. But the announcer always had to tell the crowd the rear end was locked. The companies would even send spies out to check the cars to make sure we hadn't modified them - they were really strict about it."
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a. . .Chevette? Twenty-five years after launching his career with Chitwood's show, Canton was still launching himself.
Both men concede that while their early salaries were minimum wage, they got some big paydays in the end, including offers to stunt-drive in movies. Willert, for example, was cajoled into making the famed 360° aerial roll in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. "I had a reputation as a pretty good car jumper, and the stunt coordinator for that movie was having trouble getting the stunt to work," says Willert. "The whole thing was designed by computer, and when they put a human-sized weight in the driver's seat and sent it off the ramp, it landed perfectly. But every time they put a driver in the car, they crashed big time."
Willert, who was on tour in Europe at the time, studied photographs and films of the failed attempts and eventually determined that the problem was psychological. The corkscrew ramps were placed out of line to compensate for the sideways travel of the car as it spiraled through the air, and drivers couldn't deal with the landing ramp being out of line with the take-off ramp. "They'd always try to help the car get there by cheating to one side as they went up the launch ramp," says Willert. "That really messed things up, because you had to be at exactly 47 miles an hour and exactly on a line they had painted on the launch ramp. They had some nasty crashes. Eventually they talked me into doing the stunt for the actual filming. I admit, it was hard to keep it on the line painted on the launch ramp, when you could see the landing ramp sitting way, way off to the side. But I did it, and the first time I did it was the take you see in the movie."
Barrel rolls were a standard part of any auto thrill show. It was considered the sign of a good stunt driver if he could roll the car, land it back on its wheels, and then drive merrily on his way.
The 360° aerial roll was eventually incorporated into several auto thrill shows. Willert did the stunt 31 times and landed safely 29 times. "You knew as soon as you left the ramp whether it was going to work or not," he says, chuckling. "It was a spectacu1ar stunt when it worked, and a spectacular crash when it didn't."
Both men are now retired from stunt driving. Canton lives in Indianola, Iowa and is restoring his BSA motorcycle with thoughts that it might be fun to do a few short jumps - you know, just for old time's sake.
Willert lives in Davenport, Iowa, where he spoils his grandchildren and stays involved in motorsports by overseeing his son's IMCA modified team.
If you were to meet these men on the street today, you'd think they were retired factory or office workers who'd spent their lives punching time clocks. But in reality they spent their careers entertaining audiences with precision driving and nerves of steel, doing things with cars that sane men weren't supposed to do. Their hair may now be thinner or grayer and their waists thicker than in the faded photos from the glory days. But in their hearts, they're still the dashing young men in white uniforms, crawling from wrecked cars to give a cocky smile and a jaunty wave to a packed grandstand.
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Canadian History

The first poutines were invented in Quebec, and there are many, unconfirmed claims to have invented the poutine which date from the late 50s through the 1970s in the Victoriaville area, about 1 hour out of Montreal.
The earliest date associated with its invention is 1957, which is when restaurantuer Fernand LaChance of Warwick claims that a take-out customer requested french fries, cheese and in a bag, to which the restaurantuer responded: "ça va faire une maudite poutine" (That's going to make a damn mess"). Adding sauce to the mixture was a later innovation. LaChance's restaurant eventually closed, and so there exists no present day monument to this earliest claim.
Restauranter Jean-Paul Roy, owner of Roy le Jucep, from photograph on the wall at his resaurant. Caption: "The Inventor of Poutine Jean Paul Roy"
The owner of restaurant Roy le Jucep (1050 boul. St. Joseph, Drummondville Quebec; website , Jean-Paul Roy, also claims the title of "The Inventor of Poutine", dating his claim in 1964. Jucep's claim stems from having made the potatoe sauce, which he was slathering on fries sold in his restaurant; he also sold bags of cheese curds - which are sold widely in the region, bought as a handy, portable snack - which he noticed customers were adding to his fries and sauce. Soon after, he made the combination a regular menu item. (See Review for a review of Roy le Jucep poutine).
By the late 1970s, poutine had made its way to New York and New Jersey, where it is often sold as an "off menu" item in a modified form -- 'disco fries'. This concoction is french fries, a beef gravy, and shredded cheese. The cheese melts completely, mixes in with the gravy, but the dish is a mess, just the same, and a delicious one enjoyed by late-night partiers of the disco crowds in the days before low-fat, Atkins and smart drinks.
The cheese used in a classic poutine is not simply a cheddar, nor simply a cheddar curd. It is fromage beaucronne, made specifically in the
Quebec natives can be heard to exclaim "That's not poutine!" in response to the many variants which have popped up. But, as with any cuisine too good (and too easy) to keep a lid on, poutine has found many different expressions. Like burritos, poutines are found with a wide range of styles, both in high-end and low-end restaurants, as well as at home.
Within Montreal, one can find "Poutine Italian", in which a marianara sauce is used. Occaisionally, one comes across a poutine in which an actual gravy (using a roux from flour and drippings, combined with milk or cream) is unapologetically used instead of the classic sauce. At-home chefs whip up a poutine with bottled BBQ sauce for a quick bite for the kids (or themselves).
It's historically unclear what kind of sauce is the basis for classic poutine. The origins are obscured somewhat by the fact that Natives strongly prefer, in their classic recipes, an "instant" kind made by the chain restaurant St. Hubert, available in packages at grocery stores. Simple comparisons around town make it appear that the classic sauce is a chicken-based velouté (see Recipes ), which should not be confused with a "gravy", the important difference being that stock is used as the base in a velouté, while milk or cream is used in gravy. And, nonetheless, gravy is used in the aforementioned 'disco fries', a poutine derivative. Today, delicious poutines are made with a wide range of sauces, including marianara, black mole, a Parisienne (or, Allemande) sauce.

The Embarrassment of Poutine

Poutine used to be considered embarrassing to the local French-Canadian population, known for excellent high-cuisine. Considered a low, rural food, it was associated with backwardness, lacking cosmopolitan verve. But, with the rise of low-food popularity internationally, and the great interest of travelling gourmands in local recipes and low-foods, poutine has risen in local, as well as international interest. Nonetheless, the history of the embarrassment it has caused helps explain the difficulty in findin a good poutine.
In a November 1991 CBC report on poutine, Canada's largest broadcaster asked, on-camera, the Quebec premier Robert Bourassa if he liked poutine. He immediately walked away from the podium, "I'm sorry, I have to go, I have a really important meeting." His office refused to answer the question in follow-up calls. The same question to the opposition Parti-Quebecois leader Jacques Pariseau got the exact same response: he refused to answer, either directly on-camera, or in calls to his office.
Usually, to get a politician to refuse to answer a question requires finding a mistress somewhere. There can be no doubt that poutine was considered such a low food, it was embarrassing to be known to like it. But, it was also so common in Quebec, that to deny having even had it would have been laughably unbelievable.
Why would anyone consider eating poutine to be embarrassing? We don't know for sure, but it may stem from its association with the cheddar curds. In the eastern townships where poutine was invented (Warwick, Drummondville), it seems to have happened there due to the ready availability of these daily-fresh, briny curds, which people buy in small bags and snack on, like Doritos. It seems that some consider this to be a bit of a back-water habit - perhaps not unlike snacking on fried pork rinds in the American South. Take a back-water eating habit, and meld it together with a starchy plate of fried potatoes and a sauce, and, somehow the association rubs off.
Which is too bad for some. The history of low-food developing into fantastic cuisine is rich: lobsters, cassoulet, burritos, okra -- all of these were once down-market items, but whose flavor potential overcame their birth-station, and are now internationally favored.

Poutine-Related Frequently Asked Questions

I hear that fresh chedder cheese curds squeek when you eat them. Why is that? The fresh curds, eaten plain, right out of the bag on the day it was packed, will indeed squeek when you chomp on them. The reason is that fresh curds are extremely high humidity: 47% is a usual amount. When you bite through them, they rub against your teeth and squeek while they do so. If you aren't sure that you've heard the squeeking, then you haven't -- it is too loud to be uncertain. Only the freshest curds -- made that day -- produce the squeek.

Random Poutine Trivia

In 2000, then U.S. Presidential candidate George W. Bush was asked by a "reporter" how he responds to an endorsement from Canadian Prime Minister "Jean Poutine". Bush replied, "I appreciate his strong statment. He understands I believe in free trade. He understands I want to make sure our relations with our most important neighbor to the north of us, the Canadians, is strong and we'll work closely together." Of course, the prime minister at the time was Jean Chretien, and the "reporter" was Rick Mercer from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation comedy TV show, "This Hour Has 22 Minutes".
The Black Flies cut an indie albumn "Poutine" in 1997, presently selling for US$5 at Amazon.
The famous California burger chain In-N-Out Burger has an off-menu item which qualifies as a poutine: French-fries, animal-style. , where the french fries are grilled with special sauce, onions and cheese. Note that In-N-Out never officially acknowledges their (otherwise) famous off-menu items (author's favorite: hamburger, protein style).
In Nov 2005, Canadian singer Shania Twain appeared on Martha Stewart's daily show to introduce the domestic diva to Poutine. "This actually smells good," Stewart says as Twain pulled what was actually an oven-baked fries in mushroom sauce. Neither Twain nor Stewart sampled the poutine on camera. The next day, the hits on this site shot up by a factor of five.

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