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School for hard knocks: learning the basics of stunt driving





At Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, Calif. race cars speed up and down a backdrop of barren desert.

Tumbleweeds speed by too.

In the back of all this hustle, is a separate track filled with old Chevy Caprices – each a different color – burning rubber on the track.

Veteran stuntman Rick Seaman is hollering into a walkie talkie.

"Show me the money, show me the money. More on that juice earlier, keep that back end from coming around."

Seaman is teaching his students to slide through a ninety degree turn to a full stop.  They know if they did it wrong when they hit the orange cones. And they do.

Seaman has been doing stunts for half a century, making his debut  in a low-budget crime drama, Fireball Jungle. He went on to show off his skills in movies like Repo Man, The Naked Gun, and  21 Jump Street

And for 20 years, Seaman has been teaching others the basics of skidding, turning and generally bending a car to your will. Some come with hopes of driving in movies, others are just civilians looking for some fun. Pretty much anyone with three grand can learn to feather the e-brake, create a juicy lift, and ride the slide.

Gloria O’Brien is one of Seaman's instructors. She worked as a stunt woman from 1994 to 2011. She says 20 years ago, when she started, the Hollywood landscape was different for women and minorities.

"Definitely, it's way better now then it used  to be," she says. I had a friend of mine tell me I didn't have the right to do stunts because I had children."

Along with the excitement, there's the pay, and it can be pretty good. About $900 per day. That can mean fifty-thousand per film if a person works a 12-week shoot.

Of course, it means risking life and limb, but for folks like Rick Seamans and Gloria O'Brian, and for many of their students, the money to be earned is just gravy. The real reason they do stunts is because, for them, there's no better way to have fun.

 



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