What is it with all these crazy stuntmen all of a sudden?
Just this year, we watched Nik Wallenda, age 33, walk across the watery cauldron that is Niagara Falls. Just this month, we witnessed two more latter-day P.T. Barnums strut their stuff.
Recently, we witnessed 39-year-old David Blaine stay awake for three days while being shot through with a million volts of electricity. And just last week, we saw 43-year old Felix Baumgartner step out on a skateboard-sized ledge at the edge of space and free-fall to earth while breaking the sound barrier with just his body.
We, of course, have no idea why these knuckleheads chose to do these silly things.
But these guys are the stunt heroes for today’s generation to marvel at. They’re the direct descendants of Evel Knievel, who soared over gaping canyons on a red-white-and-blue motorcycle, and David Copperfield, who once came “10 seconds from drowning” during a water trick, and another time lopped off the end of his finger with scissors while trying a rope stunt.
Sure plummeting from space is attention-getting (although in my opinion “Fearless Felix” should have worn a cape for dramatic effect), but for my money the greatest stuntman of them all was a guy I saw several times in person when I was a kid in the early 1960s. He didn’t wear a spangled outfit, he didn’t have a glitzy stage to perform his stunt from, and he didn’t mine millions of dollars worth of sponsorships from his exploits.
But what he did do was give a 10-year-old kid the thrill of a lifetime just watching him do the impossible. And what was his stunt?
He rode around a horse racetrack in a car on two wheels. Talk about breathtaking!