David Robb and I wrote this book to show how difficult it is, especially
for women, to break into the stunt business, and how easy it is to be broken by
It’s a dangerous business. Women have gotten killed on the job, and many
others have been seriously injured – some of them permanently. I know three
stuntwomen who have committed suicide. Many others’ lives have been destroyed
by drugs and alcohol.
And yet, being a stuntwoman is the most exciting job in the most
exciting industry in the world. Unfortunately, the stunt business is also the
most sexist in Hollywood
– an industry rife with male chauvinism.
I spent most of my working life hanging from helicopters and hot air
balloons, running on high catwalks, jumping across rooftops, falling down
stairs, crashing through windows, turning over cars, being hit by trucks, and
fleeing from fires and floods. I got concussions and fractured my neck, cracked
my ribs, torn muscles and tendons, and I still have a dent in my head from
being kicked in the head by a horse on “Little Big Man.” But the most dangerous
thing I ever did was to complain about unsafe working conditions, and about the
drug abuse problem that made a dangerous job all the more hazardous. Blowing
the whistle cost me my career and livelihood. Drug users almost cost me my
Discrimination is subtle and not always clear-cut. The old boys’ network
is constantly lurking in the wings, in every position of the industry.
Women are still vastly underrepresented in Hollywood – not just in stunts, but in all
creative positions. It’s hard for anyone trying to break into the business, but
for women, it’s even harder. You are judged more harshly, and you have to be
twice as good as a man in your selected field. The longer the women in this
industry remain silent, the more oppressed they will be.
I realize that there are women
all over the world whose lives are much tougher than ours could ever be. But
pain is pain. Oppression is oppression. Not being able to be all that you can
be is hell. If you don’t want us to care, don’t teach us to feel.
The answer to nearly all the
wrongs in the world is to put a woman in charge. Try it, you might like it.
It’s a privilege of the highest order to
work in this business. My advice to young women entering the stunt business
today is simple:
Learn the craft, and never, ever be late for
· Stay away from abusing drugs and alcohol to be
popular or trouble will surely follow;
Never surrender your honor and integrity;
Project an image of strength and courage;
· Just remember, as my friend Eve Brent told me
when I was starting out, “You don’t have to go to bed with any of them.”
Consequences can be deadly;
Don’t be a slob; hang your wardrobe back up like
you found it;
Be safe and look out for the safety of others;
· And above all, you have a duty and a
responsibility to yourselves and to those whose shoulders you stand upon, to
protect, preserve and enhance the power we have acquired for you. Use it with
dignity and grace, and wisely pass it on. You will evolve into the next
generation of stuntwomen, stronger and more educated than mine, and when you
become stuntwomen with purpose, and have no fear of speaking up, you will have
Or as my as my father use to say, “Just use good
common sense; let self-control and your conscience be your guide”;
And remember: for inequality to prevail, all
that good men and women have to do is nothing.
I always believed that if I took a grievance to my superiors, there
would be an appropriate and considered response. I now know, however, that my
commitment was shared by few others. It behooves all producers to speak in
person to a stunt person if there is an issue.
I figured that being labeled a troublemaker was a reasonable price to
pay to make some changes. This led me into the world of the unknown,
blacklisting, personal harassment and intimidation. Few people are prepared to
handle retaliation, but I chose to take a stand and take any punishment they
handed out. Sadly, except for a few brave souls, my friends and peers slowly
disappeared. Life, as I had known it, was gone. If I had done cocaine with the
“right people,” I’d still be working, or dead.
I dug my own grave, but I did what I had to do. They can blacklist me,
but they can’t kill my spirit…ever.
While waiting in a doctor’s office, I saw this written in a magazine:
I am hurt, but I am not slain.
I will lie down and bleed
Then I will rise to fight
St. Barton’s Ode
These few words
helped me get through some of the toughest times of my life.
A friend once asked me, “What’s it like to feel blacklisted?”
I told her, “It feels like you’re being led to slaughter; like you’re
being thrown into solitary confinement; like everyone is armed against you, to
hurt you, to deny you; that you have been cast out.”
And yet, I hope and pray that my solitude will somehow bear fruit in the
hearts of the very people who destroyed me. My father taught me to be brave,
and to stand up for what’s right. So I wear my blacklisting like a badge of
To quote Eleanor Roosevelt: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and
the security of person.”
This is 2012…where is our security of person? Without it, life
and liberty are hopeless dreams, and hopeless dreams are not conducive to
building better-educated and stronger stuntwomen.
As long as management is false to their obligations, we are rendered
a waste of important talent. To me, this is unspeakably sad.
To the stuntmen, I say: Say what you will about me. Call me what you
wish, but whether you like it or not, you are my brothers, and you taught me
well. I have no ill will, just concern. But next time, just think with clearer
minds before you decide to destroy someone.
To all the producers, directors, actresses and crewmembers who applauded
my work over the many years – I applaud you for your gracious help; your
unmatched stamina in your chosen fields. You all inspired me. Thank you for
letting me be me.
And a heart-felt thank you to Jeannie Coulter, Leslie Hoffman and Jade
David for not abandoning me. We share something in common – blacklisting. I
would also like to thank David Robb, Kathleen Nolan, and posthumously, Norma
Lest we forget, all those in our industry who died, those who were
injured beyond repair, all for the sake of the passion for their work…lest we
Eddie, if you’re out there; ‘Time Remembered.’
Mom and Dad, thank you for my life.
Lily, you are always in my thoughts and prayers and tears.
And finally, with this book, I lay down my sword. But if I have to, I’ll
pick it up again.