I began working as a stunt double for Crawford Productions through Lee Larner's Agency back in the 1970s. I turned up for an audition with Crawford's on the pretext of being an actress. The performance was abysmal but I had a series of photos showing stunt work and left them with the Crawford interviewers. I also left photos at Lee Larner's Agency in St.Kilda and within the week I was on their books. I didn't have a telephone so they'd send telegrams to call me in.
As the stunt work came in fits and starts I also worked for Employment Agencies doing "regular" jobs on the understanding that they'd be flexible when a telegram turned up. I was never interested in acting; in my ignorance I saw stunts as requiring more skill and having a higher excitement quotient. Truth is, I couldn't act. In "Violent Thursday" I was knocked on the head, mouth taped, and hands tied. When the assailant let go of my hands, my arms were still in the air despite me being "unconscious".
Actual injuries during my Crawford's time were negligible. One show I drove a car while a crew member crouched in the back seat with a rifle; on cue, he shot out the windscreen to simulate a shot coming in through the screen. I had to push the shattered glass out to see where I was driving and now have a memorial scar on the palm of my hand from embedded glass, and my right ear still rings from the blast. Earlier, there had been a shockingly tragic incident involving a cameraman and a stunt driver; caution was heavily practiced thereafter. Stunts ranged from fights ("You Think You've Got Troubles"), being thrown out of a moving vehicle ("And Pigs can Fly" Division 4: photo above), and some car stunts (though more often than not the Melbourne Police Force moonlighted on shows such as "Division Four").
One time the brakes burned out on the MG I was driving while the soundman collected atmos. The wire netting of a tennis court took the brunt of that incident. Another time someone leaned against the motorcycle we were using for "When in Rome" (Division 4: photo above) and busted the gear lever. That was a nice easy call-back. Tony Sprague was my stunt partner on that show; I rode pinion as "Sam" the bag thief who comes a cropper at the end. On one show the pram I was pushing along the road was decimated by a hit and run. Props department must have had trouble finding a pushchair because we destroyed a very nice collectable wicker pram that day. Another time I had to strap on a pregnancy bump and suffer the consequences of yet another hit and run. Screenwriters were tough on babies that year. But for the sheer rottenest of accidents none compares with that of the Crawford's trailer that rolled and was redecorated by its latrine contents.
There were however some refined moments. The Crawford's crew consisted of generous and convivial souls; there'd be wine tasting at pubs and get-togethers at so-and-so's house. And there was the Crawford's Ball, which I attended in 1971 - significant personally as it was my first ball. "Gloria" was sung repeatedly that night, for some inexplicable reason. Part of the entertainment was the screening of Crawford bloopers, including a scene with a prominent "cop" identity trapped by a seat belt that wouldn't unbuckle. That year he took it good naturedly and didn't walk out as he had done previously.
I left Crawford's to work in the USA where I filmed a high fall segment with Chuck Connors, toured with the Mustang Helldrivers (car crash artist) and the Dodge Daredevils (motorcycle stunts), and returned to Australia as part of the thwarted Michael Edgley "Evel Knievel" production which wound up in Melbourne in 1979. Dale Buggins (1961-1981) was part of the crew: he was a lovely, lovely fellow who met a tragic end. I went on to work in radio, in Austin, Texas, and screenwriting in the US. There's a certain amount of gafawing and stigma attached to being a "fall girl" as opposed to being an actor. An ungenerous perception is that people who engage in risk behavior fall slightly below the national IQ average, whereas I'd always seen the work as a fun way of capitalising on sporting ability and quick reflexes.
1st November 2010