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NON-PROFIT HAPPENINGS - February 2006

Stuntman's Hall of Fame
by John Hagner

John Hagner
John Hagner

It all started with a ‘dream’! And like so many others with a dream, mine was a bit unique because most of my childhood was spent wishing I could be a stuntman in the movies and on television. However, it was next to impossible way back then to pursue that honorable profession, since I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, where the definition in the dictionary didn’t explain what a stuntman is. The local downtown library only referred to stunts as party tricks and games. Stuntmen and women were not really known back East in the 1930s.

It wasn’t until I was discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1947, married and had a son that I realized that the best and only way to get in the stunt profession was to move to California. In 1958 that’s what my wife and son and I did... we sold our house and belongings and hopped a Greyhound Bus and headed West.

Shortly after we arrived and moved into an apartment, I took my 8 x 10s and began knocking on doors at the major film studios, including Universal, Columbia, 20th Century-Fox and Warner Bros. I not only took photos of me doing jumps and fights and things like that, but being a professional artist, I also took reproductions of my celebrity portraits. If I could get into the casting offices, I would show them my action shots and then would head over to the publicity art departments and present my art work. It didn’t happen overnight, but I kept on trudging ahead with my dream. Having a lot of obligations toward my family, I found miscellaneous art jobs and was able to keep up with tbose responsibilities.

Two years of knocking on doors and such, I received a phone call from 20th Century-Fox, who told me to come over to double a well-known actor, the star of television series entitled, “Adventures In Paradise,” whose name was Gardner McKay. That was the beginning of a long and challenging career as a stunt/actor.

Lone Ranger Mask

The dream was actually to found a museum and hall of fame for stunt people. In 1973, it came true. I founded the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame and Museum in Southern California. It wasn’t until 1988 that, through the good graces and efforts of Bette Stanton, who applied for and received a grant for me to move all of my col1ection and personal belongings to Moab and it was then that things really began to happen.

The doors of the Hall of Fame were opened to the visiting public in the old Mormon Church one block off Main Street (currently the MARC). It was there that we footprinted and inducted many stunt performers and held several similar ceremonies for nearly eight years, including Robert Duvall, Kris Kristofferson, Wes Studi (Geronimo), Ernest Borgnine, Billy Crystal, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Jack Palance and Harry Carey, Jr. Such stunt legends as Ronnie Rondell, Buddy Joe Hooker, Gary McLarty, and more than forty others were so honored.

In 1996, we were persuaded to relocate the Hall of Fame to a town in Washington State, but after several months of trying to make it a success there, it was decided to put my collection into storages for safe keeping. We returned from that area in 1998 and moved back to Moab where we remain.

Yakima Canutt

Working every day for a solution to returning all of the memorabilia and artifacts to Moab is a very costly undertaking and it is necessary to be able to find a facility large enough to accommodate everything to store and refurbish the inventory of irreplaceables such as saddles, boots, weapons, stunt equipment, costumes, photos, paintings and posters, films, videos and DVDs, etc.

The cost to move everything back is expensive. The Hall of Fame needs tax-deductible donations and people to assist in this enormous adventure.

We are asking for donations to the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame and can be sent to 81 W. Kane Creek Blvd. - #12, Moab, Utah 84532. Phone and FAX is 435 259-7027. Anyone sincerely interested in helping, please contact John Hagner (Founder/CEO). Our website is www.stuntmen.org.

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