Friday, September 2, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: Sea World superheroes water ski show—the skiers, part 2 of 10

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Introduction to subseries “Sea World superheroes show” (including list of interviewees).

Skiers, part 1 of 10—the training.

SWSH = Sea World superheroes


Which character(s) did you portray?

Al Kelley: Mostly Robin; also played Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, some super villains (Penguin, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, Captain Cold). [NOTE: I haven’t seen Mr. Freeze in any photos; Al may be confusing him with Captain Cold.]
Bill Peterson: Because I was 5’5” I could not play characters such as Batman, so I would be Robin. Also the Red Flash, Green Lantern, and the Penguin.
Bill Schwartz: Due to my small size, I tended to play Robin quite a bit. It didn’t look good to have a smaller Batman or Superman.
Carl Lipsit: Superman, Perry White, thugs, Batman—probably others but it seems a looooong time ago.
Dave Madeline: I was a boat driver. If a skier got injured, they’d put a driver into a costume until the skier got better. For myself it was a rare occurrence; [at least once] I was a Penguin. You’re more valuable as a driver.
Greg Galloway: All the male parts. If Batman was a big guy, I could play Robin. If Robin was a small guy, I could play Batman.

Jacque Cook (Kuntarich): Supergirl was my first but we all did all of them. I was the littlest so I was always on the top of the pyramid.
Jeff Parnell: Robin, Flash, Green Hornet [he later confirmed he meant Green Lantern], Penguin, Riddler. I was very young and felt silly when I played Superman.
Kerry Lloyd: Everybody but Batman. I’m only five foot four. But I had three Batman costumes for $1,500 apiece. The money they spent on costumes was remarkable. They’re stored somewhere [by Sea World]. I bet they’re in California. Everybody had three of every costume of every character!
Margie LaPoint (Bates): I can’t remember all of the superhero names but I did most all of the acts on a regular basis (except the green costume) [Mera], which was the doubles act, as I was on the big side. I did do that only a few times, but loved it all the same.
Mark Gutleben: I played Aquaman mostly because they had me do the back barefoot all the time. I fell only 11 times out of 250-300 shows. I also played Superman, Robin, Lex Luthor [NOTE: I haven’t seen him in any of the photos], Flash, Penguin.
Paula Nelson (Bloemer): Let’s see, Mera (I think you have a picture of me winking),Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Catwoman, Supergirl, and Lois Lane.

Randy Messer: Lots of Batmans, Aquamans, and Supermans. Batman was an easy ski spot but needed to be taller than Robin. Batman drove the Batboat. He would take a child for a ride. When another skier wanted to prank you, he would find a heavyset child. Batman had to carry the child across beach and place in the boat. Also in the show, Captain Cold would spray Batman with a snow-gun that was a fire extinguisher. Of course skiers loved to overdo it; Batman would be covered in white dust. My lungs are probably damaged from this fun activity. After shows, Batman, Robin, and Wonder Woman would stand outside whether it was 90 or 40 degrees and shake hands. Sometimes you didn’t have a good show, maybe falling a few times, and facing the crowd was a bit humiliating, but for the most part the kids made you feel very special.

There was one skier, Randy Jones, who was as good a Batman figure as any on the big screen.

Aquaman and Superman were in the jump act. I was the first skier to perform a gainer off the jump (skiing forward and performing a back flip). My wife Robbi (just dating back then) says she was first attracted to me when I did gainers as Superman.

A tall, skinny, red-headed skier named John Gaffey wanted so much to be Superman. His skiing skills were inconsistent but his comedic timing flawless. He was Superman once and fell in the shallow surf coming in on parade—the show opener when all the heroes were introduced. When he arose, the cape was wrapped around him, he held the black wig, his tights were down to his knees, and he was covered in sand. With a straight face, the announcer presented the Man of Steel to a dismayed crowd of kids.

Superman also played Perry White in comedy doubles. A girl jumped on your back as you skied by a dock. (The girl was often one of the trainees because it didn’t require skiing skills and in the end the girl was tossed into the water.) Girls hated seeing Lois Lane by their name on the show schedule.

No one liked doing the Flash because of the shoe ski act which never garnered much respect from other skiers even if you were good at it, and most of us weren’t and there were often falls and the following act would be coming in so if you fell you had to swim like crazy to get out of the way.

Green Lantern was fun and the costume was great because there was no mask [NOTE: photos show there was], cape, or wig—just a plastic ring. Easy skiing and you always won the jump boat race, even if your boat was not running very well.

Green Arrow was a high diver (literally, when it was [name redacted, but not Dan Poor!]). He dove from 70 feet into fire. The diver would walk in a few minutes before the show, do his one dive, then leave. We kind of envied his schedule and some skiers attempted to learn to dive.

Penguin wore a padded stomach and rubber nose. Wonder Woman would catch you and the challenge was to make Wonder Woman lose her composure as she was delivering her serious lines about her magic lasso. Many unusual comments were whispered as Penguin kneeled beside Wonder Woman.

Dick Monday, Suzanne Schwartz, Kerry Lloyd?

Steve Fontaine: In the very first show in Ohio, I was the first water ski act, portraying the paperboy. I skied by the audience screaming “Extra, extra, read all about it!” And that began the superhero show! My next act was Superman! Then at various times I played Batman, Robin, Aquaman, Green Lantern, and thugs.

Which characters did you prefer to portray and why?

Al Kelley: Robin was fun but I liked to play Penguin so I could do the beach barefoot. [This was] water skiing on your bare feet—[meaning] without skis.
Andy Hansen: Aquaman. He got to do the more difficult water ski tricks. Although Batman was the most fun because the audience’s, especially the kids’, eyeballs would pop out of their heads during the post-show autograph sessions. In my opinion, Batman had the most authentic-looking costume. Superman’s was also great, but I did not have black hair. I had to wear a dumb wig.

Betsy Maher (Hawkins): Lois Lane (the comedy act) was fun.
Bubby Snow: I enjoyed playing Superman, even though it did not require the more difficult water skiing stunts. I liked playing Aquaman because it was the more challenging water skiing stunts.
Carl Lipsit: Batman/Perry White. In those roles, you worked in a harness and/or performed lifts and other acts with a partner.
Cindy Barhoff (Clasen): I preferred Supergirl because I got to slalom and ski around the boat. I also liked Lois Lane because it was a comedy act. I was terribly shy in high school and I surprised myself when I was in that costume. New outfit…new personality!
Diane Smith: I thoroughly enjoyed being Supergirl because she seemed to best fit my size and exemplify my personality.

Either she or Wonder Woman climbed to the top of the pyramid, and I was small enough to be carried by the taller girls as “top girl.” Believe it or not, my part was easy; I did it so often that I never worried about it. Actually, the girls on whose shoulders I stood had the more difficult time because they supported my weight and secured my flag; then they helped me as I climbed down to the “middle man” who skied me to the beach while I stood on the top front of his skis. The female skiers were expected to weigh less than 110 pounds and preferably to be around 100 pounds (although for the tallest girls, who did not do the lifts, go to the top of the pyramid, or contort themselves in the magic boxes, there were exceptions).

Doby Buesse: The Penguin. A relatively easy but crowd pleasing act. You got to drive the small clown boat. You also could act silly on stage and perform the beach barefoot. The beach barefoot was a ski act. The Penguin (in an attempt to avoid the Dynamic Duo smackdown on the stage) would run down the beach and grab the ski handle, wherein the boat would take off. He would slide off the beach on his butt and then barefoot ski around the lake. After throwing the rope and sliding back up onto the beach, the Penguin would proclaim to the announcer (Jimmy Olsen) that he was the best barefoot skier in the world. This is when Wonder Woman and her “Truth Lasso” would make an appearance. “Curses, foiled again. The greatest barefoot water skier is…Aquaman.” Aquaman would take his queue and perform the backwards barefoot.
Gary Thompson (who was also a show manager): I liked the Flash for the costume, the character, and the acts in the show that he did.

Jacque Cook (Kuntarich): My favorite act was doubles, or adagio (where the guy lifts the girl above his head). That was usually Aquaman and Mera. You’d go into work and your name would have a number next to it, 1 for Wonder Wonder, 2 Mera, 3 or 4 was Batgirl, and so on; 8 was Lois Lane which was the comedy act. I mostly played more star acts. The big show was the 1 o’clock.
Jeff Parnell: Green Hornet [he later confirmed he meant Green Lantern]. It was a cool costume and you got to do cool acts like boat jumping and ski jumping.

John Gillette: Aquaman was the lead ski 1 position and did the backward barefooting, which was my specialty.
Linda Knapp (Moffett): There were quite a few that were outstanding, but for different reasons. Catwoman was fun because it was a dry act and she came in from the side of the stadium giving you a chance to stop and visit Sunja (the elephant) and check out the crowd before going on stage. Her costume was very cool with the mask, boots, and whip. It was also fun disappearing on stage—a real crowd pleaser!

A rare glimpse of Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel, Ohio;
the other is a heads-turned shot, but in color

row 1: Tom Weber, Andy Hansen, Linda Knapp (Moffett), Tom Freeburn, Karen Weber,
Sharkey Schwartz, Dave Madeline
row 2: Penguin—Mark Gutleben, Joker—Ken McCabe, Catwoman—Shirley Duke,
Riddler—Kerry Lloyd, Gary Thompson, Dave Blasko (elephant trainer)
row 3: Reyna Blasko, Wonder Woman—Kaci Whittenton (Hedstrum), Annette Botti (Hoffman),
“Bullet” Borth, Mary Marvel—Sherry Wickstrom, Captain Marvel—Randy Jones,
Supergirl—Valaree Morris, Superman—Steve Fontaine, Flash—John Macqueen,
Black Canary—Debbie Blake, Batman—Roger Hansen, Batgirl—Sheri McNary, Robin—Al Kelley,
Green Arrow—Brad Whitmore
row 4: elephant—Sunja, Tarzan—?

Supergirl was fun because you landed on the beach and talked with the announcer. The year we had the wet bike [NOTE: described as cross between motorcycle and jet ski], most of the time you landed on the beach was a real challenge. The wet bike was big and heavy and hard for the girls to handle. If you landed it on the beach too far up, you couldn’t push it back into the water—which was embarrassing because, after all, you were Supergirl. If you landed it too deep, you had to drag yourself up through deep water with a dripping wet cape.

Linda Knapp (Moffett)

Mera was fun because I liked doing doubles and her costume didn’t have an annoying cape. Wonder Woman was the crowd favorite and was the star of the show. She was awesome.

Margie LaPoint (Bates): I loved being Wonder Woman and did it sometimes but not always because Wonder Woman climbed to the top of the pyramid and I was considered big for that. I went through a starvation period in my life and got down to 110 pounds, which was the cutoff for doing both of those acts, which was why I was able to do them at all! (I do not recommend it to any young girls.)
Mary McMurtrie: Wonder Woman…I think you actually felt the power in that costume.
Paula Nelson (Bloemer): Each of the roles had their advantages and disadvantages. Mera and Batgirl had to be chopped in half—which involved lying in a cramped box on stage in the blistering summer heat while changing (actually putting on an additional costume half). At least Mera didn’t have a face mask and cape. Wonder Woman got to jump the boat through the set and save the day and also had a sort of ski solo on swivel. She was fun to play if everything went well. It certainly was a rush jumping boats. Prior to that summer, the only boats I navigated were canoes! Sometimes it was fun to play the villain, Catwoman—that is, once you got the hang of cracking a real 10’ or so leather bullwhip without zapping the audience, Blue [sic] Canary, or yourself in the face.

Shirley Duke: My favorites were Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, and Catwoman. I was awesome with the bull whip.


Suzanne Schwartz: I liked being Supergirl because the costume was cute and I liked the acts she was involved with—performing the doubles, as an example. I also like being Catwoman because the costume was slinky and sexy.

Which characters, if any, were more in demand among the performers to portray?

Al Kelley: Aquaman for the backwards barefoot and Flash who flew the kite.

Andy Hansen: Aquaman. That was the ski 1 position. It took the most water ski talent to perform.
Bill Peterson: I would say the characters that did star doubles. [NOTE: Star doubles was when an accomplished male and female skier performed a doubles routine together. The boy did lifts with the girl. Only the strongest boys got to do it. It was an honor to get this position.] It took strength, good skiing skills, and balance.

Bill Schwartz: The big stars of the show were Batman, Robin, and Superman for the men and Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl for the girls. Villains were always fun. The Joker had a big part and was a crowd pleaser. The Joker was an actor who performed only on the stage and was not a skier.
Carl Lipsit: I don’t remember competition for particular roles among the men. Some had height restrictions. I was too tall to play the Penguin or Robin.
Dave Madeline: Batman, Superman. Kids were going nuts. After the shows there were kids hanging all over the place looking for the superheroes. After a while Sea World realized this was a great op to get the PR they were looking for so they had skiers go out and rub flesh, meet the kids after the show. Now it means something. Back then we were just kids.
Doby Buesse: The acts were set up by difficulty 1-8 (1 being the hardest). Aquaman was the “1”—backward barefoot and star doubles. The Riddler was “8”—I don’t think he even got wet. The girls had difficulty scale, too, but I don’t remember it.

The scale, as Doby remembers:

1 Aquaman
2 Flash
3 Green Lantern
4 Superman
5 Batman
6 Robin
7 Penguin
8 Riddler
Gary Thompson: The stars, of course, were Wonder Woman and I suppose Batman and Robin. Superman and Supergirl were cool, and so was Aquaman and Mera, and the Joker was the best villain, along with the Penguin, Catwoman, and the Riddler.
Janalee Zimmerman (Addleman): I think Wonder Woman was the most prestigious character to play. First of all, she was gorgeous and also she skied alone as a feature in the show. She used the swivel ski and it was impressive! I did not ever play that part. The swivel ski was the same and I never did master that feat! Also, I wasn’t built tall and thin like the girl who played her was! I think her first name was Kaci. She was fabulous.

Nancy Radant Combes: Each character was attached to a specific act that required a certain talent. Some acts were more difficult than others. Black Canary was probably the easiest, then Batgirl and Supergirl, then Mera, then Wonder Woman.
Steve Fontaine: The crowd loved Batman and Robin. They also loved Aquaman, Flash, and Green Arrow.

Suzanne Schwartz: I think for the gals, Wonder Woman was probably the popular character. It was a great-looking costume and the character was very well known. Wonder Woman also got to perform solo swivel—the only solo act for the girls—so Wonder Woman was the act you’d hope for, particularly if you had friends or family coming.

Tom Weber: Aquaman. He appeared in the highest number of acts.

Did you portray any characters that you hadn’t heard of before?

[Most who answered said Black Canary, Mera, or both.]

skiers, part 3 of 10—the costumes.


Wings1295 said...

Great interviews with all! Interesting hearing the behind the scenes info. And those pics are gold!

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks CJ! I agree on all counts (I just let them speak for themselves). It's got a wonderful "Summer of '42"/"Summer of '69"/any summer sense of wistfulness, plus it's a crash course in water skiing basics!

rob! said...

Good lord, are these photos--and the whole series of posts--amazing. That shot of a winking Mera will haunt mt dreams.

Wings1295 said...

Ah, Rob, I hear ya. BTW, is Mt. Dreams underwater? ;)

Sorry, had to. I tried not to, but I had to.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Knew you'd know which pic I meant, Rob.

Unknown said...

As a child I remember coming to the show and the Joker character scaring the living daylights out of my Aunt Millie. My cousin Ronnie and I got our picture taken with quite a few of the cast.