Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: Sea World superheroes water ski show—the skiers, part 6 of 10

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

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

Skiers, part 5 of 10—the mistakes.

SWSH = Sea World superheroes


Did the show involve volunteers or other audience participation?

Al Kelley: Yes, we always put a child into the Batboat for a ride around the lake. [The kids] were picked out of the audience by a member of the operations team. We also brought all the heroes on to the beach at the end of the show to meet the kids.

Andy Hansen: Kids dug [the Batboat segment] big time.
Bill Peterson: My son was 18 months when I started at Sea World so he grew up thinking his father was a superhero. He begged to ride in the Batboat when he saw the other kids doing it, but you had to be three. I think the day he turned three he got to ride. The highlight of his life, at least at three.

Bill Schwartz: Not really. But the villains did walk down the aisles [among] the audience.
Cindy Barhoff (Clasen): Lois was dressed normally and planted there.
Doby Buesse: Most kids loved [the Batboat ride]. Others cried in fear!
Kaci Whittenton (Hedstrum): I recall the warm-up act [had] an out-of-control fliver boat which would prompt audience members to help.
Randy Messer: The Batboat ride turned into a chase sequence. You had to be careful the child didn’t slide off his seat.
Steve Fontaine: We would get permission from a parent to use a pre-selected child to ride in the Batboat.

Did you do more at Sea World than perform in the show, i.e. walk the park/do appearances/meet and greet?

Bubby Snow: Two characters did meet and greet after the show and were required to sign autographs. I did participate in the 1977 Tangerine Bowl as Batman. We did appearances all the time all over Orlando. Sometimes it was people in the park that just dressed up for us. Sea World employees would represent the superheroes by dressing in our costumes for some of the exhibitions as we were paid hourly and this would [spare them from paying us] time-and-a-half.

Carl Lipsit: No, but we did do maintenance on the equipment and motors.
Sherry Satterfield Runion: Lots of public appearances. As Wonder Woman, I did a promo on horses with Batman for the Silver Spurs Rodeo. Grand Opening on a steam shovel for Florida Festival
now a Universal property off Turkey Lake Road. I was Supergirl along with other superheroes at a half-time event at the Citrus Bowlnow the Capital One Bowl.
Diane Smith: The girl who was the full-time Wonder Woman representative at that time was not a water skier. We skiers were usually needed to perform on the water. [But] for our public relations department, I did visit places around town dressed as Wonder Woman, promoting Sea World and our show; I gave out signed Wonder Woman photos and Shamu shaped pins.

Doby Buesse: I remember doing a PR meet and greet. Afterwards the handlers took us to Red Lobster. We forgot to bring a change of clothes. A little surreal, Batman and Wonder Woman sitting at a booth eating those garlic bread rolls.

Janalee Zimmerman (Addleman): I got kissed by Shamu! We would occasionally walk in the park, but as I recall, not in costume. The skiers were definitely well-respected, though.
Kaci Whittenton (Hedstrum): Before I became a water skier I worked as a “Sea Maid” for two summers. I swam in a tank with tropical fish, performed a underwater ballet in the pearl diving pool, and dove for pearls as well.
Shirley Duke: We did personal appearances to promote the park and the show. Usually it was Wonder Woman, Batman and Robin, or Superman. We wore special costumes for those appearances, i.e., we didn’t ski in them.

Did DC Comics reps attend any shows?

Linda Knapp (Moffett): We were always told that they could show up at any time to make sure we were accurately representing each character. We did meet a few of them.
Sherry Wickstrom: They did in Ohio and discovered we had two characters that were not DC characters. They had to take them out. [NOTE: One was Tarzan.]

Did people who’d portrayed a DC Comics superhero for film or TV (i.e. Adam West who played Batman, Lynda Carter who played Wonder Woman, Christopher Reeve who played Superman, etc.) attend any shows?

Andy Hansen: They didn’t tell us if they did. I am certain if Adam was there, he would have wanted my autograph. LOL.

Did other celebrities attend any shows?

Andy Hansen: The Jackson Five with parents and Donnie Osmond are a couple I think I remember.
Bubby Snow: Dolly Parton, Lou Ferrigno, Richard Simmons.
Doby Buesse: King Hussein of Jordan. He was an avid water skier.
Gary Thompson: Ronald Reagan and others.
Kaci Whittenton (Hedstrum): Bill Cosby, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and I am sure many more but don’t recall.
Kerry Lloyd: Many. Kris Kristofferson and that girl he was singing with at the time. We met Bob Hope. He was way, way, way intelligent.
Linda Knapp (Moffett): Crystal Gale.
Paula Nelson (Bloemer): Yeah, I think an actor from The Bob Newhart Show worked with us one day.
Sherry Wickstrom: In the Orlando show, they would have celebrities use our stage (floating) that put on shows. They usually watched one of our shows then took a picture with all of us. [I remember] Buddy Rich.
Shirley Duke: Ruth Buzzi did a guest appearance as Lois Lane; [that time], I portrayed her on the water skiing part. She was very personable and said I had done a great job impersonating her.
Suzanne Schwartz: Sea World had a floating stage that was parked across the lake and towed over to the beach for special concerts. Any celebrities involved with those concerts hung out in the “green room,” which was beneath the stadium in the same area as our locker rooms and offices. The green room was close to the main stage entrance and they could easily watch the ski show from there without having to go into the stands. Some of the celebrities I can remember performing were the Oak Ridge Boys, Barbara Mandrell, Minnie Pearl, Charlie Pride, Wayne Newton.

Two comely skiers, Annette Botti (Hoffman) and Betsy Maher (Hawkins),
with comedian Marty Allen


Did you feel like celebrities at the time? If so, only at Sea World or also around town? Were you ever recognized on the street or in line at the store?

Andy Hansen: Yes, around town. Not so much as superheroes because we were not in character outside of the park. However, as Sea World skiers we were often thought of as celebs. Yes, recognized a lot.
Bill Peterson: Did not feel like a celebrity except maybe when signing autographs. After leaving Sea World in June of ’79, I went on to run my own competitive water ski school for the next 25 years. I think I was recognized for that more since my picture was in a few magazines when I wrote articles on coaching and I was on TV a few times. My wife Barbara has a funny story about one time when she was shopping for the ski school food—three grocery carts full! When she wrote the ski school check, the cashier said “Wow, Bill Peterson, your husband is famous.” Barbara said “Not to me.”
Bill Schwartz: Yes, I did feel kind of like a celebrity. Mainly as one of the skiers. People were most impressed with the skiing tricks we did. As far as a “superhero” celebrity, our young fans thought we were the real thing and wanted our autographs.
Bubby Snow: No, we were not recognized as celebrities, but people knew we were skiers as we had Sea World haircuts which were given to us at the park. It was a short military style haircut that was very different from the ‘70s style.
Carl Lipsit: I think that everyone felt a bit special at the time, even though probably it was only in the confines of the park. We had clothes that were different that normal park employees, so we were identifiable. We were invited to lots of parties that the other Sea World employees hosted if they wanted to it be a bit more exciting. Ha!
Cindy Barhoff (Clasen): At times, especially when we wore our warm-ups with “Sea World Water Ski Team” on back.
Dave Madeline: At the time, Sea World had a part-time show in Ohio. In 1976 they brought the Ohio show to Florida for full-time. We would go to a bar called Draft and Cinema and see a movie for $1. The guy who owned the cinema had pictures of different Florida parks on the walls. Before the movie they would show slides of our water skiing shows. In that way we felt like celebs.
Diane Smith: I never saw myself as a celebrity (although my high school students did). I believe it was because there were others who could ski as well, or better, than I. Since we shared acts, there was no real star. One show you could be the esteemed Wonder Woman in her solo swivel, and in the next you might be Lois Lane, or a thug (though you usually were other characters as well in that same show). We would not have been recognized elsewhere because we were never introduced as ourselves.
Doby Buesse: The skiers and the animal trainers were the “glamour jobs” at Sea World. Outside of that we were just tourist attraction employees.
Gary Thompson: I suppose in the park, and we were well known around Orlando, too. Tourists who visited Sea World would recognize us outside of Sea World.
Jacque Cook (Kuntarich): No, but we did get recognized. I was constantly recognized out of costume because I was the only one with hair down to my butt. I got picked a lot as a picture girl. We were cheesecake girls. I used to do a lot of modeling for them. I laid on a walrus in a bikini. She felt like a waterbed and she was fascinated with my hair.

Jacque Cook (Kuntarich) with Ozeba (?), the largest walrus at Sea World
circa the superheroes show. For years, this and a different but similar photo of these two
were rotated in Florida tourism ads in national magazines, newspapers, and brochures.
To quote Jacque, “Come to warm, sunny Florida to see sea animals and girls in bikinis!”

Janalee Zimmerman (Addleman): I did feel like a celebrity at the time, both at home and at Sea World. The writer of our local newspaper was just about to do an article about my skiing at Sea World when the Johnstown Flood hit. To this day it’s the thing people share about me when they introduce me to someone…my kids get a kick out of it!
Jeff Parnell: Mostly just at Sea World but there was a big bar complex called Rosie O’Grady’s where we were popular with the ladies.
Kaci Whittenton (Hedstrum): No, I didn’t feel like a celebrity but like someone who was very lucky to have such a great job which kept you in good shape at the same time.
Kerry Lloyd: Yeah. You were. Your face was all over the airport.

Even sandals can’t slow down the Flash.

—Sharkey Schwartz, Supergirl—Shirley Duke, Green Arrow—Al Valdez,
—Mark Gutleben, Mera—Linda Lavoy, Green Lantern—Roland Hillier,
Black Canary
—Randi Tetrick, Wonder Woman—Sheri McNary, Flash—Brad Whitmore,
—Bill Peterson, Batgirl—Janet Shave (Rooks), Batman—Randy Jones

Linda Knapp (Moffett): Not really. We punched a clock, put on our costumes, and did our jobs. It was hard work and we made it look easy. We did receive quite a few compliments on our skiing ability and we knew that people paid to see us ski. Anyone who has water skied knows how difficult some of the acts were.
Margie LaPoint (Bates): I did not feel like I carried any fame into my real life. It was a job, and a fun job to me.
Mark Gutleben: I didn’t think too much of it. Made you feel proud of yourself, being an actor.
Mary McMurtrie: Big fish in a small pond. Sea World—we felt special.
Nancy Radant Combes: We were treated like celebrities in Ohio more than in Florida. Probably because of the small town feel up there.
Randy Messer: Mostly in the park. Skiers were a new group to the Sea World staff food chain, cutting in on the trainers’ previously uncontested top spot. Trainers and skiers had a certain rivalry, especially when it came to the Sea Maids, which was a pool of single girls in the park.
Sherry Wickstrom: No. I did go to a dentist one time who got a kick out [it]. He said he couldn’t wait to tell his kids he worked on Wonder Woman’s teeth.
Shirley Duke: We felt like celebrities at the park. Going to the cafeteria, we’d take up the whole sidewalk; people would say “There go the water skiers.” The guys always got bigger portions at the cafeteria. Of course the whale trainers were “the celebs.”
Steve Fontaine: Yes, we all felt like celebrities at the time. We sometimes did PR appearances. I was once Superman at a Girl Scouts camp; we signed autographs and shook hands with all the girls. I was on the morning television show as Batman.

Any funny/creepy/flattering fan stories? Did you get any fan letters?

Betsy Maher (Hawkins): I do remember some young girls coming to see Greg Galloway because he looked like Donny Osmond.
Al Kelley: None as a skier but [some] when I transferred to the Animal Training Department and did the Shamu shows.

Kids could bring summer memories to school...literally,
with this Sea World book cover.

Bill Peterson: When my son Kyle was in preschool, they had a day parents (mostly dads) could come and talk about their jobs. I talked Bubby Snow, another skier that played Batman, into going with me in costume—I was Robin. When we arrived they were running late with another person, so me and Batman had to go hang out at the IHOP for a while—in costume. That was pretty funny—lots of stares.

Bubby Snow: The funniest was when John Gaffey ran up on the stage as Superman and the announcer said this is the Man of Steel…but his pants [fell] down and he lost the wig. He had red hair.
Greg Galloway: Myself and a couple of other skiers got flashed by a large busted girl after one of the shows (that was cool).
Janalee Zimmerman (Addleman): The funniest thing that happened to me was the first time my parents came to see the show. My dad was a great water skier and was probably my biggest fan! I was playing Lois Lane at the time and part of her role was to buy popcorn at the stand by the stadium and go sit in the audience until Jimmy the newsboy called her down out of the stand. Then she went from the stage with a camera over to the dock to film Clark Kent on skies only to end up on his back yelling and screaming as though she didn’t know how she ended up there! It was funny. Okay, back to my dad and mom…as Lois, I went to buy popcorn and headed to the audience. Unbeknownst to my dad, I was dressed in a black wig, big chest, and lots of make up! Dad and I ended up in the popcorn line together and I walked up to him and said, “Hey, good lookin’, where are you sitting?” He replied very uncomfortably, “With my wife.” I thought he was just kidding and knew [it was] me so I teased him and followed him to his seat. Finally we sat down and he began to introduce me to my mother and I said dad it’s meeee. This whole time I thought he recognized me and he hadn’t! He turned as white as a ghost and then we laughed and laughed about it!
Jeff Parnell: If we saw any pretty girls in the crowd, us young guys would make an excuse after the show to go out and pick up skis or something. We would motion to the girls to come down and they always did. Those were some great times. Those days have been over for a long time.
Kaci Whittenton (Hedstrum): I got a few fan letters which made me giggle.
Nancy Radant Combes: We had our share of groupies that hung out. Some teenagers, some elderly, some kind of strange, but mostly nice. They would bring us pictures usually. One old couple sent me flowers when I had my daughter.
Sherry Wickstrom: When we came down to Orlando, they set up promotional TV spots down in Miami. Andy and I went. I did a kids’ show. I knocked on a fake door and asked the host and kids if anyone has seen my invisible plane. Andy did another kids’ show and the producer asked me if I would get back into costume and do the show also. I did. We were asked questions and had to ad-lib on our own.
Linda Knapp (Moffett): Some fan letters came but were addressed to a particular character, not a skier. Guys really liked the boats and would ask the boat drivers questions about them. The boat drivers, announcers, and sound personnel (and light technicians during night shows) played huge roles in the show. Even if you were the “star” of the show, you never worked alone.

Next: skiers, part 7 of 10—the relationships.

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