For decades, Bob Orrison and Gary McLarty worked as two of Hollywood’s most active and respected stuntmen, racing cars, jumping motorcycles and crashing trucks during filming for hundreds of movies and television shows.
On Saturday in Rancho Cordova, their lives came to a shocking end. The two buddies were killed when their pickup truck was hit broadside by a Jeep on Grant Line Road, not far from Orrison’s home. Orrison was 86, McLarty 73.
Rancho Cordova police said the pair were in a Chevrolet truck making a U-turn on Grant Line Road at Raymer Way at about 1 p.m. when they were struck by a white Jeep Cherokee traveling 55 miles per hour. “It was a direct hit,” Sacramento sheriff’s spokesman Lisa Bowman said.
The men were pronounced dead at the scene. Orrison apparently was driving, a McLarty friend, Bob McLaughlin, said. Police said the two occupants of the Jeep were taken to the hospital for treatment of moderate injuries. The crash remains under investigation.
McLarty’s wife Hillorie had dropped her husband off at Orrison’s home an hour before the crash. Given their backgrounds, the crash makes no sense, she said.
“These are people who spent their adult life doing dangerous things in a calculated way,” she said. “It defies my imagination.”
Orrison, who moved to Rancho Cordova seven years ago with his wife Tatiana, was a former rodeo cowboy and Korean War veteran who served as a movie stunt double for war hero and actor Audie Murphy. His credited and uncredited stunt work includes the original “Star Trek” television series, as well as the movies “Die Hard II,” “Rambo III” and “Days of Thunder.” He was the driver in the movie scene from “Speed” when a bus launched off of an elevated freeway, and was among the stuntmen who drove the car known as the General Lee in “The Dukes of Hazzard” television series.
“He was tough, that’s for sure,” said his sister, Mary Hunt. His wife Tatiana said, “He was very young. He didn’t feel he was old.”
McLarty, of North Hollywood, nicknamed the “Whiz Kid” for his stunt abilities, retired a few years ago after a career that spanned 40 years. He drove the motorcycle up the frat house stairs in the movie “Animal House,” and doubled as “The Fonz” for motorcycle scenes on the “Happy Days” television series.
McLarty made it in Hollywood through physical talent, creative ability, a love of adrenaline rushes and “a genuine love for people,” his wife said. His career highlights included serving as stunt coordinator for the movies “Days of Thunder,” “The Blues Brothers” and “Animal House.” Although retired, McLarty continued working part time, and recently overturned a bus on a film shoot in New York, said his friend McLaughlin.
McLarty also was a participant in a real Hollywood drama. He testified in court in 2005 that actor Robert Blake attempted to hire him for $10,000 to murder Blake’s wife. McLarty said he declined. Blake’s wife was shot in Blake’s car outside a restaurant in 2001. Blake was found not guilty in criminal court, but a civil court later determined he was liable for her “wrongful death.”
Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.