The Stuntwoman

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From the upcoming book, The Stuntwoman: The True Story of a Hollywood Whistleblower, by David Robb, with Julie Ann Johnson.
July 16th, 2012

© 2012 Julie Ann Johnson, All Rights Reserved.

Stuntwomen are some of the bravest women in America. They risk their lives every day to make films and television shows more exciting and entertaining. But Julie Johnson was the bravest of the brave. Julie was not only a pioneering stunt coordinator in the days when very few women held that position, but she was also a crusading champion for women's rights in a business long dominated by men.

"The Stuntwoman" is the inspirational story of a little girl who overcame a Dickensian childhood and then rose to the top of her profession, doubling for some of Hollywood's biggest stars, and battling Hollywood's glass ceiling all along the way.

Julie's roller-coaster life story – her loves and heartaches, the thrill of breaking into show business, and her exciting behind-the-scenes accounts of some of the most memorable stunts in Hollywood history – is interwoven between scenes from her sensational sex discrimination case, which pitted her against the most powerful man in the television industry – Aaron Spelling.

The year 1980 was an eventful one: John Lennon was assassinated in New York City; strikes across Poland heralded the coming fall of the Soviet Union; 52 Americans were being held hostage in Iran; Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, and cocaine abuse was sweeping Hollywood.

Johnny Carson even joked about it while hosting the 1981 Academy Awards show.

"The biggest moneymaker in Hollywood last year," he quipped, "was Colombia – not the studio – the country."

"The Blues Brothers" was released in 1980, and during filming, cast and crew were free to snort all they coke they liked; it was piled high in bowls for them on the set – like M&Ms or peanuts.

And in Los Angeles that year, comedian Richard Pryor nearly burned himself to death while freebasing cocaine.

"The Stuntwoman" is set in Hollywood against this backdrop, in the last, freewheeling days of disco.

It's the story of a brave stuntwoman who battled the coke epidemic sweeping Hollywood's stunt community – not because she was a prude, but because of her legitimate concerns about the safety of stunts she was coordinating on one of the biggest hit shows of the 1970s – "Charlie's Angels." And when she complained after nearly being killed in a stunt by one of Hollywood's "Cocaine Cowboys," she was fired.

For her troubles, she was ridiculed, blacklisted and threatened by the Mafia. When she sued, her attorney swore under oath that he'd been so afraid of being murdered that he intentionally sabotaged her case – on orders from the mob.

But through it all, she persevered. And in the end, she prevailed.

© 2012 Julie Ann Johnson, All Rights Reserved.

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