We should have a deeper appreciation for underwater ‘Baywatch’ stunts

Illustration showing a stunt performer suspended in a harness to make it appear as if he is being thrown from a burning car.
The Times Utility Journalism Team writes a regular feature, Explaining Hollywood, that explores how to get started in careers in front of and behind the camera.
(Juliette Toma / For The Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Sept. 29. I’m Ada Tseng, assistant editor on the Utility Journalism Team, which you were introduced to in Tuesday’s newsletter. On Wednesday, you heard more about our mental health coverage.

Today, I want to tell you about Alex Daniels, a veteran stunt performer and coordinator who was David Hasselhoff’s double on “Baywatch” — the classic action drama about lifeguards who patrol the beaches of Los Angeles.

He, along with a handful of other stunt professionals, chatted with me for my story about how to get a job performing stunts in Hollywood. It’s part of our Hollywood careers series, a Company Town project in which we share advice from industry professionals about how to break into the entertainment industry.


When we think about people working in Hollywood, it’s easy to focus on the actors, writers and directors. But anyone who stays for the credits of a film knows the list of people who help make a movie is very long.

And if you live in California, you know people who work in the industry. You know it can be confusing. You know some of your friends struggle to pay the bills. You know rejection and instability can be brutal for people’s mental health.

When we think about how to be useful on the Utility Journalism Team, we think about how we can fill information gaps. And professionals like Daniels, former president of the Stuntmen’s Assn., are often happy to share their honest advice — and fun stories.

One of Daniels’ memorable stunts was a fight under a boat with Brian Keaulana, a respected surfer and water stunt coordinator who played himself on “Baywatch: Hawaii.” But for this scene, Daniels was doubling Hasselhoff (who of course starred as Mitch Buchannon), and Keaulana was doubling Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who played the criminal Mason Sato.

The characters were holding on to the bowline of an approximately 40-foot boat while it was moving. Daniels and Keaulana were in harnesses attached to the boat and to each other. They had to hold their breath, go under the boat, fight underwater and then at some point hit a quick release that would make them jet dangerously close to the propeller of the boat. And that’s when (spoiler alert) the Mason character gets chewed up by the propeller.

“I’m going like, ‘I’m not sure about this, but I know Brian. I’ve seen him rescue people. I know that he’s saved people from drowning. So I’m just going to know that if I’m in trouble, he’s going to help me,” Daniels said.

By the time they were done, they were completely out of breath but laughing underwater.

This is one of my favorite parts of my job. Each time I get to do a deep dive on a different career — whether it’s how to become a costume designer, location manager, production designer, music supervisor or more — I gain a new appreciation for each of the industry’s unique crafts. And I hope you do too.


And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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L.A. moves closer to lifting its pandemic-related moratorium on evictions. Under the plan advanced by a City Council committee, L.A. landlords will be allowed to evict tenants starting in February for unpaid rent and other reasons, even if the tenants have been affected by COVID-19. Los Angeles Times

Meanwhile, L.A. County supervisors propose permanent rental protections. The county staff is analyzing two proposals that would provide assistance to renters and small landlords who hold off evictions, among other interventions. Los Angeles Times

Coolio dies at 59. The rapper who grew up in Compton was best known for the 1995 single “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which won the 1996 Grammy for best solo rap performance and was nominated for song of the year. Los Angeles Times

A historic Hollywood studio with roots in the silent movie era is about to make a comeback. The insatiable demand for streaming video content is fueling a $600-million renovation at Television Center. Los Angeles Times


BTS as therapy is a thing. Korean Americans are seeking more mental health help than ever before, with one Koreatown clinic seeing its number of clients nearly double over the last four years. Los Angeles Times

Asian Americans, how do you talk about your mental health? Reporter Phi Do shares how it was hard to talk to her Vietnamese immigrant dad about anti-Asian hate. She asks whether anyone else also struggles with language barriers, trying to find terms that could fully express how you feel. Los Angeles Times

Check out "The Times" podcast for essential news and more

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re seeking a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse set of reporters from the award-winning L.A. Times newsroom, delivers the most interesting stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


Gov. Gavin Newsom signs bills to turn vacant commercial buildings into housing. The measures, which resulted from a hard-fought compromise among labor groups, builders and lawmakers, give incentives to convert empty big-box stores, strip malls and offices into homes, including affordable units. Los Angeles Times

In other notable bill signings, Newsom approved measures this week requiring companies with 15 or more workers to reveal the pay range for the jobs they’re trying to fill (Los Angeles Times) and making it easier for farmworkers to unionize (Los Angeles Times). Columnist Anita Chabria weighs in on how Newsom badly misjudged the United Farm Workers’ clout. (Los Angeles Times)

Candidates should stop the incessant fearmongering pleas for campaign cash. Op-ed writer David Ulin learns the hard way how candidates try to squeeze more dollars out of donors. Los Angeles Times


A bump in booze costs. Retailers will start charging a 10-cent deposit on bottles of wine and liquor on Jan. 1, 2024, under a bill Newsom signed into law this week. Mercury News

Wineglasses, bottles and some papers on a desk.
A selection of wines is displayed at Augustine Wine Bar in Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 2020.
(Silvia Razgova)


Six people were wounded in Oakland during a shooting at a campus shared by three K-12 schools. Mayor Libby Schaaf decried lax gun policy after a particularly violent week in her city. “The unbridled access to firearms in our country is inexcusable,” she tweeted. Los Angeles Times

Arrests made in PnB Rock shooting. Federal authorities have detained a woman and a teenage boy in Lawndale in connection with the rapper’s shooting death this month, a Los Angeles Police Department captain said Wednesday. Police are still looking for the boy’s father, who is also a suspect. Los Angeles Times

Gruesome Northern California case. A Chico man who lived with the body of his dead roommate for four years was charged with stealing his money by writing dozens of checks on his account, prosecutors said. Los Angeles Times

San Francisco gets tough on fentanyl. Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins says she may seek murder charges against people who sell lethal doses of fentanyl. San Francisco Chronicle


A Santa Monica judge denied Bill Cosby a new trial. His appeal came in a civil lawsuit brought by Judy Huth, who accused Cosby of sexually abusing her when she was a teenager in 1975. A jury awarded Huth $500,000 in June. Los Angeles Times

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Of course there’s a “Pulp Fiction”-themed NFT, the “Royale With Cheese.” And naturally, there’s a fight over it and the Royales that were supposed to follow. Variety

That’s not a chunk of old wood. It’s a piece of history. Disneyland is selling 45 keepsakes fashioned from the remnants of two trees that once stood at the entrance to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The price is $6,500. Los Angeles Times

A slice of wood with golden objects attached to it.
Disneyland’s “The Pirates of the Caribbean Heritage Timeline.”
(Disneyland Resort)

New state rules will soon give street food vendors a way to operate legally. Doug Smith, the supervising senior staff attorney at Public Counsel, offers some advice on how to comply. L.A. Taco


Eight bike trails that teach you about L.A. as you ride. That would be “Greater Los Angeles,” because the starting points of the trails range from Sylmar to Huntington Beach. Los Angeles Times


How hard is it to retire in this state? The Times offers a package of stories today about retirement finances, including pieces asking whether most working Californians can even afford to call it quits and whether the state’s public pension funds are heading for a crisis. Yikes!

Meanwhile, columnist Michael Hiltzik warns about the endless political threats to Social Security. But it’s not all bad news! Consider these installments if you’re making plans now for your final days at work:

Why gasoline prices are climbing again in California. It’s not Russia’s fault this time — it’s refinery issues that threaten to squeeze supply for weeks. San Francisco Chronicle

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Los Angeles: 87 and sunny. San Diego: 77 and mostly sunny. San Francisco: 73 and partly cloudy. San Jose: 80 and partly cloudy. Fresno: 91 and partly cloudy. Sacramento: 87 and partly cloudy.


Today’s California memory is from Rick DeGolia:

I grew up in Long Beach close to the ocean. One of my best memories is looking east on a clear day (there weren’t too many in the ‘60s) and seeing Mt. Baldy sticking up into the clouds. It was both beautiful and tantalizing. Then one August my parents took my brother and me to stay in a cabin on Mt. Baldy next to a little creek. Up the road was the Mt. Baldy ski hill. We learned to ski that week, skiing down the slope on straw. I have no recollection of how that worked.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)


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