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High-risk family

Laura Sturza

Someone overhearing stuntwoman Julie Michaels’ morning send-off of

her husband, stuntman Peewee Piemonte, might be thrown for a loop --

or a triple flip in a speeding car.

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“Honey, what are you doing today?,” Michaels asks.

“Oh, I’m doing a full [body] burn and I’m getting hit by a car,”

he replies.

The Burbank couple met in 1991 when Piemonte was the stunt

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coordinator for the film “Dr. Mordrid.”

Michaels was an actress in the film, and having appeared in more

high-profile films like “Point Break,” became the victim of a

stalker. Piemonte suggested a less visible career and said her

athletic ability would lend itself well to becoming a stuntwoman.

“I really love the humility of it ... it’s a way to contribute to

the entertainment industry and nobody knows you’ve been there,”

Michaels said.

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The family made Burbank its home, attracted to the city’s

“outstanding Police and Fire Department” and school system, Michaels

said. Piemonte also likes their proximity to the studios and

Burbank-Glen- dale-Pasadena Airport, since their work can involve

travel.

Piemonte relishes the chance to map out a stunt and safely create

the illusion of mayhem on the screen. But the work poses risks.

"[It’s] not out of the norm for one of us to say, ‘I’m at the

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hospital and I’m pretty busted up,’ ” Piemonte said.

In 1998, Michaels broke her back jumping from a two-story building

while working as Pamela Anderson’s double on “V.I.P.”

Recovering from the accident, as well as giving birth to son

Vincent a few years before, led her to intensify her training as a

martial artist and all-around stunt performer.

“I’m probably the strongest I’ve ever been,” Michaels said.

The couple’s leaps off tall buildings are buffered by their faith

as devout Christians, Michaels said.

“Watching my husband drive a car and flip it 100 feet through the

air, and knowing he’s going to walk away ... it intensifies my faith

in God,” Michaels said.

Each performs stunts of that level about four times each year.

They are paid a daily or weekly rate for their work, with a bonus for

riskier stunts and ones that must be performed several times. Careers

for stuntwomen generally last until they are about 40, but men can

continue until they are 80 since they can wear padding under their

suits, while a woman in a skirt cannot, Michaels said.


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