2018-11-09 05:02:30 UTC
Kitty O'Neil, Famed Hollywood Stuntwoman and Daredevil, Dies at 72
11:19 AM PST 11/5/2018
by Mike Barnes
A protege of Hal Needham, she doubled for Lynda Carter on 'Wonder Woman' and drove a three-wheeled machine to a record speed of 512.71 mph.
Kitty O'Neil, a deaf Hollywood stuntwoman, daredevil and protege of Hal Needham who doubled for Lynda Carter on Wonder Woman and set a land-speed record as the fastest woman driver ever, has died. She was 72.
O'Neil died Friday at Eureka Community Hospital in Eureka, South Dakota. Her longtime friend, former stuntman Ky Michaelson, told The Hollywood Reporter that she died of pneumonia and had recently suffered a heart attack.
Five-foot-2 and 97 pounds, O'Neil worked on such movies as Airport 1975, Two-Minute Warning (1976), Airport '77, Damien: Omen II (1978), Foul Play (1978), The Blues Brothers (1980) and the Needham-directed Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).
She accomplished her most famous Hollywood stunt in 1979 when, dressed as Wonder Woman, she plunged headfirst 127 feet from atop the Valley Hilton in Sherman Oaks onto an inflatable air bag set up on the hotel's pool deck.
"If I hadn't hit the center of the bag, I probably would have been killed," she told The Washington Post in 1979.
O'Neil was set on fire during her career and was the first woman to pull off a "cannon-fired" car roll, in which an explosive charge under the vehicle propels it to rise up and tumble over and over.
On Dec. 6, 1976, the native Texan shattered the land-speed record for female drivers, posting an average speed of 512.71 mph while piloting a hydrogen peroxide-fueled, three-wheeled machine over a 5/8th-mile straightaway in the Alvord Desert in Oregon.