|Spanky Spangler prepares to leap from a helicopter in a past stunt.|
Most people would not consider leaping from a narrow beam inside at the top of Tim's Toyota Center onto a small air bag 70 feet below - and on fire - to be a good idea.
But most people are not world-renowned stunt man Spanky Spangler, whose name is on three Stuntman Halls of Fame.
The man's done this kind of thing a few thousand times. Traveling around the world 16 times, he's performed more than 22,000 stunts.
"Somebody has to do it," he joked.
He rattled off countries and continents where he's done stunts, ending with "and - Prescott Valley!"
He first performed here when then Chamber of Commerce director Lew Rees invited him to serve as parade Grand Marshal for Prescott Valley Days, years ago. Since then, he's leaped from various heights in the Entertainment District, both as a favor to his good buddy Rees, who still organizes all sorts of entertainment for the community, and because he likes the area.
"Growing up in Phoenix, I spent a lot of time in Prescott and Payson, visiting my aunts, so it's a big part of me," Spangler said.
He's a big part of Arizona, too. Sept.13 is the state's official Spanky Spangler Day.
Spangler said he knew growing up he would be a Hollywood stuntman. But first he threw himself into all sorts of youth sports and then became a paratrooper and the youngest Green Beret to date.
A member of the 101st Airborne in Vietnam, he jumped out of helicopters with the 6th Special Forces and rappelled off the sides of buildings.
"It was pretty easy and fun, but only because we were trained and had the right equipment," Spangler said.
But every stunt presents a risk, even for a trained daredevil, and Spangler suffered a serious injury doing a car jump a couple of years ago that has slowed him down.
"It's still a stunt and anything can go wrong," he said. "My days of doing the high jumps, up to 300 feet, are done."
His son, Bryan, 32, now is doing the high falls. He's earned the moniker, Spanky Junior.
Bryan has been working on his craft for the past 10 years, despite his dad trying to talk him out of it. (Do as I say, not as I do, Spanky?)
"I don't want him to do stunts, and I'd like him to come along a little slower and really learn. It can become really dangerous. It's a tough game, with a lot of science involved," Spanky Senior said. "But he wants to do stunts."
Spangler's current project is a History Channel show called American Daredevil, which will begin airing in August.
"We have five shows in the can and will be doing 16," he said. "I travel and do some stunts."
He said everything will have to be right on cue for this Friday's fire-engulfed jump, which provides only a 12-minute window during the hockey game's intermission.
"I'll be standing on a beam with a wire crossing in front of me, so there's not a lot of room to work," he said.
He explained he usually spreads his arms for balance, but will need to keep them tucked until he clears the wire. Then he will have only hundredths of a second to execute a three-quarter flip and land on his back on the air bag. Timing is everything.
"It's a short jump, so I'll probably be on fire in the bag," he said. "Higher jumps usually put the flame out before I hit the bag."
It's also the first time he's used this particular small air bag, but since he helped design it, he's not worried, even though it's been a year since he's done a high jump.
"I'll be on fire for the Sundogs," he said, adding, "Don't try this at home."