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Kitty O'Neil
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    (March 24, 1946-November 2, 2018)
    Born in Corpus Christi, Texas
    Stuntwoman and auto racer
    Performed stunts in The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, ‘Airport ’77,’ ‘Damien: Omen II,’ ‘Foul Play,’ ‘Smokey and the Bandit II’ and ‘The Blues Brothers’
    Set a female record by falling 180 feet onto an inflated air bag (1980)
    Set the female speed record on land (512.7 miles per hour in 1976) and water (275 mph, 1977)
    Set a women’s water skiing record at 104.85 mph (1970)
    Portrayed by Stockard Channing in the TV movie ‘Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story’
    She gave up diving, saying it ‘wasn’t scary enough’ and took up water skiing, scuba diving, hang gliding and skydiving instead.
    She said that only about half of the TV movie of her life was accurate.
    A friend noted that even when she was not setting speed records, ‘She scared the heck out of me. She was a pretty reckless driver.’
    She lost her hearing at five months of age after contracting measles and chicken pox.
    She learned to play piano and cello by feeling the vibrations created by different notes.
    She was coached in diving by Olympic gold medal winner Sammy Lee and won several Amateur Athletic Union competitions.
    She was expected to compete at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics until she broke her wrist then developed spinal meningitis shortly before the Olympic trials.
    She was the first woman to join the elite agency Stunts Unlimited (1976).
    She credited her small size – 5’2 tall, 97 pounds – for her ability to withstand the g-forces from her stunts.
    Mattel marketed an action figure of her (1978).
    Her 1976 mark was still the women’s land speed record at the time of her death.

Credit: C. Fishel

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