Rick Avery was born on April 28th in New York City, New York. Rick is most commonly known for his 40 year career as a Stuntman, Actor, Director, and author of his autobiography “A Life at Risk”.
People often say Rick Avery is “The Most Interesting Man in the World” (move over Dos Equis man), and that is for good reason. Rick has probably one of the most amazing and interesting stories I have ever heard in my life. He has been a Stuntman for almost four decades, he is a published author, Commercial helicopter pilot and instructor, airplane pilot, World Masters boxing champion, a 7th-degree black belt in Kenpo, director of many widely released action movies, ex-police officer, retired army sergeant, has a famous podcast and is a recognizable actor. Oh and I forgot to mention he does magic, plays the guitar, and has a degree in photography and journalism. This is one of the wildest profile pieces I have ever written. He is the story about the time I met Rick Avery.
Lately, I have had a craving for some excitement and wanted to conquer my fears. Call it a midlife crisis, or just a thirst for something more. Something was missing and I wanted to find out what it was. I thought about learning how to ride a motorcycle or sign-up for scuba diving lessons. I finally landed (pun intended) on becoming a helicopter pilot. I had a deep seeded fear of heights and wanted to finally face that fear. I did some research and came across the famous stunt helicopter company Four Blades Inc., which is owned and operated by none other than the legend Rick Avery himself.
Rick Avery is a jack of all trades, with over 40 years of experience in stunts, movies, directing, martial arts, and the list goes on. Rick got into the stunt business by answering an emergency call, when he was working as a police officer in Santa Barbara. Someone had jumped on the hood of a celebrity’s car and ripped the windshield wiper clean off. Avery responded to the call and chased off the perpetrator. That celebrity turned out to be none other than John Travolta. Rick casually mentioned to John that when he was not on duty as a police officer or running his Martial Arts School, he did part-time bodyguard work. (Yes Rick really did all of these things…and this was before he started working in the movie business for almost 40 years.) Rick ended up becoming John Travolta’s friend, bodyguard, AND stuntman for many years.
The more I researched Rick, the more questions I had and wanted to write an article about him.. I was blown away by Rick’s book “A Life at Risk”. Which covers what it was like to work for 40 years as a stuntman and is a must-read for anyone in the film business. I knew I had to meet him. I had to see if this living legend was everything I had read or one of those overhyped glamorized personas that can only be found in fiction. So I set up a time to interview him for this article, and yes…I was nervous.
After speaking on the phone, Rick had told me that he was training a fighter for the upcoming Las Vegas Masters Invitational Boxing tournament. Rick himself has won four World Master’s boxing championships, since winning his first major victory in 2014. He is now a trainer and a promoter for the event. The Masters is a boxing division for those age 35 or older. I wondered how old Rick Avery was, to be doing stunts for almost 40 years and getting into boxing less than 10 years ago.
I was to meet Rick at the “Superb Boxing” Gym in North Hollywood. When I walked into the gym, I was easily mesmerized. It was a modern-day boxing gym, and yet somehow had the soul of the no-frills gym from Rocky. It was filled with people hitting speed bags, jumping rope, and of course boxing. I walked toward the back looking for Rick, when I stopped momentarily to see a sparring session taking place in one of the boxing rings. I figured I might as well catch the free entertainment and see what this gym was all about. The guys were not young but still were in some of the best shape I have ever seen. They were moving lightning fast. I heard a buzzer and someone yelled “Good job Rick!” That’s when to my surprise I realized I had been watching Rick Avery the whole time. Whatever this guy’s secret to fitness was, I wanted in.
Rick came out of the ring and introduced himself. Rick had this vibe about him that is hard to explain. He gave off this sense of humbleness and was easy-going. Yet there was something deeper, you got the sense that this man had been through it all and made it to the other side. A man who lived in a state of being in the moment. Maybe that’s what happens when you attack every dream you have ever imagined. Again, he had something and I wanted to know what it was.
Rick told me to put on some sweats that he had there waiting for me and that he would give me a little training session. I immediately told him “No Way”. I just witnessed two people assaulting each other in the ring that for sure had people’s blood all over it. Rick could see the blood fill up into my face in fight or flight mode… and my body was telling me flight. He calmly told me not to worry and that I was to trust him. I calmed down and he pulled me in close. He asked me how I had found him and I told him I wanted to face some of my fears. Here I was standing in front of a man who got thrown out of buildings for a living while being set on fire.
I came out of the locker room in some workout clothes and Rick wrapped up my hands. I was out of my element and my fear of getting punched in the face had become a not so distant future. Rick told me a story about one time at his Karate School in Santa Barbara, a giant crazy man came into his gym and attacked him. They ended up in a real fight to the death situation. Rick eventually hit the gentlemen over the head with some nunchaku, after he had been hit over the head with a wooden training sword. The guy went to the hospital, then the mental ward. (I know what you are thinking… Yes, this is a true story.)
Rick invited me into the ring and said “We are going to do some light sparring”. This is the guy who was out for blood 10 minutes ago. What ended up happening was quite remarkable. Rick taught me some boxing moves and taught me how to actually fight. I think about it now and realize, I have never really been in a fight. That was what was scarier than anything to me. We did end up doing some light boxing and he did land a couple of punches to show me what it was like. Surprisingly, after that quick 10-minute lesson… I’ll admit I felt less afraid.
After our boxing session, we chatted in the parking lot. I wanted to know how a man could accomplish all of these insane things and really go after everything in life with full force. Rick answered “I look for growth and a set of challenges and once I achieve those challenges and that growth, I move onto the next challenge. I have to grow, always looking for new experiences. If I have nothing going on, I am bored as hell. It’s a curse and a blessing. It’s a gene in my body. My father had it, my mother had it, to constantly improve themselves. That ethic that I have has gone onto my children as well. They are constantly striving for more. It’s a blessing because you get to live life. I have always said when you die and you are laying in your coffin and you have nothing left but your memories for the rest of infinity. You better have a lot to think about.”
Rick offered to drive, I looked around and there was no mistaking his car. It looked like a stuntman’s car. He drove a brand new Chevy Corvette. It was a thing of beauty. Could this guy be any cooler? He would probably sweat ice cubes if he was. Rick drove us to the airport hanger where he told stories about his past and mentioned that he still does stunts at his age.
Even after doing stunts for almost 4 decades, he still is in the game. And after watching him in the ring, he still has many decades left. Which made me ask, how he still is in such amazing shape after all of these years. He responded “I have always been a physical person, whether it’s wrestling, bodybuilding, karate, or boxing. Still to this day I work out every single day. Every single day. I typically eat what I like. I even eat one donut every morning. But I work out every single day.”
We pulled up to the hanger and I saw a group of Helicopters ready and waiting to be flown. I immediately felt a sense of apprehension and anxiety. Rick could see I was suddenly nervous. He said “It’s not going to be like a rollercoaster ride. You are going to love it and want more after we land. Trust me, you are in good hands”
Rick had told me about how he got into flying Helicopters. It started when he got his private pilot’s license for airplanes. Which led to him helping a fellow stuntman with a stunt on “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai”. From there he actually volunteered to help low income people get emergency transportation to medical facilities. But that wasn’t enough for him, so from there he earned his helicopter pilot’s license and started doing stunt and camera work with helicopters. Such things as flying under bridges while following stunt cars. Then he got in on the real life action by working for the news as a helicopter pilot. This involved following high speed police chases, etc. And yes… he didn’t stop there either. He even volunteered to drop water on California wildfires. Rick Avery doesn’t play around.
Finally, it was time. I was all buckled up in the helicopter. My hands were sweaty and there was a state of internal panic. Rick started the engine. The sound was thunderous and shook my seat. Rick asked if I was ready and up we went. I watched as the ground slowly drifted further and further away. With the help of Rick, I was finally doing it, I was facing my fear head on.
We flew around the city of Los Angeles and went past the Hollywood sign to the ocean. It was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. There was a feeling that is hard to convey with written words. Being in a helicopter is different from being in an airplane. You are “floating” and not flying. Rick looked at me and said do you want to take the stick. I nervously grabbed the stick as we hovered there for a moment. My panic faded as we watched the sunset behind the ocean on the horizon. In that moment, I felt a sense of calm and serene I don’t recall having felt before. Fear was nowhere to be found in that moment.
After we landed, Rick drove me back to the boxing gym where the day had started. I kept thinking there was a lot that I had learned that day. I had finally begun my own journey of becoming a helicopter pilot. Rick showed me that the fear was truly only in my mind and can be controlled. One step at a time, I just had to start the journey. I mean I couldn’t believe it, I actually flew a helicopter, and with no other than the legend himself…Rick Avery!