post Remembering Mr. Hoy

February 22nd, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 7:09 pm

by Penny McQueen

A friend of mine died this week and my world lost some color. Bob Hoy filled a lot of roles in a 55 year Hollywood career – stuntman, actor, director, founder of the Stuntman’s Association – and was best known as Joe Butler, ranch hand on The High Chaparral. He was a cowboy, a horseman who didn’t need to whisper, and a straight-backed U.S. Marine, something you instinctively knew in five minutes despite his considerable charm. The first time I met him I made the mistake of calling him Mr. Hoy. “Mr. Hoy is my father,” he growled, pitching the words sideways. “Call me Bobby.” Like a raw recruit I obeyed, because Bobby didn’t suffer any fools and I never wanted to be one in front of him.

Bob Hoy and friends
Bob Hoy with his ‘bunkhouse gang’ in Portsmouth, Ohio, 2007. Front row: Bob Hoy, Penny McQueen, Ginny Shook. Back row: Jan Pippins, Ted Markland.

Bobby was a tougher version of Tony Curtis – waves of black hair, knife-like jawline and the ability to wear chaps like a second skin. He taught pretty-boy screen idols how to sit a horse, drank fishbowls of whiskey, dove off rooftops into cardboard boxes, all with Hollywood screen magic and a stuntman’s earthy practicality. In his late 70’s when we met, he’d long given up barrooms and high dives but retained a mop of silver hair and arresting brown eyes full of the devil. I teased him once, said he was lucky I didn’t meet him at 40. He flashed an over-baked movie-star handsome pose, brushed his silver moustache and said, ‘McQueen, what makes you think you’re good enough for me?”

Unfailingly kind to rabid fans, he indulged me when I asked him for an introduction, and ask him I did. He knew everyone – actors, directors, producers, stuntmen – and he was a legend, universally respected. I’d whine, “Bobby, I want to meet Famous Mr. Dreamy,” he’d grab my hand, we’d bypass hordes of slavering ex-teenage fans and march to the front of the line. Chances were he’d taught Mr. Dreamy how not to fall off a horse, doubled him in a dangerous take or demonstrated the youthful folly of drawing to an inside straight. So when Bob Hoy came dragging an unknown and said, ‘Hey, you need to meet McQueen, she’s our special friend,” the waters parted, hugs were offered, hands and more kissed.

He transitioned to acting back in the 70’s but never gave up stunt work. He tumbled off horses, crashed cars, jumped off buildings, dangled from helicopters, directed second units on location. At a western event I piled celebrities into a car for transport to dinner, discovered we were short on seats so hopped into the oversized hatchback. Mr. Hoy – I mean Bobby – boiled out of the front seat, furious. The stunt was unplanned and dangerous. There were no safety straps. My head was too high for the door to close. Where was the radio and mic for safety checks? We were a bunch of censored amateurs. Arms wrapped around my knees in the hatch of the car, I looked up and asked, “Does this mean I’ve been directed in a stunt by the famous Bob Hoy?”

Bob Hoy and friends sing She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
Ted Markland, Ginny Shook, Penny McQueen, Bob Hoy and Jan Pippins in 2007

“Only if you keep your goddamned head down,” he said, checking the fit and refusing to board until closing the door. We didn’t have the required director to stuntwoman radio but he made do with regular check-in shouts, then freed me himself, hand resting on my head so I didn’t knock myself out and require a medic.

Waiting in line for a celebrity dinner late one evening he grew bored playing the movie game of quoting lines from classic cinema while we guessed the title. Tired of winning he started singing, “In her hair she wore a yellow ribbon.” Soon the five of us were belting out She Wore a Yellow Ribbon while Bobby marched infantry steps, laughing when he substituted off-color lines under his breath, his public face innocent as a five year old. Fans gathered, cameras flashed. I have the photo in my office, a magic, unplanned moment and I hear his counterpoint baritone to my soprano when I look at it. “Cavalry. Cavalry. She wore it for her lover in the U.S. Cavalry.”

Bob Hoy and friends sing She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
Bob and Kiva Hoy

The acting profession is not always kind; unemployment looms with every paycheck. Over the years Bobby made hundreds of ‘Buck up, soldier’ calls to out of work actors and stuntmen. During a corporate power shuffle I lost my job. One of those jobs you love like a bad boyfriend but can’t bring yourself to leave because he’s so charming. Dazed and aimless, I received a cut to the chase phone call. “What the hell happened?” Robert wanted details, threatened to bring the bunkhouse boys on a raid, then ordered, “Listen Doll, don’t ever let the bastards get you.”

Bobby never let the cancer bastard get him. At 82 his sturdy body just got too tired to keep up the fight.

My friend died this week and the world lost some color. Goodbye Bobby. I promise to sing She Wore a Yellow Ribbon for absolutely no reason, to keep my goddamned head down and to never let the bastards get me. I’ll always miss you.

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