Former stunt double, acrobat becomes Lake Tahoe fixture
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) — South Lake Tahoe residents might know her as the woman who jumps on a mini-trampoline and blows kisses to the cars driving by.
Carol Christensen has lived in the Lake Tahoe basin on the Nevada-California border for 44 years, and for the drivers who see her on the side of the road, the fascinating life she’s lived might come as a surprise. It’s one filled with stories of acrobatics, stunts, movies, and the circus — and just like any good Hollywood story, there is a lesson in it all.
Carol, 70, grew up in Santa Monica, California, with her twin brother Darryl, sister Ronette, and brother Terry. The Ferges family performed stunts and acrobatics starting when Carol was just 6 years old.
“We had a family act until I was 14. We went to nightclubs and did our pyramids and acrobatics and tumbling for dinner shows,” said Carol on a recent sunny afternoon at El Dorado Beach.
Their signature act was a human pyramid with Carol on top. In 1956, a photo of the family performing the stunt at Muscle Beach was featured in the Saturday Evening Post.
At age 15, Carol and her siblings started touring and performing in The DeWayne Circus.
“I had my own elephant, Bimbo,” recalled Carol. “We did the trapeze, the trampoline, acrobatics and other acts with ponies.”
“Carol was really an incredible acrobat,” said her brother Darryl, who travelled around the world as a comedic trampoline act with Terry after the family left the circus. They also performed ski stunts.
Darryl would go on to teach at Inversion Gym in South Lake Tahoe for a number of years before moving down to Pollock Pines.
Together Darryl and Carol had their share of adventures, too, including a skydiving stunt in Oceanside for a TV show.
“Just like my wonderful twin brother did when we were born, he let me go first,” said Carol with a laugh. “It was my first time skydiving and I ended up in the river. Thank goodness it wasn’t very deep because I had the parachute. I was just so excited when it opened I wasn’t thinking about what I should do. And my twin brother lands right on the target. Right on it.”
“She went first so I had to go,” said Darryl. “I really didn’t want to jump out of a perfectly good plane.”
Eventually, Carol turned to stunt work in movies.
Her first movie was as a stunt double for Sharon Tate in the 1967 film “Don’t Make Waves.”
“They’ve got six or nine minutes of me jumping on the trampoline. There was enough of my blonde hair in my face that they could just keep shooting me and then of course shoot it to her face so it looked like her,” explained Carol.
She went on to do other stunt work in movies like “Brewster’s Millions” and “Star!” and the TV show “Mod Squad.”
“I did a 40-foot high dive into a big air bag in that show,” said Carol.
And when Lynda Carter’s original stunt double Kathy Lee was injured in the Wonder Woman series, Carol was one of the performers to step in. In one episode, Carol jumped between 18-story buildings on the studio lot using a mini-trampoline.
After her work for the Wonder Woman show, Carol stopped performing.
Over the years she would go on to be married six times — “I loved them all dearly,” she said — and do a range of jobs from driving a limo to running a snow-removal company in Lake Tahoe.
But later in life Carol would come to encounter a drug that would change her path.
“I got around a bad drug called meth,” said Carol, “And that’s why I do what I do today.”
“I’m showing that even a person that tried this terrible, dangerous — I mean it’s horrific what it does to our precious brains — I’m sharing to the world, you can get through it.
“I don’t care what you’re addicted to. Heroin. Cigarettes. I know that anyone can set their mind and stop anything. I’ve made so many mistakes in my life, but we have to keep loving.”
So next time you see Carol along Lake Tahoe Boulevard, jumping on her mini-trampoline, blowing kisses at cars and spreading positivity despite some setbacks, go ahead and blow one right back.
Information from: Tahoe Daily Tribune, http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/