- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

''The Superman Ride of Steel" slides to a stop after a stomach-churning, teeth-gritting 200-foot drop and several twists and turns at Six Flags America in Largo.

"I've ridden that [roller coaster] 20-some times and it gets me every time," says Hunter Brown, the theme park's entertainment manager and king of the adrenaline junkies.

While most 41-year-old men are hoping for a corner office with a window, Mr. Brown spends his time making loud bangs, showing co-workers how to fall off buildings without getting hurt and auditioning performers he describes as "a different breed of people."

Last Saturday was a typical workday, with Mr. Brown observing a Western stunt show at Six Flags America's Coyote Creek.

After the show filled with mock fights, falls and fake dynamite explosions Mr. Brown chats briefly with the show's "team captain," whose other jobs have included professional drag racing.

He does a quick check of gadgets and circuitry that make the explosions and smoke seem realistic.

"It's all high-tech stuff," Mr. Brown says.

Then it's on to auditions, including one for a "fire-eater," or, as job candidate Louis Dankovich describes it, a "fire manipulator."

"It's not only eating," says the 27-year-old telecommunications network technician with a Mohawk hairdo and rings in his lips, nose and eyelid. "There are a variety of things I do."

He starts his routine by twirling a baton with parrafin-fueled flames on both ends. Next, he extinguishes burning sticks with his mouth. Finally, his cheeks puff outward as he tips a bottle of a flammable fluid into his mouth. He blows out the fluid onto a burning stick, igniting a ball of flame.

"This will look good at night, when it's dark out," Mr. Brown says. "This guy's a character, isn't he? He's definitely got some personality for Halloween."

In less than 10 minutes, Mr. Brown has seen enough to be favorably impressed.

"That's good. That's what I'm looking for," he says, just before referring Mr. Dankovich to the Six Flags America personnel office.

Mr. Brown traces some of his thrill-and-spill career to a friendly neighbor named Flip Wilson from his boyhood home in California.

Mr. Brown says the now-deceased comedian, who hosted a 1970s television variety show, treated him like a son. Mr. Wilson paid the $3,500 tuition for him to attend stuntman's school when he was 19 years old and broke.

Mr. Brown's latest project as a combination of stunt coordinator and show producer is to prepare for Six Flags America's Fright Fest, a ghost and goblin special production for Halloween. The theme park is open only on weekends after Labor Day.

Mr. Brown's days as a Hollywood stuntman ended with injuries. Damaged hamstrings give him what he calls an "off-and-on" limp. His ears have difficulty filtering sounds from different sources after an "air ram" launched him into the air and a building exploded behind him on the set of a movie.

He flew 37 feet in the air, past the pads that were supposed to catch him and onto a concrete surface.

"That's what explosives can do," he says.

Other action hero accomplishments include being the two-time world jousting champion, a motocross racer, a black belt in karate and a horse trick rider and trainer.

"I was one of three people that does a stirrup drag on a horse," Mr. Brown says.

"The last guy that did a stirrup drag died," he says, referring to a movie industry colleague. "They're all calculated risks."

Word of his horse riding and training accomplishments spread as far as China, where in 1996 a theme park in Shanghai hired him to put on a medieval show.

When he arrived, he found the horses at the park were too old and feeble to withstand the five months of rigorous training required.

Instead, Mr. Brown made a 3,900-mile trip to Mongolia, which included hiring a jeep for a trek through dust storms, thunderstorms and mountain passes to find the right kind of horses.

He returned with 70 wild horses and a few Mongolian men who were equally wild.

He hired them as sword fighters and horse riders for the Shanghai theme park show.

"Since Genghis Khan left, their riding skills went down," Mr. Brown says.

They also did not understand the idea of controlling sword swings to avoid hitting other people, which led to what Mr. Brown describes as numerous "hard blocks" while he trained them.

Despite problems, the show started on time and Mr. Brown added the credit of producing the world's largest medieval show to his resume.

Not long afterward, Six Flags America hired him.

"There's nobody else in this area who does what he does," says Karin Korpowski, spokeswoman for Six Flags America.


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