BRAIN BEHIND THE TELEVISED BRAWN
by Ronald Simpson
Although everyone on the set of "Mission Impossible" places great confidence in the ability of Peter Lupus to undertake almost super-human feats of strength, their faith isn't always shared by the star himself.
"When you watch Willy Armitage (the character Lupus plays) on the show it all looks to be so smooth...so effortless," Peter says. "If the viewers only knew the things that go wrong!"
"One day we were simulating an earthquake and I had to tip a couple of tons of filling from a dump truck down a chute into an underground shelter."
"All I had to do was pull a lever, but Dan Blocker was over from Bonanza. We're always kidding each other and Dan was behind the camera pulling faces at me and saying 'You big muscle-bound goose.'
"I pulled the lever and collapsed with laughter. It took three or four men about a half an hour to refill the truck for the second take."
Such human infallibility, which Willy Armitage has writers to protect him from, is invariably the cause of all Peter's headaches.
He is a former beefcake king--having held titles ranging from Mr. International Health to Mr. Hercules--and is an expert stuntman and driver.
At times these qualifications inspire a blind faith. No one consulted him when it was decided to have him shoulder a crated, 110lb Eartha Kitt, a feat he somehow managed--at the cost of badly bruised shoulders.
This faith, however, is fickle. Early in the series he expertly skidded a truck across a tarmac right on to the marker, only to see the camera crew blench and disappear at the double over the lip of the runway.
But Peter does not claim an unblemished driver's record. "This day we were shooting downtown in Hollywood," he said. "I guess we had an audience of a couple of hundred people.
"You're about to see one of the best drivers there is in action," Martin Landau told them as we climbed into this portable colour studio van (worth about a million and a half dollars), that we'd borrowed from the network.
"I swung it into a tight U-turn--right into a parked car! Landau laughed all the way back to the studio, where all the network officials were out biting their fingernails.
"It was decided we'd have to reshoot the scene that afternoon. No one mentioned the damage, but suddenly all the network men were concerned for me. They figured as I had been doing so much driving that I deserved a rest..."
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