Midco Sports Magazine – 8.4.15 – Kitty O’Neil ‘Faster Than Fear’


Theme Welcome back, Kitty O’Neil has spent a
lifetime running ahead of the pack…she’s been a model for a Barbie doll she’s
been a stunt woman in Hollywood and she is a world speed record holder. Jay Elsen has her incredible story. Nestled into the landscape of north central South Dakota
is a small town with a unique name. As it’s posted population suggests lightly
traveled streets and sidewalks are as normal in Eureka as the annual wheat
harvest. Socially this place is about as far away from the glitz and glamour of
Hollywood as a person can get and that’s just fine for one of the town’s
highest-profile residence unlike most people in you Eureka, Kitty O’Neil’s story
didn’t start here considering the roads she’s traveled and
the fall she’s taken not many could have guessed it would end up here either O’Neil wasn’t reconnecting with roots
or chasing some job. She just wanted peace and quiet. The opening chapter of Kitty’s story set the tone for her
improbable journey…she was born on March 24 1946 in Corpus Christi Texas. Five months later life took its first turn. Despite her hearing loss
O’Neil’s mother was determined to give her daughter a normal childhood she
refused to let Kitty learn sign language and instead helped her develop and
understand speech through lip reading she also encouraged her daughter to
remain active so when Kitty began showing an interest in diving she was prepared
to do anything to support her. in 1962 Kitty and her family moved to Anaheim
California so she could train with two-time Olympic gold medalist Sammy
Lee. It was under his tutelage that O’Neil became one of the top young
divers in the country. By 1964 she was training for the Olympics herself. When her
life changed course once again. She’d end up doing a little of
everything but her first real dose of adrenaline came in 1970, when she set the
women’s water skis speed record at a hundred and four point eight five miles per hour The emotion the feeling that you had
when you set a record how did that feel to you? From there Kitty’s quest for thrills intensified. She dabbled in motorcycle and
off-road racing, even competing in some of the sport’s most grueling events such as
the Baja 1000 and Mint 400. But it wasn’t long before her unending desire to go
bigger led her in yet another new direction. In the mid-nineteen seventies
she met a man that would eventually help vault her to celebrity status. That man was
Hal Needham and he happened to be the top stunt man in
Hollywood. Not only did he Needham get Kitty into the movie business
he also helped her become the first woman to join Hollywood’s most exclusive stunt
group, Stunts Unlimited. It was at that point that O’Neil’s career really, and quite literally
blew up. From car crashes to explosions to death-defying falls, O’Neil made a living
laughing in the face of fear. Movies like Airport 77, Smokey and the Bandit 2 and
the Blues Brothers. TV series such as Baretta, The Bionic
Woman and Wonder Woman…all of them put Kitty in some sort of precarious
situation but she never backed down no stunt was too big. Kitty may not have approached a stunt with any kind of fear but that
doesn’t mean she was never afraid. In August 1977 she became the fastest woman
on water, when she piloted a jet powered boat named ‘Captain Crazy’ to a record
speed of 275 miles per hour, but once was enough. Ironically Kitty’s closest call would
occur on land less than a year later. In March of 1978 she
climbed behind the wheel of this rocket powered Corvette funny car for a TV
special called ‘Super Stunt 2.’ Which was narrated by golden globe-winning actor
Rock Hudson, he along with a national TV audience watched as Kitty’s run came to a very
violent end. Fortunately they didn’t all end like
that. In fact two previous turns behind the wheel were extremely successful on June
7th 1977 Kitty clocked the quickest quarter mile in history at 3.22 seconds
with a top speed of four hundred and twelve miles per hour but it was the
record she set just six months earlier that would be her most celebrated
achievement. In December of 1976 Kitty climbed into the
cockpit of the hydrogen peroxide powered three-wheeled rocket known as the SMI
Motivator. On her first attempt, she ran an average speed of 512.710
miles per hour shattering the previous record for women
by 200. But Kitty would never reach those speeds again. In fact she slowed down
considerably she retired from the stunt and land speed
business in 1982 and ultimately made the move to Eureka eleven years later. A
quarter of the town’s Pioneer Museum now holds the pieces that remain from her
former life. It was in this very spot that Kitty was introduced to the latest
land speed sensation, another woman with South Dakota ties. And you had a visitor last year,
Jessi Combs… and she came up here to tell you that she’s gonna try and break
that record what do you think about that Joined by Jay Elsen and alright when
when is Jessi gonna try to break Kitty’s record? Well a couple of months ago when we first
talked to Kitty, we weren’t sure… she hadn’t really officially announced those
plans yet but since then she has come out and said September’s the time that’s
what she’s gonna go for it if she gets it she will be the quote-unquote Fastest
Woman in the World and that’s a big deal in the land speed community because
Kitty has held this particular record for such a long time. Alright, thanks man. Our thanks to Kitty O’Neil to Austin Handley and everyone involved with the
whitewater project in Manchester and in Sioux Falls. Thanks for watching Midco
Sports Magazine. This has been Midco Sports Magazine
presented by Scheels and Sanford orthopedics and sports medicine

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18 Comments
  1. SNYPERWULF

    I cant understand why so little views? This is an amazing woman!!

  2. Seymore Hynee

    my idol !!! d:)

  3. Enco Encomen

    I got to meet Kitty in the mid 70's. I was a fan of her's. She was a real Wonder Woman to me. Then one day she disappeared from the spotlight. I understand her wanting to live a quiet life. I always wondered what happen to her. I'm glad to see she's well.

  4. Patty J

    I saw the movie years and years ago and loved it and now I'm wondering what has happened since then

  5. bullitt01536

    we need more girls like her! what an inspiration!

  6. Gary Green

    Hi Midco!  I'm really trying to track down Kitty for a land speed documentary set to air this summer.  I'm a producer in Los Angeles working for Pilgrim Studios.  Was hoping Tom or his producing team might be able to put me in contact.  Tried just about everything and so far no luck.  Would appreciate at [email protected]  Thank you!

  7. Joe Valdrighi

    Being deaf is never a handicap to Kitty O'Neil .. Being a woman was . Who knows what she could a really done if she was allowed to . I'm glad she's not forgotten

  8. Waldo Stakes

    Kitty was the real super girl and Wonder Woman. Mind blowing courage and lightning reflexes. We will miss you Kitty. Well see you training the angels in heaven. God bless you.

  9. arealmench

    News of her death on 11/2/2018 brought me here.

  10. troynov1965

    RIP Kitty you were a amazing person ………………..Godspeed.

  11. DeborahLT1957

    Kitty was badass. Rest well, lady.

  12. Chris Ryan

    R.I.P Kitty, you are the G.O.A.T.

  13. Stephen O'Brien

    Saw her turn a 4.98 e.t. in a rocket car at the Fremont Dragstrip.
    RIP Kitty. A true American hero.

  14. J Hutch

    I am here because Jessi Combs was killed on 08/27/2019 in her attempt they talk about in this video. Sad.

  15. racerx143

    RIP Jessi Combs and Kitty, I ended up here researching Jessi who was killed this week trying for the record. 2 total bad asses.

  16. Swaggerjack Productions

    Legend

  17. kohlllll

    RIP Kitty and Jessi. Such amazing women.

  18. Silas Marner

    RIP to both of them.

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