Kenny Powers (stuntman)
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Kenneth Marion Powers|
July 9, 1947
Landrum, South Carolina
February 28, 2009 (aged 61)|
Kenneth Marion Powers (Kenny Powers) (July 9, 1947 – February 28, 2009) was an American stuntman. Powers was born to Edward Lee and Florence Pauline Powers in Landrum, South Carolina, on July 9, 1947. He grew up in Landrum, which is in the Blue Ridge Mountains area near the border with North Carolina. After high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and served as a barber in the Navy according to his DD 214. He died at the Hampton Veterans Center in Hampton, Virginia on February 28, 2009. He was married to Beverly Powers at the time of his death.
St. Lawrence River jump
He is best known today for his unsuccessful October 1979 attempt to jump the Saint Lawrence River in a rocket-powered Lincoln Continental, where he took the place of stuntman Ken Carter. He suffered significant injuries including a broken back, but survived.
Carter's years of planning for the "Superjump", and Powers's failed attempt were the subject of a 1981 documentary called The Devil at Your Heels, directed by Robert Fortier and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Powers was actually substituted at the last minute for Carter, without Carter's knowledge, because the jump's backers feared Carter had decided the jump would not work. This is not an accurate account of why Powers was substituted for Carter. The backers were concerned about Carter's health. Carter still wanted to do the jump. However, he and Kenny Powers remained friends until his death. This is the version told to Beverly Plumley Powers by Kenny Powers and Donna Ray Powers. It is also the account on the official documentary of the jump.
Video of the stunt also appeared on the American television show That's Incredible!, as well as the 1981 film Faces of Death II. A four-minute clip of the stunt taken from Faces of Death II was uploaded to YouTube in 2006, causing renewed popularity.
Powers worked for and with Carter for many years, and also performed stunts for Hollywood, including in the 1970s films Smokey and the Bandit, Vanishing Point, and Hooper. Stuntman Kenny Powers never did stunt work in any movie. Kenny did stunt work for the Ken Carter team during the time that Smokey and the Bandit was filmed as the team prepared for the 1979 Super Jump. According to Butch Carter, Ken Carter's brother who also did stunt work for the team, the team was considered for the stunt work in Smokey and the Bandit, but another team was selected. According to Butch Carter and other team members, Kenny worked for the Ken Carter team the whole time of the filming of Smokey and the Bandit. Stuntman Kenny Powers was a phenomenal stuntman. He was a caring, loving, and benevolent person. However, he struggled with problems due to alcohol and drug abuse his whole adult life. Kenny did in fact publicly make claims to have done stunts in movies. He was delusional about many things, especially in the last years of his life (Information from Beverly Powers). He continued to perform stunts until at least 2005. Kenny did 2 stunts in August of 2004. One was in Dothan, Alabama and the other stunt was done in Greenville, Alabama. Kenny did his next to last stunt in Timmonsville, S.C. on August 19, 2006. His last stunt was in Greenville, Alabama on August 26, 2006 (Information from Beverly Powers).
- (1 April 2009). Obituary, Tryon Daily Bulletin
- (6 October 1979). Rocket car explodes in flight over St. Lawrence River, St. Petersburg Times (Associated Press)
- (13 October 1979). Rocket car jump 'the wildest ride of my life': Driver, Montreal Gazette (Associated Press)
- Smothers, Jimmy (8 August 1986). Hollywood stuntman just another 'regular guy', Gadsden Times
- Goens, Mike (22 April 1982). Kenny Powers isn't crazy or nuts ... he's just Kenny Powers, Florence Times-Tri-Cities-Daily
- Chang, Richard S. Kenny Powers: Wrong Man, Right Time, 0-60 Magazine (2009)
- Smothers, Jimmy (8 June 1972). Accident in the Making, Gadsden Times
- (24 October 1986). Stunt driver Kenny Powers: a man of steel and plastic, Lakeland Ledger
- Boynton, Eric (30 June 2002). It's the ultimate high, Spartanburg Herald-Journal, p. D1, D6