"They thought she had just paralyzed me, it was very frightening " Hartman is best known for his appearances on MTV's Senseless Acts and numerous television commercials. In this candid interview he talks about his broken neck, Senseless Acts, and various other skydiving (and non skydiving) related issues. So who was she and was she worth almost getting paralyzed? Read on to find out....
Current Number of Jumps: 4500+
Year of First Jump: 1992
Rig: Javelin NJ w/PD113 reserve
Main Canopy: Velocity 96
Current Residence: Sherman Oaks, CA
Highest USPA License: D
Home DZ: Perris
Favorite Discipline in Skydiving: Base Jumping
Number of Reserve Rides: 4
Web Site: http://www.troyhartman.com/
Dropzone.com: Troy, you recently had a pretty bad accident while doing a stunt - you ended up breaking your neck while performing it. When did all of this take place?
Troy: April 29, 2000
Dropzone.com: How are you doing now?
Troy: I'm fully recovered actually.
Dropzone.com: How long were you out of skydiving due to this accident?
Troy: 3 months
Dropzone.com: That's it?
Troy: Yeah, the doctor wasn't happy he wanted me to be out for 6 months but I was doing stunts again within 3 months.
Dropzone.com: When can we expect some new episodes of senseless acts?
Troy: Well, MTV is claiming they are going to pick us up for fall but I'm not sure yet.
Dropzone.com: Well then, what kind of exciting things are you working on now?
Troy: Just trying to sell the show concept to other networks, channels - trying to continue my field of expertise in another format. I'm not sure what that format will be.
Dropzone.com: So MTV is history?
Troy: Yeah, they have pulled the plug due to money
Dropzone.com: You are in May's edition of Playboy with E!'s Wild On host Brooke Burke - what's that like?
Troy: It was cool, great exposure - much bigger article than I expected. In my opinion it was really well done. I feel the writer portrayed me in the correct light, so I was satisfied with it.
Dropzone.com: You know Brooke did a tandem for a Wild On episode, did you have anything to do with that?
Troy: Yeah I heard about that, I think I saw it but no I didn't have anything to do with it.
Dropzone.com: So you haven't met her eh?
Dropzone.com: I heard about this plane vs cow incident that cost you your Air Force career. What kind of plane did you crash? (In Playboy's May interview)
Troy: A T-41. A modified cessana. I was out screwing around with a buddy of mine. We could go check out the planes whenever we wanted and I got a little carried away with buzzing things.
Dropzone.com: Speaking of hitting cows, have you ever had a problem with animals while landing under a canopy?
Troy: Huummmm.. not really. Well, indirectly, I landed in Colorado one time, and they had these electric fences for the cows which I didn't know were electric, I tried climbing one of them. Well I'll just say I learned a lesson from that.
Dropzone.com: Ouch! That must have been a shocking experience. Your girlfriend is a jumper, has she shown any interest in doing stunt work?
Troy: Yeah she has, her take on it is that she would do it if there was a reason to do it. If there was a format she was able to learn.
Dropzone.com: How would you feel about her getting into it?
Troy: I know that she is very concerned about her safety & conservative, she never gets over her head. I've never seen her say she wants to try something that was completely beyond her ability. I wouldn't even worry about it. I'd be like go for it, do your thing. She'd be more conservative than I would.
Dropzone.com: It must be every skydiver's dream to have their jumps & gear paid for, but also get to appear on national TV on a regular basis. How has all this fame affected you?
Troy: Well, it's um. I don't know - it hasn't too much. The biggest thing that has affected me, for a while there I'd show up at the DZ and my main concern was having jumpers look at me and say "this is the guy that is going to make our sport look bad" my main concern was that other skydivers would say "oh yeah he did that stunt that he shouldn't have" I would show up at the DZ feeling like I should hide for fear of people coming up to me and telling me that I shouldn't have done a particular stunt. I'm finding out now that just about every skydiver that watched the show liked it & respected it. When you become a public figure, people want to see you a certain way. I'm just starting to realize most things people have to say are positive. I've found out that I'm still accepted with people in the sport.
Dropzone.com: So do people notice you on the streets?
Troy: Yeah I don't get that very much. I get that from younger kids, the real demographic. I'm certainly not a public figure head. Most people don't even know my name. They say "oh, you're that guy!"
Dropzone.com: Have you heard from any skydiver wuffos? Or stories of people you inspired?
Troy: I get a lot of those actually, I get a lot of emails from people who say I started skydiving because of you. For the sport it's a good thing. The jumpers under 100 jumps have no problem coming up to me and asking me about things. Experienced jumpers can do most of the stuff I can do on the show anyway, but they aren't going to go "woah" because they know how that stuff works.
Dropzone.com: What is the wildest thing one of your fans has done?
Troy: I would say pretty much most of the time its people emailing saying "wow that is awesome, I want to do that." I tell you what, one time I was signing some autographs in Redondo beach for the IMAX film I did- I was in my neck brace, clearly had a broken neck - this one girl tackled me - just took me out, it scared everybody. They thought she had just paralyzed me, it was very frightening ... I was like "oh my god" you just don't know - you can't predict what someone will do.I felt helpless, there was nothing I could have done. She was just like "I love you" she looked like she was like 17. I have no idea what she did it for.
Dropzone.com: That's nuts! Looking back on the stunts you've done aside from the broken neck fiasco, is there any one that you thought "I shouldn't have done that" ?
Troy: Yeah. The only one, believe it or not, I would do any of them again - even landing on the train, the one I wouldn't do again was when I landed on the roof of sahara hotel in Las Vegas. It wasn't really considered a stunt, it was just something to open up the show with - it wasn't even something we pumped up. This was a very tight landing area, smaller than the pro rating. There were many obstacles, air condition ducts, etc... I have people from basic research check out the place to see if it is safe or not so I hadn't even seen the area up close very far in advance. The only hotel that would have let us was sahara, and out of all of them it was the worst one. When I came in to land, the wind shifted and the head wind turned into a tail wind. I was under a big canopy, but it could have been much bigger. I sprained my ankle - that was the worst of it but it could have been so much worse.
Dropzone.com: Why don't you check your own places out instead of having others do it for you?
Troy: A lot of times it is a time issue, I'm working on one stunt and I have a scout team out preparing for another one. They don't' want to waste my time. Once they do get clearance, then I do get to take a look at it but that is after they've made a decision on it. I can back out up to the last minute but I've felt that if all the conditions are right, and if the ground crew says it is safe if you do this then I would do it. I'm actually not a super confident skydiver - I have less confidence in my abilities than what my abilities probably are, most of the stunts I did I would probably do again because I do know now that I can do them - but sometimes I need these guys to have an outside look to tell me I can do this. I sorta have to rely on them to give me that extra confidence. I feel that at this point in the game I feel like I need to make some of these decisions. I don't think the show would have been quite as good if I had been the one making all these decisions, because I would have turned down most of these stunts.
Dropzone.com: How do you come up with an idea for a stunt? Does MTV suggest it or what?
Troy: Yeah, 90% of the time MTV the producers.. they're sharp, they know what can and can't be done. They do a lot of research, they will approach me with an idea. If it is even remotely possible, I will just say "yes, that can be done - now lets talk to the right person"
Dropzone.com: How long does it take from when they come up to when you do it?
Troy:Sometimes it's 2 months, the parachute that we lit on fire was actually planned the day before.
Dropzone.com: On that jump, did you have two reserves or what?
Troy: On that jump : Yeah, that was my second reserve. It was a typical 3 canopy rig.
Dropzone.com: Has there been any stunt that you wouldn't do?
Troy: Yeah, it's funny because the only one that I clearly said no was they wanted me to ride a bull. I know there are plenty of people that would say there were things that were way worse than riding a bull. I don't know, the control variables are so limited when riding a bull. With skydiving most of the things that go wrong are under my control, but with riding a bull it's not like that.
Dropzone.com: So what do you think about riding horses?
Troy: I don't have a problem with that. I've ridden them since I was a kid.
Dropzone.com: Even though they have a mind of their own as well?
Troy: Well, You're not strapping their balls up.. you don't know how they will react in that type of environment.
Dropzone.com: With all the snafus going on with skydivers and health insurance, do you know if MTV will stand by you if something goes wrong with a stunt?
Troy: Well they took care of me for my neck injury, but it was the bare minimum - they paid me workman's comp, it's just a standard procedure. They took care of my hospital bills. You would pretty much expect that in any situation. If I lost my arm or became paralyzed I don't know how far they would stand behind me. I think when you get involved with production companies I'm sure it says somewhere in the fine print it says they aren't responsible for anything. I'm sure it could get very ugly. I had plenty of people tell me I should sue MTV because it was their negligence. I just said forget it, I'm fine - I don't want to make a stink about it.
Dropzone.com: Has there ever been a day where you didn't want to get up and "go to work"?
Troy: Oh yeah, sure... I was good with doing a couple of days of stunts a week, I never minded going to the office or going on scouts. I love my job as long as it didn't overload me with 3 stunts in one week. When I had to do 3 stunts in one week I just didn't want to wake up for the 1st day because I knew I had 3 full days ahead of me. The 1st day was always the worst. It seemed like such a long tunnel to make it to the end of the week. There were only a few weeks like that, Vegas, Tahoe, and the Grand Canyon - I did 4 stunts out there. It was a long week, a very long week. If I can focus on 1 thing very well and even smile on cue I do good, I've learned to relax - the one thing I had a hard time doing was thinking about 3 stunts and not getting overloaded. I did 45 stunts last year, I don't know many stunt guys do 45 different stunts. If they do - they are doing a lot of the same thing over and over again. I'll just say I was on heavy sleeping pills the last 6 months before the show was over because I was so concerned.
Dropzone.com: Do you have any skydiving role models or inspiration?
Troy: Patrick. I started to see his weaknesses as I got to know him. I found a few of his weaknesses in skysurfing. It made me think "oh this guy is human, he isn't immortal" He was like a god to me. He was one of the most talented out there. The thing I most respect about him was no matter how much he jumped he never got burned out. He would always do a sunset jump, he would jump with whoever it didn't matter. He would just keep on going, I couldn't believe his persistence. I think he took some dumb shortcuts that caught up to him, and I try and learn from those because I get lazy too.
Dropzone.com: What is the worst injury you have had from skydiving?
Troy: Knock on wood, I haven't had anything bad. Just sprained my ankle early on when I was skysurfing. I had a binding come loose so the entire torque of the board was on my one ankle.
Dropzone.com: What do you like least about the sport?
Troy: Sitting in the airplane.
Dropzone.com: So packing doesn't bother you?
Troy: Packing I don't mind, because I have space - for me it's like mowing the lawn, it's a thoughtless thing - it gives me time to think, most of the time it is on fresh cut grass, I'm outside. But I can't stand getting on an airplane with turbine fuel blowing at me being all cramped up with everyone, that's why I turned to base jumping.
Dropzone.com: What is the coolest non skydiving thing you've done?
Troy: Humm.. gosh I'm trying to think. I absolutely love snowboarding, nothing has given me the incredible feeling of back country sking and snowboarding really does something for me.
Dropzone.com: Speaking of skiing, I read somewhere that it was because of your skiing friends that you got into doing stunts. Do you keep in touch with those same friends ?
Troy: Oh yeah, I see them every winter. I go up to the mountain and hook up with each other and put in a day of skiing. They still live in mammoth which is where I'm from.
Dropzone.com: Do they skydive any?
Troy: I had one friend that got into it did about 60 jumps and then quit doing it. I got my sister into it as well but she got out of it.
Dropzone.com: How do you go about getting selected for commercials? Do you advertise yourself, have an agent, or what?
Troy: In this business you almost don't even need an agent with the skydiving stuff. It's good to have an agent to negotiate a deal and not get ripped off, if you don't have an agent they will make you feel like you are getting a lot of money - skydivers with your talent you're worth a lot more than what an ad agency would pay you. They do casting calls where they call the DZ and get people to come out to the casting call. I've seen it a lot of times where people were at the DZ when they called, they went down by the truck load and 2 or so got picked. Then again a lot of the production companies find the aerial cameraman and then they have the camera man send them a group of people to select from. In my opinion that is the best way. Joe Jennings and I do a lot of work together, he suggests me right away, but I do feel that also limits other people.. so I see that as a negative as well.
Dropzone.com: ESPN Recently axed skysurfing from their X-Games because sponsors didn't feel like it had an "automatic consumer base" what do you think about that?
Troy: I saw it coming. I really did, I was in the sport from the beginning. It was so strong in the 1st year and 2nd year, but the 1st year was so exciting - it never grew after that. The way they produced it and aired it and the moves, yes it grew in skydiving but failed to grow outside. Vic and I struggled our assess off to get a sponsor. We wrote to every company - sports drinks, sunglasses, everyone that might could benefit from having a skysurfing team.. we hammered them for years - we'd keep going back, they kept saying no though. I said you know what, if they don't want it - the sport is going no where. You had the 14 year old rollerbladers making millions then you had us - we were at the top of our sport, a much more difficult sport - we were spending more money to get into it and we were having to spend our own money to compete.
Dropzone.com: What do you think can be done in the skydiving community to make it a more accepted sport?
Troy: Um... I think skydiving needs to be more accessible, I don't know how that can be done - I think that is a too good to be true kinda statement. It would be great if DZs were in the center of cities, it would be great if tandems were 100 instead of 200. I've seen skydivers feel they were different than the rest of the world.. I don't know if it lends newcomers to feeling like they could get into it. Skydiving isn't easy, but it certainly isn't the most difficult thing. Until a bunch of the barriers are broken down, I don't think they are going to buy the product. The general viewing members don't relate to the product.
Dropzone.com: If you could take anyone in the world skydiving with you, who would it be and why?
Troy: Awe man. You know what, my dad. I'd take my dad but he won't go with me. Only because the way I grew up, in doing things his way - following him for so long, I know he is proud of me I feel he did all the right things for me growing up but I feel I need to enlighten him a little bit. Let him see my environment.
Dropzone.com: If you could wave a magic wand and change something about the sport of skydiving what would it be?
Troy: These questions always get me.. I try to come up with some deep response but never do. I'd have to say, I just wish it could be done in more places. It was more accessible, like I said before.
Dropzone.com: You've got some shirts called Oddbird what's the story behind those?
Troy: Well it was a company I started, we liked the name - we started to promote the shirts, it was kinda a failed venture. We just didn't put enough effort into it. I never have had dreams of owning a DZ, I'm not a big business man. I like the way I'm making my living now, I don't want to oversee a bunch of things.
Dropzone.com: We are also planning on interviewing Carl Nespoli, who worked with you on senseless acts. What do you think about him?
Troy: Carl in my opinion is the one person I would absolutely want to have at every stunt. His job might not be 100% necessary but his personality is - just having him there for his attitude just makes all the difference. He does look at the small things others would oversee, but I could just get away from everyone else and sit down and just talk to Carl.
Dropzone.com: You almost choose skysurfing as your favorite discipline but changed to base jumping, why was that?
Troy: I love skysurfing, when I'm out of the plane. Maybe the reason I didn't like the plane ride was because I skysurf. That is the one thing every skysurfer hates because of the plane ride up and putting the board on on the way up it inconveniences the other jumpers, I really don't like to do that.
Dropzone.com: Finally, what is something not many people know about you?
Troy: Um... hmmm. The first thing people don't realize about me, well the thing is people don't realize about skydivers. Skydivers aren't daredevils, they come from every walk of life, but the rest of the world doesn't know that - there are so many people that think I'm just crazy & don't care about anything, but the truth of the matter is when I'm not out doing this stuff I'm very into going to movies, hanging out at home. I have my cat. I'm not a out on the town big partier. I'm so entirely not, I much more enjoy going up to the mountains and going up and hiking and being by myself. I' love to spend a lot of time alone. For me it's therapeutic.