David W. Torrey,
Dartmouth (’77) Ski Team
Cambridge, MA 02139
I WAS THE STUNT MAN FOR THE TODAY SHOW
Dartmouth Winter Carnival 1976 was in full swing my junior year, and the national press had arrived on campus to do a human interest story about clean-cut college students having fun in the snow at this recently-turned-co-ed college in the woods. The Today Show camera crew had arrived while we were having our final jumping practice before carnival at Dartmouth’s “Val de Temp” 45 meter hill on the golf course. (RIP) This hill had always been intimidating for its skyscraper of an inrun tower, where it was advisable not to look directly down on your ski team van looking like a tiny matchbox car parked directly below. A few years previously my rite of passage introduction to this hill was at the prep school New Englands, where surviving the experience was one’s badge of courage. Now I was on Jim Page’s nordic combined team, adding depth on the “B” team, with the opportunity to jump with really talented guys who had learned the sport ten years younger than I had. I gladly packed the hill and fore-ran the meets while Christian Bergrav (a former Norwegian junior champion) and Tom Reaper (former Canadian sky-flyer) led Dartmouth’s team; I recall Walter Malmquist was off at the Olympics that carnival.
We had prepared the hill and taken a few practice jumps when the TV crew lurking around the vans asked for a volunteer to talk to them. My teammates all backed away and suddenly a pretty lady aimed a mic in my direction, and as I saw the red light on the camera lens light up, she asked me what it was like to ski jump. Well, I rose to the occasion and heroically described the importance of hitting the take-off just right, and said something about always wanting to fly as a kid growing up. But then this big jolly guy in a ridiculous red nylon full-body snowsuit came over and asked if I’d put on his suit and pretend to be him going off the jump as a gag! Sure, I said, thinking it would be great story over a few beers later at Carnival Weekend. And then I tried on his suit, many sizes too big of course. Swish-swishing clumsily up the steps I almost caught a pant leg on a projecting nail on the thousand steps to the top of the inrun (not steps actually, just cleats nailed onto the wooden trestle floor boards). At the top, in my baggy red suit I saw the flag wave me off at the knoll and I kicked out down the inrun, hands together in front of me as was the style at the time. The frantic sound of my baggy suit madly flapping as I picked up speed probably threw off my Zen (Coach Pagie had had us all read “The Inner Game of Tennis”, a self-help book about concentration) and I took off hard but late. Wanting to impress as the celebrity stand-in, I threw in a few more windmills than my usual B-team style, including a bunch more way down on the outrun below, “pretending” to almost fall. (This was before videotape so I never saw myself on the boob tube more than once on the live broadcast).
So who was that jolly weather man I portrayed as a jumper? Recently I tried to look this up, and it must have been the Al Roker of the era, a guy named Willard Scott. Turns out our bios have something in common – we both have performed as clowns.