Robert “Spanky” Spangler has been regarded as one of America’s greatest professional daredevils for over four decades. He began performing stunts at the age of 12, and by his teenage years, he was sneaking onto Hollywood film lots to try to meet the stunt guys and learn how to become one of them. Taking the advice of renowned stuntman Ronnie Rondell, Spangler joined the army when he was 18, hoping that the training would help him become a better stuntman. At the height of the Vietnam War, Spangler distinguished himself as a Green Beret in the elite 101st Airborne 2/502 Infantry division, the famed “Screaming Eagles,” learning how to jump out of helicopters and how to survive–two useful skills for a professional daredevil.
After returning stateside from Vietnam, Spangler worked in Hollywood, performing stunts for Westerns and other movies, and had a fateful meeting with a young, rising star named Evel Knievel. Knievel inspired Spangler to leave Hollywood and begin touring the country, performing stunts for live crowds. It was the heyday of the motorcycle-jumping craze, and live telecast stunt events were increasingly popular. Spanky traveled the country performing high falls at fairs, racetracks and stadiums alongside all of the great motorcycle jumpers of the era, including Knievel, Bob Gill, Gary Wells and Eddie Kidd.
In the four decades since Spangler began touring and performing live events, he has survived more than 22,000 stunts and set 24 world records, including distance records for jumping a car 328 feet on land and another record for jumping a car 232 feet into water. He has soared over the Rio Grande in a rocket-propelled truck, jumped 120 feet out of a hot air balloon into an air bag and jumped out of a helicopter into the bed of an 18-wheeler moving at 45 mph. Such feats have taken Spangler around the globe 16 times and made him a daredevil legend. He continues to travel the open roads of America, performing stunts for live audiences alongside his son, Bryan. For Spangler, being a professional daredevil embodies what this country is all about: the freedom to pursue the American dream.