Sunday, 18 May 2014

STUNT Gone WRONG: Ormer Locklear

Leslie 'Lock' Locklear (October 28, 1891 – August 2, 1920) was a daredevil stunt flyer during and immediately after World War I.

Born in Greenville, Texas, Locklear was brought up in Fort Worth, and trained as a carpenter. While still at school he was a daredevil performer of tricks in and on moving vehicles. He worked as a house-builder, and married Ruby Graves in 1915.

Locklear became fascinated by flying, trying to build his own glider, so when World War I involved the US in 1917, he joined the U.S. Army Air Service. He trained in Austin, at Camp Dick and Barron Field, becoming a flying instructor. Locklear was an exponent of wing walking to make aircraft repairs in flight.

A 2nd Lieutenant at the end of the war, he had been assigned to military recruitment when he saw a barnstorming show, and realised his own usual flying exploits were far more impressive. Locklear left the army to join the show with two military colleagues, Milton 'Skeets' Elliott and Shirley Short. They soon obtained aircraft and formed their own show, performing far and wide. This opened the way to a movie career in California, where they performed aerial stunts for the camera.

Locklear and Elliott died in 1920 after an aerial manoeuvre while filming Locklear's second movie, The Skywayman It happened at the De Mille Airfield near Los Angeles. While filming the finale by night, Elliott had to dive the plane, carrying himself and Locklear, towards some oil derricks and appear to crash it. He forewarned the lighting crew to douse their lights when he got near the derricks, so that he could see to pull out of the dive; the lights remained full on, blinding him, and he crashed. The movie showed the crash and its aftermath in gruesome detail.

Viola Dana was in a relationship with Locklear and witnessed the crash. Dana describes Locklear's aerial accident in a profoundly personal way in the documentary called HOLLYWOOD: Hazard of the Game (1980).

Locklear and Elliott were buried in Fort Worth after huge funeral ceremonies, both there and in Los Angeles.

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