I was born on May 7, 1943 in Prague – Nusle where the end of war and the liberation reached us – me and my parents Štěpánka and Oldřich. After the war, my father joined the Communist Party. As a child, I swam competitively and played water polo, too. I’ve always loved sports. At the age of ten, however, the doctor forbade me to play any sports. I had a weak heart. Despite this ban, however, I did not stop with sports, and it was a smart decision. My heart healed and all my health problems disappeared. I was skiing, riding a bike, playing table tennis, ice hockey, and soccer. My restless and adventurous soul manifested itself even when I was a child. At about the age of ten, I became deeply interested in America. I read cowboys novels, travelogues and I wanted to live there one day.
In 1958, I was fifteen years old, I received my identity card. I was training in judo in the gym. We lived in Teplice at the time, and I seriously started planning to escape abroad. At school, I agreed with my friend Vašek that we would flee to Austria together. It was the early spring, and it was still cold. I packed a few cans and a tracksuit in my backpack. We were supposed to meet at the Teplice railway station. Vašek did not arrive. He changed his mind. I was already on my way, so I continued through Prague to České Velenice. I arrived in the evening and walked to the border at night. Unfortunately, the border guard dog caught me. My father came for me. He gave me a few slaps and scolded me terribly for being a disgrace to him as a Communist. I was kicked out of high school because of this incident. I went to vocational school and studied to become a mechanical locksmith and welder, which came in handy later.
I definitely left the republic on July 25, 1968, shortly before the Soviet invasion.
In 1960, I tried to flee again. I wanted to cross the Danube River, but before I jumped into the water, I was arrested by the border patrol. They put me in jail, where my unhappy father picked me up. I had to promise my parents I would never do it again.
I collected medals in judo and in 1962 I entered the compulsory military service. I served with rocket units in Hranice na Moravě for two years. Then I worked in a glassworks near Teplice, I got married and our daughter Simona was born. I definitely left the republic on July 25, 1968, shortly before the Soviet invasion. With my club, Sparta Prague, I went to Amsterdam to participate in a sports camp organized by the world judo champion Anton Geesink in Amsterdam. Fortunately, I got permission to travel abroad. The guarantee was that I was married and had a one-year-old daughter.
I wasn´t granted political asylum in the Netherlands, so I walked and hitchhiked through Belgium to France. Although I received a residence permit in France, I could not get a good job. I worked in the foundry for a few days. In the meantime, I slept on the lawn under a tree, under a bridge, or in a subway corridor covered with a piece of cardboard.
One day, without a ticket, I boarded an ocean liner simply by jumping on a moving belt with suitcases and entering the hold. I went out into the hallway and mixed with the other passengers. After a few days of starving, I reported myself to the captain. He put me in a cell. As soon as we arrived in New York, an American immigration officer sent me back to France. I saw only the dream New York from the deck of the ship.
The unfortunate August 21, 1968, in Czechoslovakia meant new hope for me. Canada declared asylum for Czechs living abroad. I landed in Toronto in early September. At first, I stayed in a large immigration center, later I lived with a colleague. We both worked as welders. In the evenings, I practiced judo at the Hatashita Judo Club. I spent Sunday in theaters watching cheap movies. That´s how I learned English. When living in Canada, I also won the Pan-American championship in judo.
In 1970, my mother died of cancer and I could not visit her because I was sentenced to one year in prison in Czechoslovakia for illegal emigration. All this time, I had hoped to get my family to the United States through the Red Cross. However, my nineteen-year-old wife was afraid to go with her one-year-old daughter to such a distant and unknown country. In 1972, we were divorced in my absence.
... befriended movie stars like Steven Seagal, Eddie Murphy, Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal, Chuck Norris and others.
After obtaining Canadian citizenship in the summer of 1974, I headed to a dream California with the idea of becoming a stuntman in Hollywood. I had already done my first stunt performance. In Toronto, I worked on the TV series Jalna for CBC Canada. In Los Angeles, I found an ad that a film production needed a stuntman. The producer liked me, I got the job and my professional career began. I performed various types of stunts: jumps on a motorcycle over ten cars, falls from a horse, from heights, from stairs, car accidents, jumps with a motorboat over a moving truck (or through a truck), catapult launching, jumping by car over a double-decker bus and others.
I have appeared in many movies and tv series, including Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Nico, Kojak, Columbo, my characters were mainly police officers, gangsters, car and motorcycle drivers. I have worked for all major studios and befriended movie stars like Steven Seagal, Eddie Murphy, Danny DeVito, Billy Crystal, Chuck Norris and others.
I didn’t want to marry my girlfriend Kristy, who was also a stuntman, until I made my planned jump from the 22nd floor of the building into a huge air cushion 19 x 15 meters, which I sewed myself. I later rented it to the Universal Studio in Hollywood. During these stunt years I had to train hard, so I surfed, skied, walked on a rope for stability training, practiced somersaults and various falls, rode a horse, a motorcycle, climbed rocks, parachuted, drove a motorboat, I practiced judo, somersaults on a trampoline, and besides all that, I played guitar and sang. In 1980, thanks to the longest jet jump from the ramp, I enrolled in the Guinness Book of Records.
I visited Czechoslovakia in 1982 for the first time and met my fifteen-year-old daughter. At a later age, when I could no longer work as a stuntman, I studied film production at the University of Los Angeles. I made two movies. My everyday hobby was tennis. I also enjoyed fishing. I with lived my American life alongside my wonderful wife Kristy in a house near the Pacific coast in Los Angeles.
In 2001, the documentary movie “A Man Who Fell from the Sky” was made about Petr Horak and his stunt tricks. He passed away on October 1, 2017 at the age of 74. He was one of those lucky ones who fulfilled his boyhood dream.
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