Starting at 8 p.m. tonight, the Imperial Stunt Drivers will be performing at the Cherokee County Fair grounds. This is the first time that the Imperial Stunt Drivers have been to the Cherokee Fair and the show will be held at the south end of the fairgrounds to accommodate the space needed for this one-of-a-kind show.
The Imperial Stunt Drivers have over 225 years of combined experience as performers and expert drivers. The all-new 425hp Dodge Charger SRT8 will be the vehicle of choice this year and an all-new look for the stunt show extravaganza, with Tonny Petersen and Paul Riddell demonstrating their talents in two-wheel driving in the Dodge Dakota pickups.
About the drivers.
Paul Riddell, Affectionately know as Big Fat Paul from Montreal, Canada this father of six began his thrill show career 57 years ago. During this time, he has done all there is to do on the thrill show. He has crashed over three thousand old automobiles deliberately. He announced the show, rode motorcycles, performed as Ko Ko the Klown with his Krazy Kar, drove precision driving in the new cars, and he skillfully balances a Dodge Dakota on two wheels along with Tonny Petersen.
Paul books and promotes the show. Years ago he even piloted the show airplane. His career has brought him around the world. He has had a truck-driving license since 1951. He says he guesses he has driven over five million miles since then.
Tonny Petersen, in 1949, joined an acrobatic troupe in Europe. After touring in Europe, the act came to the United States in 1950. The act performed in Canada, the United States, and South America for four years. They performed at fairs, theaters, nightclubs, and circuses. At the completion of this contract, the act broke up.
Tonny returned to the United States in 1956 where he joined the Jack Kochman Hell Drivers. He traveled to Cuba with Bill Reid's International Daredevils. He worked two winters in Mexico with King Kovaz's International Daredevils. After working 28 years for Jack Kochman, Tonny decided to open another thrill show. He started the Toyota Hollywood Stunt Show, which toured for 15 years. In 2005, he joined with Paul Riddell, another old-timer.
Toby Thibodeau began her thrill show career in 1982. In the interim she has progressed to where she is now the show proprietor. Before joining the team, she drove starting gates for the horse races in New England. As her father owned a construction company, she also became proficient in operating his equipment. Toby has owned three monster trucks, the diesel powered All Canadian, the Wrecker, and lastly the One Armed Bandit, a shocking pink powerhouse.
She had to give up motorcycle stunts 19 years ago when she lost her left hand during a performance in Western Canada. A courageous hard-headed woman, she was back to work eight days later. No grass grows under her feet. Toby is an expert behind the wheel of her new Dodge Charger. Car crashes are still a favorite segment of the show, which she relishes.
Serge Beaulieu, a Quebec, Canada native, now makes his home in North Carolina. Serge began his thrill show career with the Imperial Hell Drivers in 1989. He's the master of the roaring two wheelers and is known as the Flying Frenchman.
He is a happiest entertaining spectators on a motorcycle. He is also an expert crash driver. Winters have seen him performing with monster truck shows, doing his trademark high leaps over the trucks. He is also a competent show pyro-technician. Some years ago he joined Tonny Petersen and the Toyota Stunt Show. He was seriously injured and took some time off. In 2005 he returned with Paul Riddell.
Derrick Riddell, a six-footer at 22 years of age, is the second youngest member of the team. He was born in Augusta, Maine, and has been on the road since he was 10 days old. At 14 years of age he began performing crash stunts in the old cars. Derrick's feature act is the human torch. You can safely say that he is real hot stuff.
He continues driving the dangerous crash acts. Year 2009 will see him precision driving in the new Dodge Chargers. Derrick loves video games and his 120-pound dog Lucky. Lucky is now three years old and just loves to travel and meet new people.
Ashley Riddell, 19, is the youngest member of the team. Born in Augusta, Maine, she began doing stunts at 12 years of age. In fact, she has been on the road since an infant. Ashley can be seen performing stunts on the fast-paced show. Her main claim to fame is her talent as a wrestler. She was the Nova Scotia Provincial Champion for the past five years in a row. Ashley was a proud member of the Memorial Club in Yarmouth.
Their expressed interest is the well being of war veterans. They travel the Maritime Provinces to various veteran functions. They also visited Canada's Capital to lobby for a national holiday being named in honor of veterans on November 11. She graduated from Yarmouth Memorial High School June of 2008. She loves playing her drums and with her cat, Sniper.
Larry Rich is the voice of the Imperial Stunt Drivers. He is a veteran showman better known to thrill show audiences as Happy the Daredevil Clown. His career began as a 10-year old, when he ran away with the Mills Brothers Circus. He returned to school every fall until graduating from high school. After graduation, Larry joined the Navy as a journalist.
This evolved into radio and TV broadcasting. However, his first love is still clowning. He enjoys seeing people laugh. It is Larry's responsibility to present the stunts and keep the flow of the performance running smoothly. When there is a situation where a sudden decision is required, he is always successful in keeping things moving along.
This usually entails calling on the clown to do a gag until the continuity can be resumed. Spectators can't notice the change unless they have seen the show many times. Larry is a success when the spectators do not notice a snag. A case in point is the problems associated with the old cars, which are crashed.
They are often a problem to get mobile, or having to move the wrecks to set up for the next act. Year 2009 finds Larry achieving 53 years in show business.