On August 12th, 1980, Dar Robinson – an american stuntman born in Los Angeles, California – jumped off the CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario. If Dar’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you can be forgiven. But if you’ve seen films like Magnum Force, The Towering Inferno, Sharky’s Machine, or Papillion, you’ve seen his work. Yes, Dar became known in the stunt world for performing the death-defying stunts that would make other stuntmen turn green.
The 1980 tower-jump wasn’t the first time Dar had plummeted off the then-tallest freestanding building in the world – previously he had performed a parachute based stunt in 1979 for the 1982-released dud Highpoint. This time, he was attempting to break the World Record for tallest cable-based jump. Much of this was documented in the 1987 special “The Ultimate Stuntman: A Tribute to Dar Robinson” – hosted by Chuck Norris, natch.
The stunt-crew set out to create a cable-based brake system that Dar could be attached to, allowing him to glide freely to the bottom – while still maintaining a certain level of safety. Unfortunately, this equipment had never been tested under such windy conditions, due in part to the CN Tower’s flared base causing varying wind conditions as you traveled down the cable. (Source) Dar and his assistant Ky Michaelson used 175lb bags of water to run tests in order to determine when a safe jump could be executed. As you can see at around 2:50 in the video above, one test ended in a particularly scary malfunction. Watching a Dar-sized bag of water plummet and explode was certainly a good sign that the stunt wasn’t meant to be on that particular day.
Which brings us to August 12th, 1980. The conditions were as favourable as they’d ever be, and so the jump was a go. Watching the footage from “The Ultimate Stuntman” – which has been said to re-purpose footage from the proto-reality series “That’s Incredible!” – it’s easy to tense up as Dar approaches the edge. The crew and Dar exchange pleasantries, before he jumps on the mark of “Ready, Set, Go!”
The stunt goes off without a hitch, and Dar floats semi-gracefully down to the ground. Actually, I guess there was a hitch – shortly after the jump, the cable snapped and fell to the ground, raining down chunks of cement in it’s wake. (Source: http://www.the-rocketman.com/Dar-CNTower.html)
Dar Robinson walked away in one piece, though, and went on to work on movies such as Turk 182!, Bachelor Party, King Kong Lives and more. Sadly, his career ended all too soon while shooting a fairly basic motorcycle scene for the Glad-Lock Garbage Bag (seriously) promotional film Million Dollar Mystery. Despite this, his legacy of incredible stunts speak for themselves, and his duo of CN Tower-based stunts were truly some the most memorable moments in Canadiana history.