January 21, 2009

"I was like, 'Oh my God, dear Lord, no.' Luckily I was a lousy shot."

During rehearsal, one actor fires a loaded gun at point-blank range at the head of another actor. But he mostly misses and the other actor, an 81-year-old man, says the worse part of it was the noise.

How are mistakes like this made?


Buford Gooch said...

Are we assuming it's not just stupid people?

mcg said...

How are mistakes like this made?

Well, they explain it well enough in the article: the gun was borrowed from another cast member, and nobody bothered to check to see if it was loaded.

Really, I just think this is proof enough that guns are too dangerous in the hands of ordinary citizens. DC was right after all.

Host with the Most said...

One of my students in a recent sales training class was a former LA County Sheriff's Deputy who, his first night out of the academy, was shot at close range outside of a bar. The bullet hit his forehead and ricocheted, hitting another assailant. His forehead has a distinct scar. He was called "Ricochet Joe" from then on.

Just one of those things.

This is why conspiracy theorists are so crazy. Just because something happens the same way 99% of the time (Steel girders not bending under high temperatures) doesn't mean that some quirks of physics never never happen.

john said...

The snarky answer to this question is, unfortunately, the correct one - always, always, always check first. Maybe the director never grew up around guns. Too bad.

Now about an actor slitting his own neck with a knife he didn't know was sharp, I just don't have an answer to that. However, wow.

Meade said...


Bob said...

If you are stupid a gun will bite you, even a prop gun. We simply need to outlaw prop guns. Or make actors take a class and register for a prop gun.

john said...

Host -

Didn't Hinckley's bullet miss Reagan but then ricocheted off the president's armored limo and lodge in his heart?

Sofa King said...

The answer is: this is what happens when otherwise intelligent people choose to deliberately keep themselves ignorant as to the basics of firearms safety, use, and mechanics.

Kirk Parker said...

What Sofa King said (except he's being overly generous with the "otherwise intelligent" part perhaps.)

There's nothing special about guns in this respect: give these folks a real helicopter to play with, for example, and see if things don't work out just as unhappily.

fcai said...

Only unloaded guns kill people accidently. My brother the army colonel told me that - the point is - people make assumptions and they are wrong.

Also, if they are actors, they are most likely liberals, and therefore scared of guns, and their fear leads to ignorance, and the results are sometimes tragic.

A little common sense and knowledge would go a long way, but we are talking about actors here.

Crimso said...

"How are mistakes like this made?"

When people with no prior instruction and no common sense (note that's "and" and not "and/or") are handed firearms. They shouldn't use the real deal. If a stage production requires a scene where someone dies from being poisoned, do they actually have a vial of poison on hand? Or do they expect the audience to use their imaginations?

Even if it's loaded with blanks, it can still be quite dangerous. What was that dude's name from years back? Hexum or something?

Firearms are great. I enjoy them very much. But they are neither toys nor props. Afford them the respect they are due (like you might with a chainsaw or nailgun), and there's no need for anyone to die (or have their hearing impaired).

vet66 said...

As stated, never take a weapon with a clip inserted, assuming it is a semi-automatic, and with the clip out and slide pulled back inspect that a round is not chambered.

Also, never, ever point a weapon at anyone else unless the plan is to shoot and kill them if need be.

In short, never handle a weapon you are not trained on. By the way, D.C. had it wrong as the Heller case proved regarding second ammendment rights. A trained and armed citizenry gives pause to those who would take life and property. Most Veterans are trained in the use of various weapons. If they choose to be licensed they constitute an armed militia, in my opinion.

The question remaining to be answered in the example is where was the armorer who released this weapon to an idiot and failed to take it back between takes or upon completion of the scene? Nobody has ever been shot with an empty weapon.

Tibore said...

Sofa King had it. They didn't have a proper procedure worked out between the actors and the props person to ensure that the prop was not dangerous.

Even a gun with blanks can hurt; the expanding gases still exert force, even if there's no bullet to push down the barrel. The lesson of Jon-Erik Hexum demonstrates this clearly.

Pogo said...

How are mistakes like this made?

The liberal lament (one in a series):
Why didn't someone stop me from doing something so stupid?
Answer? Clearly, regulatory oversight was insufficient.
See also: Fannie Mae.

Guns don't kill people, thick-headed actors and Nobel prize-winning economists kill people.

Freeman Hunt said...

How are mistakes like this made?

(1) Morons.
(2) Handling guns without any knowledge of how to handle guns.
(3) Again, morons.

You shouldn't even be firing blanks at someone at point blank range. That is really dangerous.

al said...

Rule #1 - never ever point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.

Break that rule and very bad things can happen.

raf said...

When is our society going to realize that you can't prevent people from encountering guns? Gun abstinence is a non-starter. we need mandatory gun safety training, at least in high school -- perhaps starting in kindergarten -- so "accidents" like this don't happen. Education is the key, you betcha.

Original George said...

Not to change the subject or anything, but has Pres. Obama ever owned (or fired) a gun or hunted?

Has he ever held a fishing rod?

JohnAnnArbor said...

(Steel girders not bending under high temperatures)

Um, except they do, especially under load. That's what they're sprayed with fireproofing; that fireproofing was sandblasted off by the aluminum fragments of 767s hitting the towers (see PBS NOVA episode about how it happened). Long before the steel melts, it will become weaker as it is heated. Just basic materials science.

As for guns in plays? Really, how dumb are they not to use a prop gun? "Hey, we need a gun for the play." I'll bring one in!"

If he'd have shot someone dead, would that be a Darwin award by proxy?

TMink said...

Has he ever held a doobie?

Oh wait, I saw the photos!

Well, at least that is encouraging.


rastajenk said...

First thing I thought of was that it sounds like an episode of Columbo, except that really dates me, so maybe there's been a CSI version of this; anyway, it sounds ripe with plot twists and cruel ironies.

Jason said...

How are mistakes like this made?

Well, if he was that bad of a shot, he should have used a shotgun.

Trooper York said...

That tears it.

We have to ban acting.

Original Mike said...

How are mistakes like this made?

Stupidity kills. The gun was an innocent bystander.

Ken Stalter said...

They broke several very basic rules of both firearm safety and stagecraft.

I was a teacher's assistant in my college stage combat class and have worked on several productions in which prop guns were used. One should never use a real gun on stage, even if it is believed to be unload. Use a prop gun, there are models made that cannot possibly fire a catridge.

Even when an actor uses a prop gun, the rule is to point it slightly upstage of the other actor. Not even a prop gun should be pointed directly at the other person.

Anyone who handles a firearm must always check whether it is loaded. This should be muscle memory, even if you just watched someone pick it up, check it and hand it to you, you should check.

Paul Brinkley said...

Let's start with four rules:

1. Always assume a gun is loaded unless you've checked it yourself. By the way, once the gun leaves your hand, it's no longer considered checked.
2. Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are ready to fire. Guns typically let you rest your index finger on the side of the gun, above the trigger and guard. It's not terrifically comfortable in this position, speaking from experience - but then, that's not the idea.
3. Always be aware of your target, as well as what's around it. Above, below, left, right, in front, and behind it. Ask yourself what you might hit if you fire and miss.
4. Never point your gun at something unless you can handle it being destroyed. Things you can handle being destroyed may include the ceiling or floor; I typically point guns up while I'm at "rest". It had better not include people - not even your in-laws.

The first real play I was in sported stage firearms. The director favors gun control (mildly); the stage manager was and is an avid gun user. Our first exposure to the guns we would be using was done by a professional merchant and trainer of actors in their use. The guns all had blanks, and also had stoppers in the barrels. On stage, the guns were always aimed upstage from their "targets", and never, ever toward the audience. Unless someone brought their own, the accident in the OP would never have happened.

But anyway. I can cite the four rules above from memory. I'll never forget them. They're easy to remember. It's just four rules. Anyone can do it; I have no problem in requiring anyone who uses a gun to internalize them, and I'd consider myself a pretty staunch gun-rights advocate.

Trooper York said...

First rule of acting:

Always assume that Robert Downey Jr. is loaded.

traditionalguy said...

People have mind farts. The guns are no worse dangers than 3000lb cars in the hands of people who forget which pedal is the gas. Let's outlaw people [Except our group, of course... come to think of it I'm not to sure about you].

TreeJoe said...

Quote from article:

"In his defence, Bordy told reporters: "I'm the actor, I'm the director and we're running late, and without thinking I didn't check the gun.""

They borrowed a live firearm (in Britain? Really?) from a member of the stagecraft, who apparently kept it loaded during transport and when giving it to other people, and this director chose to pull the trigger on a revolver (which is somewhat visually exposed) at point blank range.

You know, they say there is always a chain of events leading up to an accident.....but by God, that's quite a chain of stupidity.


Synova said...

Deliberate, willful, ignorance.

Lack of education and lack of exposure to firearms. Raf may have been joking, but firearm safety (of a variety other than "don't touch, go get an adult") really is the key, and providing it to children is likely the most effective.

Never point a gun at anything you don't want dead. Always assume every gun is loaded. Always.(People with training will often enough even keep barrels pointed away from people when the gun is in pieces being cleaned.)

There are plenty of realistic "toy" guns. What did they have planned to make a *bang*? At least a bullet was diverted by the curve of the guy's skull... a "blank" very well may have killed him.

Pogo said...

I wonder if anyone will ever sleep with the play director Bill Bordy again.
"I was like, 'Oh my God, dear Lord, no'. Luckily I was a lousy lay."

Synova said...

It's reported in the Guardian, but unless there is a Florida, UK, I think it actually happened in Florida.

Chris said...

This is straight from my Spring 2007 Criminal Law exam!

Ken Stalter said...

I think the article should really read as:

"In his defence, Bordy told reporters: "I'm the actor, I'm the director and we're running late, and I don't care about the lives of those around m.e""

Bob said...

Things like this happen when people who are ignorant about gun use (not stupid, just ignorant) handle guns. Any serious gun owner can recite the four rules for safe gun handling that were formulated by USMC Colonel Jeff Cooper:

1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. (For those who insist that this particular gun is unloaded, see Rule 1.)

3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target. This is the Golden Rule. Its violation is directly responsible for about 60 percent of inadvertent discharges.

4. Identify your target, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything that you have not positively identified.

Blanks are a special case. Even many gun owners don't know that a blank cartridge can easily kill you. You can read the Wikipedia entries on Jon-Erik Hexum and Brandon Lee for discussions of what happens when an actor is too close to a blank cartridge when it discharges.

Any gun owner who doesn't know the rules of safe gun handling is, as far as I am concerned, an accident or negligent homicide waiting to happen.

Pogo said...

"In his defence, Bordy told reporters: "I'm the actor, I'm the director and we're running late, and I really hated that old sonofabitch. He was continually upstaging me.

Don't print that."

Christy said...

Arrest the prop master!

PatHMV said...

This has nothing to do with the politics of any of the individuals involved. It is merely a tragic accident caused by failure to establish and follow safe-handling procedures.

Support for guns and even extensive firearm training is no substitute for having rigorous procedures in place and following them. Several years ago in my state, a probation officer was shot and killed during a training exercise at the State Police academy. They were practicing high-risk traffic stops, and all guns on the training range were supposed to have been emptied of ammunition and inspected prior to the exercise.

In that case, it started to rain, people left the training area, and then they returned when the rain stopped about an hour later. During the interim, one of the trooper conducting the training reloaded his firearm. Nobody reinspected the weapons before training resumed.

These trained law enforcement officers had procedures in place (all weapons being inspected by a single individual upon entry into the training area), but they failed to follow them due to human error, and tragedy followed.

I've been an extra in a major film during a shooting scene, and they are supposed to have a single individual responsible for handling the firearms, personally checking them, distributing them to the actors, and collecting them immediately after shooting. When such procedures are followed, everything is safe. If somebody doesn't establish a procedure or the person responsible doesn't follow it properly, there is danger.

madawaskan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eli Blake said...


Really, I just think this is proof enough that guns are too dangerous in the hands of ordinary citizens.

No, this is proof enough that guns are too dangerous in the hands of ordinary Hollywood actors.

John Burgess said...

Theaters and films with budgets and brains hired bonded 'Armorers' to handle things like this. Armorers are professionals who provide the firearms or facsimiles for use in films and plays.

I have a high school classmate who has grown very, very rich by becoming an Armorer. His arsenal is something to behold, as are the taxes he pays to own things like .50 cal machine guns and bazookas.

The Armorer is responsible for providing the weapon, loading it appropriately, instructing actors in its proper safe use for the occasion, and accepting financial responsibility if he screws up.

Some 40 years on in his business, he hasn't screwed up. That's why he's very rich.

Ken Stalter said...

Yet another reason why actors shouldn't try to direct.

Pogo said...

Details of prior mishaps on sets of several Bordy plays have now raised serious concerns.

1. Frankenstein: The accidental broken neck of Victor Frankenstein's young brother William.

2. Tiny Tim impaled on his crutch in A Christmas Carol.' Twice.

3. Hello Dolly: In one scene, Irene and Minnie opened their hat shop for the afternoon. She declares she will wear an elaborate hat to impress a gentleman, sings "Ribbons Down My Back", but instead venomous snakes spilled down her dress.

3. Bus Stop: As the play opens, diner waitresses Grace and Elma await the arrival of the passengers at the bus stop. They discuss romance, or the lack of it: Grace has been married, but her husband left her; Elma is single and lonely. The sheriff, Will, comes into the diner and announces that the snowstorm has closed the roads and the bus and its passengers will be stuck at the diner until the road is cleared.

Whereupon he opened fire, killing every actor on stage.


Ken Stalter said...

Pogo, do you know if he's done Titus Andronicus?

vbspurs said...

Did anyone up top mention how Bruce Lee's son, Brandon, died yet?

The Crow, the movie in which he was shot for real by mistake, even has a Snopes page.

Larry J said...

One of my coworkers has a bumper sticker that I like. It reads, "Stupidity should be painful." If it were painful enough, perhaps we'd have less of it.

In this case, the person feeling the pain wasn't the one being stupid. In addition to the Hexum case mentioned above, there was the case that killed Brandon Lee (Bruce Lee's son). In both the Lee case and this one in Florida, people were in too big a hurry to do it right. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured this time.

Ken Stalter said...

This just in...

Officials from a Miami area zoo searched several days for three lions that had disappeared over the weekend. They soon discovered that Bordy was planning to stage a hit Disney musical....

Tibore said...

Well, since this story didn't end up tragic, I guess I can post one of the worst jokes in the world on this topic:

A Hollywood director was working on his masterpiece, a war film. He told the producer, "We need 100,000 extras for the dramatic battle scene! They'll rush over the hills shooting their guns, it'll be glorious!". The producer groaned, but said ok. He then said "I need 20,000 horses for the calvary charge". The producer complained but said fine. He then said "And I need another 100,000 extras to play the enemy". At this point, the producer had it. He yelled, "How are we going to pay for all this??"

The director grinned, then said, "Easy. I plan to use real bullets!"

Ba dum, CHING!... Thank you, thank you, I'm here all week...

Skyler said...

This is unforgiveable. Even a gun shooting blanks should never be pointed directly at someone. The wad can really hurt someone.

And what's the point of aiming it at anyone? It's not like the audience could tell.

Negligent discharges are dealt with severely in the Marine Corps. I hope the law treats these thespians just as harshly.

Glen said...

A play with stage combat needs Combat Master. If there are guns involved, that CM also needs to be a certified Armorer.

The Armorer rents prop weapons and blank ammo to the production. Real guns should NEVER be used.

He/She trains the actor(s)in the proper use of the weapon. He stages the shooting so that the gun only 'appears' to be pointed at the victim (and never at the audience). He makes sure the staging protects the actor's eyes, ears, etc.

The Armorer trains the actor who uses the weapon and the Stage Manager. These two persons do a weapons check each and every night. They double check each other. Once the gun is loaded and double checked the entire cast gets a 'weapons live' notification.
No other individuals are allowed to touch that gun. Ever.

The real question is how live ammo was ever brought into the theater in the first place.

Tibore said...

You know, the venue is being reported as a "community theater". It's probably a small, local venue that didn't have the budget to hire a legitimate armorer.

That doesn't excuse the mistake, but it's probably the reality of the situation. Bet things'll change now, after this.

Glen said...

As to the Vienna knife incident. That knife should have be blunted by the Property Master before it ever became a part of rehearsals, not to mention actual production.

They don't get sharp again after a proper blunting unless someone sharpens them. Or substitutes a new knife.

Michael H said...

Fucking morons is how it happened.

Mrs. Michael H teaches theater. We have a cache of prop guns in the basement. All have narrow barrels that will not let a standard bullet pass, chambers that allow only a non-projectile round, and use a specific round of ammo.

Still, the prop person and the director are supposed to be qualified to use the guns because even the discharge w/o a bullet can cause injury.

Pogo said...

Bordy's 2006 production of Bye Bye Birdie was marred by an unfortunate accident during the Telephone Song (Going Steady), in which the phone props inexplicably and simultaneously exploded when all the actors were holding them.

At the time, director Bill Bordy said, "I was like, 'Oh my God, dear Lord, no'. Luckily I was a lousy lineman."

Tibore said...

Pogo, in that vein, the movie that scares me is the 3 Stooges one where they throw all the pies.


vbspurs said...

As to the Vienna knife incident.

Hey, promise me that if you guys ever form an Althouse grunge band, that you'll consider "The Vienna Knife Incident" for a name?

Michael H said...

Tibore - That's right! The pie incident took Curly out, and Shemp was brought in to fill the role.

Unfortunately, Shemp was soon injured in an eye-poke gone wrong (he never had Curly's impeccable timing) and he was replaced by Curley Joe, who was seriously disfigured in a nose-pull gone wrong.

The Stooges went on permanent hiatus shortly thereafter, bringing down the curtain on one of Hollywood's most enduring acts.

Glen said...

That's rather amusing Victoria. It's a deal.

Tibore said...

Well remember Michael H, Moe is on record saying "I was like, 'Oh my God, dear Lord, no'. Luckily I was a lousy baker..."

Michael H said...

Moe was the problem. First, the bad pies. Then the bad eye poke. And finally the bad nose pull. It became less a question of competence and more a blatant jealousy of the other Stooges.

AllenS said...

"How are mistakes like this made?"

The answer is in the Labels.

Labels: actors, guns

MadisonMan said...

How are mistakes like this made?

Ask Dick Cheney.

Cedarford said...

Paul Brinkley - Very helpful post.
This was an amateur production and appeared to lack the training that professional stage, TV, cinema actors & crews get in potentially dangerous explosives, pyrotechnics, fire, guns. Lots of regulations and union rules cover the pros safety needs.

Crimso - Crimso said...
"How are mistakes like this made?"

When people with no prior instruction and no common sense (note that's "and" and not "and/or") are handed firearms. They shouldn't use the real deal. If a stage production requires a scene where someone dies from being poisoned, do they actually have a vial of poison on hand? Or do they expect the audience to use their imaginations?

Even if it's loaded with blanks, it can still be quite dangerous. What was that dude's name from years back? Hexum or something?

For authenticity on the set, the "real deal" must be used in many instances. Obviously no live ammo and many TV and movie scenes "add" special effects indicating firing, tracers, explosions, later. But you still have many dangers.

The John-Eric Hexum case is textbook. Instructor had planned to drill Hexum in safety before his scene, had started..then was called away to work on another scene, leaving the pistol and blanks with Hexum, who was - so it was said, was a male model and a martial arts student trying to get into acting, not dumb, but unfamiliar with firearms. Then some woman came by and asked if he was nervous using the gun. Hexum replied that the gun would be shooting blanks so it was not dangerous, loaded the gun, put it to his head and pulled the trigger.

Ol' John-Eric was also utterly unfamiliar with the real world outside his gym, in the sense he never saw construction work...how nail guns using a tiny .22 or .38 cal blank drive a concrete bolt in 6" deep. (vs 10 minutes of sweating and bearing down with a sledge & manual cross drill or 5 minutes with a hammer drill do the same).

So he pulled the trigger and set up a 3,000 FPS concussion wave of some 300lbs/in2 of force on 0.8 in2 of his skull. It was pure physics. Meaning the blast wave fragmented skin and skull & blew the shards and hot gases through his brain clear to the other side of his skull.

The girl, needless to say, was highly impressed.

Fortunately, Hexum died and was not Schiavo-ized.
His family did sue, sucessfully.

glam1931 said...

I have performed in dozens of plays at this theatre in Bradenton, as well as directed a couple of shows. This particular production was a "rental" by a group of very elderly actors from Sarasota. I inquired about the incident today, and apparently none of the theatre's tech staff had anything to do with checking out what the oldsters were using for props. I happen to know the very elderly lady who loaned them the gun (not a cast member but a member of the group), and I suspect it is something her late husband left her, and it never occurred to her that it might be loaded. From there, you apparently have everybody assuming that someone else checked it out, which is how Brandon Lee got shot in The Crow.
I have been in and directed several shows there where firearms were used, and all were prop blank or starter guns with a block in the muzzle so no live rounds could be loaded. A real firearm has no business even making it through the door of the theatre. Now, thanks to the aforementioned group stupidity, we have the local chief of police wanting the City Council to introduce legislation to guard against a repeat. I would prefer legislation outlawing groups of elderly actors doing plays featuring guns or sharp objects! I mena, really, what were eighty-year-olds doing performing Of Mice and Men anyway? They should stick to Mornings At Seven.

Nichevo said...

C4, I prefer Col. Cooper's statement of the Rules. Rule 3 is always fingers-off-the-trigger. (Thanks Bob, you saved me the trouble.)

The Hexum case was just about as you said. You are kind perhaps; I remember at the time the popular verdict being Death by Stupid; but then they don't hire actors for brains, so shouldn't expect it of him.

I do believe it was a .44 Magnum, yes? I'm sure the girl was impressed. Too bad SHE knew nothing. Then again, too bad the armorer left the arms with Hexum. I remember him fondly from that time travel show...

Pogo said...

A fool and his bullet are soon parted.

John Burgess said...

Got some clarification on this story. One--sad news for me--the theater group is a local one and I hadn't realized that fact.

Two, the accident is more likely due to the age of the participants than anything else.

According to this article, it was a "senior theater group" involved, with the shooter aged 78 and the victim 81.

Again, according to the article, the theater actually has the right protocols for the use of weapons on stage. They just didn't use them during this rehearsal.

Pogo said...

A fool and his protocols are soon parted.

Sorry; I'll stop now.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The basic rules of gun safety, as taught to me by my father:

1) Never aim at anyone you don't intend to shoot.
2) Never shoot anyone you don't intend to kill.
3) Never kill anyone you don't intend to eat.

Remember, guns don't kill people, bullets kill people.