Have some sad news to report.
Daredevil Jim “Crash” Moreau, one of my favorite interview subjects of all time, was recently found dead in his home in Lincoln, Maine, when a friend visited to check on him. The “Maine Maniac” was only 73.
An original thrill show stuntman, Crash was one of the stars of “Hell Drivers: America’s Crash Test Dummies,” a documentary about the last county fair daredevils who crashed cars through RV trailers and jumped school busses and garbage trucks off burning ramps. They were the disciples of Joie Chitwood and Evel Knievel, and their mission to entertain became much tougher when movie and video game special effects set an impossible bar for comparison.
When I worked on “Hell Drivers” more than decade ago with filmmakers Peter Koziell and Al Ward, we spent many days on the road with Crash at fairgrounds in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario. His claim to fame was the “Steel Wall,” which involved standing up cars on their rear bumpers and then driving straight through them so they’d fall like dominoes.
He also did the “Steel Wall” with a school bus, theorizing that all the kids who hated school like him would LOVE the visual.
I just pulled out a random interview transcript where I asked Crash if he ever got nervous doing these insane stunts (and only for a few hundred bucks each – it was not a lucrative gig.)
“Actually, I’m nervous with everything I do,” he said. ”If you’re nervous, then you’re looking after things that could go wrong and you start realizing you could get hurt. So you take more precautions.”
But as safe as he tried to be, he also wanted to make sure his explosions looked impressive enough for his adrenaline-junkie audience. I once saw him argue with a racetrack safety supervisor about how much gunpowder he could use for a stunt.
“I have a theory. Crash is like a folk artist like Grandma Moses was,” pyrotechnician Michael Tooher told us. “(Guys like him) don’t know why they have to do what they do, but they need to do it. And money and fame doesn’t matter to them. He wants to put more gasoline in the trailer. He wants to put more black powder in the trailer.”
Here is a pic of Crash when he was part of the “Deathriders” Show in the early 1970s:
He was a real badass, but also a very joyful person who loved railroad and circus history. I loved the rusty colorful Partridge Family bus sitting on his front lawn.
I think of Crash every time I see a sign for a county fair or demolition derby. He once did his “Captain Explosion” act on network television, but he never became as famous as he had hoped to be.
Here is the GoFundMe for his funeral and burial expenses. His line of work doesn’t offer life insurance or a retirement plan:
On a final note, here are a few clips of Crash in action from the “Hell Drivers” trailer, a glimpse of how he’d want to be remembered: