By Polly Keary, Editor
Mike Buse was always better at wrecking than racing.
When he raced cars at the Evergreen Speedway as a young man, especially when on the figure eight track, he had a tendency to crash, he said.
So 10 years ago, he decided to make a career of crashing vehicles.
It turned out to be a good choice. In just a decade, Buse, 44, known in the entertainment world as Mr. Dizzy, has risen to the top of the daredevil world, setting two world records and making racetrack crowds roar when he spirals school buses in the air and sets off massive explosions with himself in the center.
His derring-do has made him famous in the world of stunt performers, but soon his fame will spread to American households. This fall, he will be one of three stunt artists featured on “American Daredevils,” a new reality series on the History Channel.
Becoming Mr. Dizzy
When Mike Buse saw a driver jump a car at the Evergreen Speedway 10 years ago, he saw something new he wanted to do behind the wheel. The Monroe native had been racing for nearly 20 years, but he’d never done stunts before.
He told a friend he wanted to give it a try, and his friend challenged him to do it.
“He said I should jump a motorcycle over a bus,” said Buse. “But a motorcycle doesn’t have a roll cage. So I said, ‘How about if I jump the bus over three motorcycles?’”
The stunt was a success, and the crowd at the track that night loved it.
So did Buse.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I really thought I might die.”
He planned to do a repeat performance in a year, and spent the entire year worrying about it.
“I took care of all my affairs before I did it,” he said.
That stunt, too, was a success, and Mr. Dizzy’s career was born.
He started out doing stunts regularly at the Evergreen Speedway, then branched out to racetracks around the western United States, increasing his skills and the size of his crew.
In 2008, he made his first indelible mark on the stunt world, setting a world record for a limousine jump, soaring 107.6 feet in a 32-foot limo. The stunt was featured on a Discovery Channel show called Wreckreation Nation with Dave Mordal.
That jump brought him to the attention of other filmmakers eager to produce the next big thing in the lucrative and popular reality show market.
A film company called Widespread Creative contacted Buse, and for the next four years, followed Buse and his crew as they traveled and did stunts, even tagging along on a trip to Costa Rica for the American Motor Legends Tour. The company also followed the exploits of two of the other top daredevils in the nation; Spanky Spangler, a legendary stunt man from Arizona, and Dr. Danger, a daredevil from Texas.
Widespread Creative sold the rights to another company which in turn sold them to the History Channel, and a new show was born.
For the last year, the History Channel has continued to capture new footage, even though they already had four terabytes of footage in the can. That is partly because they wanted fresh footage, and partly because Buse lost 90 pounds in the last year and didn’t look much like his former self.
They are editing the footage into a show called “American Daredevils,” and the channel has invested a lot.
“My producer did The Deadliest Catch,” said Buse. “He said he’s never seen a network put the kind of money into a show they are putting into this one. It’s their next Deadliest Catch, they are talking.”
The show revolves around the lives and personalities of the three stuntmen, each very different.
Spanky Spangler is the most established of the three; at 67 he claims 23 world records.
“Spanky is retiring and his son is trying to step in,” said Buse. “And Dr. Danger is the gypsy. He never has money. He makes just enough money for the gas to go to the next stunt. I’ve seen him sleep on the floor of a bar before, to save money on a hotel. And I’m the guy with a legit company, a general manager and an office. I’m the professional.”
The goal of the producers is to make the audience care about the three stuntmen, which increases the tension when they perform life-threatening stunts.
“They worry about what happens to us and get the same exhilaration we do when it’s all okay at the end,” said Buse.
Also important to the narrative are the members of Buse’s crew, including Buse’s son Dizzy Jr., crewmember Corey Howell, also known as “The Headache,” and Buse’s right-hand man Josh Beckel, known as “The Crusher.”
The channel bought 16 episodes in advance and is soon to shoot the first commercial for the autumn release of the show.
Major promotion is slated to begin about six to eight weeks ahead of this show’s airing.
It will feature some of Buse’s most spectacular work. He did 31 stunts last year alone, including sitting in a car encased with explosives and pushing a button to detonate them, then emerging unscathed from the resulting fireball.
“I learned how to set the charges so they don’t blow out the windows of the car,” said Buse. “It looks so cool when you’re in there and you look out and there’s all that fire.”
Filming will continue through this summer, including when Buse and his crew put on Mr. Dizzy’s Crash Factory Live! at the Evergreen Speedway June 22. The Crash Factory shows are Buse’s creation, drawing daredevils from around the nation who do motorcycle stunts, world record attempts, spectacular jumps often involving explosions and more.
Future bright for Mr. Dizzy
The events of the last year sometimes still overwhelm him at times, Buse said.
“I went from being a guy who jumped a bus in Monroe to being one of the top three stunt guys in the world,” he said.
The show is likely to change Buse’s life, at least for a while, said Evergreen Speedway operator Doug Hobbs.
“I worked with Russ, the producer, years ago on the The Deadliest Catch,” he said. “They make cult heroes out of people. That’s what you want with a reality show.”
Even the locations at which reality shows are shot can become famous; 1,500 people per day visit the pawn shop that is the set of Pawn Stars.
And that could improve the fortunes of the whole town, Hobbs said.
“It brings more interest to the city, the county, the racetrack, and as we continue to revitalize the speedway, it brings attention even more,” said Hobbs.
The first season will pay Buse handsomely, but if there is a second season, Buse will become a well-to-do stuntman, indeed.
He hopes to use much of the proceeds to fund a children’s charity called Mr. Dizzy Kids that will, among other things, promote helmet safety for children, and may also fund other small but worthy charities that support children.
And eventually, perhaps even in the next couple of years, he will hang up his helmet and move into management of his company.
“The Crusher will take on my stunts,” he said. “He’s a fearless kid; he’s got a good head on his shoulders and he’s nipping at my heels.”
For now, he’s just looking forward to the airing of the show.
“Our future looks bright,” he said.