A Brief History
On July 14, 1938, Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. defied death and danger by flying his Lockheed 14 Super Electra around the world in a record time of 81 hours. Despite his great wealth, Hughes flew as a test pilot on airplanes under development and in record setting attempts, risking his wealthy life in the process. Throughout history there have been rich people that take seemingly unnecessary chances with their lives either for the thrill of the event or because they are doing what they love. Today we list some of those risk taking wealthy dare devils. Who would you add to the list?
1. Howard Hughes.
Despite being the heir to Hughes Tools and a vast fortune, Howard was a playboy and adventurer that never shied away from dangerous activity, at least not until he became an eccentric old germaphobe and hermit that lived in isolation in a hotel room with no physical contact with the outside world in his later years! The airplane Hughes piloted on his record breaking circumnavigation of the globe was a development of the Lockheed 10 Electra of the type Amelia Earhart had flown into the oblivion of aviation history in her own failed attempt to circumnavigate the world by air. Hughes famously piloted the only flight of his infamous “Spruce Goose” giant seaplane, and was involved in airplane crashes that nearly killed him in 1943 and 1946. The 1943 crash was in a Sikorsky S-43 flying boat that Hughes was testing as training for the future testing of the Spruce Goose (H-4 Hercules). The crash into Lake Mead killed a crew member and resulted in Hughes suffering a major gash on his head. The 1946 crash of a Hughes FX-11 reconnaissance aircraft resulted in far worse injuries for Hughes, including 3rd degree burns, a collapsed lung, a crushed collar bone, and a crushed chest that resulted in broken ribs and his heart being pushed onto the other side of his chest cavity! Hughes was saved by a Marine Master Sergeant that happened to be in the area. While recuperating at the hospital, Hughes found himself dissatisfied with the hospital bed he was in and drew up plans for a new type of hospital bed that has become the model for modern hospital beds. Alas, the dare devil flight career of Howard Hughes was over, so he turned to less adventurous activities such as making movies and making money before he turned into a recluse.
2. Paul Newman.
In 1969, Newman became enamored of auto racing while training for a role in the film, Winning. He became an actual race car driver, competing throughout the 1970’s in SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) events, winning 4 national championships within that promotion. He even competed in the 1979 24 Hours at Le Mans and finished an impressive second place. He continued racing and at the age of 70 won the 24 Hours at Daytona race, an event he again competed in in 2005 at the age of 80! In his last race as a driver, Newman won the pole at Watkins Glen in 2007. What an inspiration for senior citizens. Who says old people cannot drive? Paul Newman was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2009, the year after he died. Newman was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and did not need any more money or fame from racing, just the thrills of a job well done. Along with his wife, Joanne Woodward, Newman was one of the great philanthropists among Hollywood movie stars.
3. Pat Tillman.
Despite having a great football career, gaining entry to the College Football Hall of Fame and excelling in the NFL, Tillman turned down a 3 year contract for $3.6 million in order to enlist in the US Army in 2002. Tillman and his brother Kevin had both trained as Rangers, a super tough Army elite unit. Apparently from a family of true patriots, Kevin had been signed by the Cleveland Indians to play professional baseball, but chose to defend his country instead, just like Pat. Pat served in extensive combat in Afghanistan until he was killed by friendly fire in 2004. Unfortunately, his death was marred by Army brass engaging in a cover up of his accidental death in an effort to avoid the inevitable embarrassment of having killed such a high profile soldier. The last time a pro football player had been killed in combat was in 1970 when Bob Kalsu was killed in Viet Nam. (The only other pro football player to die in Viet Nam was Cleveland Brown Don Steinbrunner.)
4. George Washington and other brave Presidents.
Many of our presidents have served during time of war, and many of those on combat operations, starting with George Washington. Some of these veterans turned president had been Generals, while others were of lesser rank. William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson achieved fame as fighters, propelling them to the White House, and Teddy Roosevelt charging San Juan Hill was fresh in the mind of voters when he was elected vice president. John F. Kennedy’s adventures on PT-109 during World War II were famous, and most recently, George H.W. Bush was a torpedo bomber pilot in World War II and was shot down in combat. Since then, the 3 presidents we have had since have not been to war. Washington may have been the richest man in the Colonies when he joined the American Revolution, risking his life in battle and his riches, perhaps along with his freedom and even his life had the Americans lost. Kennedy and George HW Bush were certainly from well to do families when they risked their lives for their country. George HW Bush famously celebrated his 90th birthday by going on a parachute jump!
5. Ted Turner.
American billionaire and known as “The Mouth of the South” or “Captain Outrageous,” Turner delved into the dangerous sport of yacht racing in 1974 by entering the America’s Cup yacht race. In 1977 Turner led the winning team to the America’s Cup on the yacht Courageous, but it was in 1979 when he skippered Tenacious to victory in a Fastnet race that the danger inherent in yacht racing became apparent when 15 sailors died during the race. A quick check of the Wikipedia article “List of fatal accidents in sailboat racing” reveals the dangers of racing sailboats.
6. James Cameron.
This movie making genius is worth a whopping $700 million, so you would think he would be a bit more careful with his life. No, not at all. His love of deep sea exploration has led him to take the extreme diving submarine Deepsea Challenger to the bottom of the deepest known part of the ocean, the Challenger Deep. In fact, his 2012 deep dive was the deepest solo dive in aquatic exploration history, a scary feat made scarier by being alone. (Among Cameron’s film credits are the 2 biggest money making films in history, Titanic and Avatar.)
7. Steve Irwin.
At a worth of “only” $40 million, Irwin may not have been ridiculously wealthy, but compared to most people he was rich enough to perhaps stop taking such dangerous risks. Known for harrowing close calls with dangerous animals, such as crocodiles, Komodo dragons, venomous snakes (almost said “poisonous!”) and the like, Irwin finally met his end while filming stingrays underwater in 2006 when a large stingray whipped his barbed stinger into Irwin’s chest, piercing the beloved television and film star’s heart. Irwin was enjoying monumental success as “The Crocodile Hunter” and had parlayed his popularity into being a spokesman for environmental protection and the preservation of wildlife. His wife and daughter have also reached a high level of success in the same field.
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For more information, please see…
Osho. Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously. St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999.