By Eugene S. Robinson
“My jaw broke at the joint on both sides.”
It should be noted that California native LaFaye Baker is smiling and laughing when she says this.
“I couldn’t close my mouth, my teeth were busted out and just hanging.” The occasion was a motorcycle jump through a wall of smoke back in 1996 for The Fugees’ video “Ready or Not.” Practice runs had been smoke-free, but for the actual shoot there was smoke. Lots of smoke. And while Baker landed the jump, minus a helmet, she landed the jump hard and her jaw hit the dirt bike’s speedometer — and the rest is all multiple reconstructive surgery history. Complete with titanium plates and screws and months with her jaw wired shut.
“She was doing a backward fall. Hit the pad wrong and was in a coma for a couple of weeks before she died. Her family was on the set that day…” Baker trails off, reminding us in no uncertain terms that what we see when we’re enjoying a night out sometimes comes at great expense.
That wasn’t foremost in her mind when, in 1987, Baker finally yielded to the blandishments of a fellow probation officer who, impressed with the former gymnast and volleyball player’s physicality, urged her to start doing stunt work and introduced her to stunt notable Greg Elam. With two gigs the first year, three the second year and five jobs her third year, stunt work sort of seemed like a comfortable hobby. Until right around the time Halle Berry called.
Baker set her chutzpah phasers to stun.