September 29, 1980 12:00 PM

Wells’ disastrous leap

ABC-TV’s That’s Incredible has thrived on wowing audiences with death-defying stunts. But morbidly contrived events can turn to disaster as did the attempt by world champion motorcycle jumper Gary Wells, 23, to leap the fountain at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The segment was to have been broadcast on September 15. After soaring 180 feet, Wells caromed off the landing ramp, dropped to the pavement, skidded across a parking lot and hit a concrete wall. Then, as spectators on a nearby garage roof pressed forward to gawk, a guardrail gave way and half a dozen people plunged two stories. Wells was listed in critical condition with injuries to the pelvis, thighs, head and heart. Evel Knievel had broken his pelvis attempting the same stunt in 1967, and Wells had recently bragged, “Knievel is in the past tense now. Everything he has done I’ve bettered.”

Susan upstages baby

As the much-snapped daughter of photographer Michael Virden and Eight Is Enough star Susan Richardson, 7-month-old Sarah Jeanette knows how to grab attention—and a fistful of Mommy’s hair at a planning meeting for a Los Angeles fashion show. Slimmed-down Susan got glances too. She has dropped the 70 pounds she gained during her pregnancy by spending several months on a water, fruit juice and bouillon diet. Richardson now weighs 120 and once more wears a size-8 dress.

Hagman is rattled

Hoping to popularize horse racing as a family affair, New York’s Belmont Park staged a J.R. Festival. As befits TV’s No. 1 snake in the grass, Larry Hagman arrived in a Stetson that had been custom-made from Texas rattlesnakes. It went over big with bettors, but not with the horse which Hagman rode for a ceremonial spin down the homestretch. The animal shied from the sombrero and bolted. Said the old sidewinder after he got the critter under control: “He’s just trying to be mean as me.”

Gregory’s out

Activist comedian Dick Gregory, 47, moved into his fifth month of fasting in protest against the holding of the hostages and reported gaining 10 pounds. No, he hasn’t been dipping into Instant Grits, though the 5’10”, 103-pound entertainer brought a box to a New York press conference where he delivered a homily on hominy. Its moral: that the U.S. economic boycott of Iran is a joke. “American businesses are not honoring the boycott,” Gregory insists. “They’re not even trying. U.S. goods can be purchased at any store in Tehran.” Why, then, was he singling out grits? “I hear that’s what the Carters eat for breakfast.” And what is Gregory growing fatter on? Just fruit juice.

Mason’s meandering

In Salem’s Lot James Mason plays a diabolical antique dealer who consorts with a band of vampires. But at Deauville, where the movie was shown at the American Film Festival, the scene evoked other times, other roles. On the beach with his wife, Australian actress Clarissa Kaye, Mason took off on a tangent and strode moodily toward the sea, like the star-crossed Norman Maine of his 1954 A Star Is Born. The ending this time will be happy. He and Clarissa, who is also in the movie, will continue as an acting team.

Beltin’ Elton

Elton John, who three years ago talked of retiring, drew a record 350,000 turf-trampling fans to New York’s Central Park, 100,000 more than James Taylor last year. Souvenir proceeds (an estimated $75,000) will go to revitalize the park. The name of designer Calvin Klein, a co-promoter of the free concert, appeared on many undulating rumps, but not Elton’s. He wore—serially—cowboy togs, a punk jumpsuit (above) and a Donald Duck outfit.

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