Fabio Explains What Happened When a Goose Struck Him on a Rollercoaster: 'It Was a Miracle'

On the season finale of the PEOPLE in the '90s podcast, the romance novel cover star (and pop culture icon) says there is still a mystery around that day in 1999 in Busch Gardens

We know Fabio today as something of a '90s pop culture curiosity—one of those people you know, but you're not sure how. Or why. No one owned the '90s quite like the Italian-born model turned romance novel cover star. He posed for 1,300 of them, hair always blowing, muscles always glistening. His name was also on a dizzying array of stuff: hair-care products, fitness videos, posters, a clothing line at Sam's Club. He became further immortalized in movies like Dude, Where's My Car?, Spy Hard and Death Becomes Her and on shows including Step by Step and Guiding Light, often playing himself. And, of course, there were those "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" ads.

By the early aughts, Fabio was easy to make fun of — he knows this. And he's been in on the joke, appearing in Zoolander and Sharknado 5. (Things he's said no to over the years: Viagra ads, Disney's Tarzan, and Dancing With the Stars.) He remains pretty comfortable in his own never Botox-ed or filler-ed skin. "You can't take life seriously," Fabio, now 62, says on the PEOPLE in the '90s podcast. "You'll be a miserable bastard if you take your life seriously. Let's have some fun. Let's laugh. I feel sorry sometimes for all these comedians. Now they have to be so politically correct. I mean life, it some time can be very harsh. Some time it can be beautiful. But you know, life is truth. Don't get so sensitive."

So yeah, Fabio knows today people mostly know him for "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter." To this he shrugs, points out it ran for 24 years then points to his $100 million collection of sports cars. (He also casually mentions he's been told some people use the product as… sexual lubricant.) One thing Fabio won't laugh about: that time a goose hit his face on a rollercoaster.

Supermodel Fabio was bloodied when a bird hit him in the face as he was riding Apollo’s Chariot, a new roller coaster at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, Va., during a publicity event to mark the dedication of the ride, March 29, 1999.
Steve Earley/Virginian-Pilot/AP

This is part of the Fabio narrative. On March 31, of 1999 —the next day, the entire episode was thought of by many as an April Fool's joke — he was at an event at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va, to celebrate the inauguration of a new ride, Apollo's Chariot. He took off, in the first car, for the inaugural ride, which was being filmed. When the ride stopped, Fabio's face was bloody. On the People in the ''90s season finale, he revisits that day. "It was a miracle. That was a miracle," Fabio remembered, talking to Jason Sheeler and Andrea Lavinthal.

"So the rollercoaster goes down at 80 miles an hour, 80, 85 miles an hour, over a pond and back up, and then upside down. So when it came down and went over the pond at like 80, 85 miles an hour. So what happened is, over the pond there was a bunch of geese there. I'm talking about hundreds. And one got sucked in. I saw this very up close. The geese hit the video camera. What happened, the goose hit the video camera. The video camera shattered. At 85 miles per hour."

fabio
Fabio. Jeff Minton

But, Fabio was even faster. "I was with reflex fast enough to turn my head. And I saw totally the metal passing by and cut the bridge of my nose. Then got I turned, and it really was a miracle. But because then it was all the rest of the ride, after I was cut upside down, of course the blood rushes to your head. So when I came off, my face was bloody."

Fabio was rushed to the hospital. "They thought, 'Oh my God, it was like a broken nose and this and that.' They thought, because all the blood. My nose wasn't broken. You know how big was the cut? One stitch."

The lawyers began circling. "Now, let me tell you, during that time, every single law firm in America, three or four of the big law firms, they come up to me and say, 'Fabio, that's going to be the first easy four or $5 million in your life.' I said, 'No.'" Fabio says he took full responsibility. "No, no. I said, 'No, it's principle. I did my job. I'm not going to sue them. I took the job. I signed that contract.'"

But a mystery remains. "And I tell you, you know the camera," Fabio says. "My manager at that time, he said, 'Oh, let's see the video footage.' Well the camera is never to be found. The tape disappeared. It never was found."

For more from Fabio and other '90s icons, listen to PEOPLE in the '90s on iHeartMedia, Apple podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. New episodes drop Thursday mornings.

For more about Fabio Lanzoni, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

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