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Thursday, June 30, 2011

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Kurt Yaeger, Actor

Kurt Yaeger

This Mover and Shaker interview is sponsored by Cosmopolitan Dental, official dentist of Whom You Know!  Dr. Garo Nazarian is responsible for Peachy's pearly whites: 

Manhattan is widely described as mecca of diversity, passion, and the place where energy derives from the breath each New Yorker takes every day. It is a place that breeds resilience and power- there is no other city quite like it.

Kurt Yaeger, while born on the west coast, has always felt a special affiliation to New York because of the energy the city exudes. He grew up on the beaches of northern California, vastly becoming one of the first BMX riders to institute the sport to a professional level. Kurt traveled the country, touring in shows and competing to become the best. When he was 29, his life changed in an instant when he was involved in a hit and run motorcycle collision. As a result, the accident severed the lower portion his left leg- leaving him to walk with a prosthetic. Very much like the gracious city of Manhattan, Kurt shook himself off, played the new cards he had been dealt, and never looked back. He began a career in Hollywood; much like his previous professional athletic career, strove for greatness. Kurt is now one of the more talked about up and comers in the industry, and is very much a force to be reckoned with.

Kurt recently completed work on the feature film Dolphin Tale - with Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd. His past work credits include War Flowers with Christina Ricci, Pirahnaconda with Michael Madson and Rachel Hunter, and numerous television appearances. Kurt has also co-opened a production company, Artist Film ( with a focus on valuable and relevant content. This upcoming year, his production company is slated to begin work on a science fiction thriller - which Kurt and his partner Josh Gillick created.

Aside from his professional accomplishments, the work that Kurt deems the most important and beneficial, is the work he does with charity. Among the charities he focuses on, Wounded Warriors is one that Kurt holds at a high regard. This is a cause very close to Kurt, and is at the heart of his work within the industry. Kurt also champions for PWD actors (People With Disability), acting as a SAG/AFTRA/AEA committee board member, fighting on their behalf.
Kurt’s very existence has been a whirlwind of opportunity and success. He is a firm believer that anything is possible if you really want it bad enough. His story, along with the message of perseverance that he lives by every day, is something that he hopes can speak to others who are in similar situations. Ideally, Kurt would love to see the stigma that society perpetuates about disabilities, cease and evolve. Kurt is a living, breathing example of how you are the only person who is in control of your future.

If there is one thing that connects Kurt to Manhattan, it would be the relentless desire to stand out and do the best job possible. Manhattan is a city full of movers and shakers in their own respect. The city merely offers a canvas for people like Kurt to make a difference. We are pleased to present Kurt Yaeger as our latest Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan interviewed Kurt Yaeger for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What did you enjoy most about participating in BMX?
Kurt Yaeger:  BMX is a lifestyle that goes much further than participation. There is an immense comradery between BMXers that is hard to explain. A complete stranger from out of town could be riding at a skatepark and after only a short time of riding together, I’d offer him a free place to stay. I love pushing my physical boundaries, I love the freedom I feel when I fly through the air, I love the rush of landing a new trick but I think the comradery is what I enjoy most about BMX.

Are you a fan of the X Games? The Deegan family settled on Middle Street in Bristol from Ireland 100 years before ESPN was founded...
I’m not so much a fan of the X Games themselves but more a fan of the riding that takes place at the event. It’s amazing what the exposure of the X Games has done for the sport. It allows more people to get paid to ride bikes and dedicate themselves to the sport, but ultimately that was done by the pioneers of the sport like Matt Hoffman who put his belief into action and made things happen with his Bicycle Stunt Series that was the precursor to the X Games.

What have you learned about life and perspective from the accident you had at age 29? 
I’ve learned so very much from being so close to death. Life can be snuffed out in an instant, emergency room doctors are amazing, good can come from bad, you don’t know what life has in store for you so keep an open mind, do everything as if your life is being recorded every second of every day to be reviewed at the end of your life, and always stand firm for your principals – no one else will.

What do Hollywood and BMX life have in common?
In both BMX and Hollywood you better give it all or you will fail. In BMX if you don’t commit to a trick you will almost always crash and usually very hard. In Hollywood, as an actor, if you don’t give your character everything you have, it will come of as spurious, two dimensional and drab. As a writer/producer in Hollywood you better have a contingency plan for your contingency plans. You never know when a Tsunami will hit, as it did when I was filming the Syfy feature film Piranhaconda in Hawaii.

What can you tell us now about Dolphin Tale and will you tell us more once it hits the big screen please?
Dolphin Tale is a great 3D film for the whole family that tells the true story of a dolphin named Winter who lost her tail in a crab trap. When Winter lost her tail everyone thought for sure she would die, but with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, Dr. McCarthy (Kevin Carroll from Hanger Prosthetics) they were able to fit Winter with a prosthetic tail and ensure she would lead a normal life. I can tell you that Harry Connick Jr. is a great guy, a real down to earth cool cat and the director Charles Martin Smith is a fantastic director who is very supportive and a pleasure to work for.

What people in Hollywood have you been the most impressed by and why?
I’ve worked with several impressive people in Hollywood but a few people impressed me more by being regular people with extraordinary talent. Brian Krause, who was on like eight seasons of the show “Charmed” is one of hard working actors who is a riot on set and a good person with his head on straight. Christina Ricci is a absolutely delightful person, friendly and just a pleasure to be around. Michael Madsen is ridiculously talented and a “salt of the earth” type, no B.S., he’s my kind of person.
What do you know about Hollywood now that you wish you knew when you began?
I guess if I had to say one thing, it would be I wish I knew how hard this industry is. If I had I would have started sooner, I love a challenge. I love to hear people say “no”, it only fuels me to prove them wrong.

What are common misconceptions people on the East Coast have about people on the West Coast, and vice versa?
West coasters are not all surfer “dude, where’s my car” types. East Coasters aren’t all assholes.

Where do you suggest The Peachy Deegan should launch on the West Coast? 
Peachy has not reviewed any restaurants out there...
I guess I would start with some of my favorite places. I’m a huge fan of restaurants that are locally owned. If I can, I never go to a corporate or chain restaurant. I have a few favorite places out here, Olivia’s Trattoria is an amazing Italian place in Sherman Oaks -
The other place I really like is Asakuma Rice, amazing Sushi and happy hour all day long.
There are other places I enjoy but are more for a my enjoyment more than a review, like Ernie’s, an authentic Mexican’s joint that has Margaritas to die for.
(Peachy: Thanks!  We will have to visit them all and review them Kurt!)

Tell us please about the charities you are involved with and how one can participate in them.
I’m heavily involved with Wounded Warriors, which is a group dedicated to helping the wounded vets when they get home from the war. It’s something that I take a lot of pride in, because if I can help one soldier realize that he can still live a great and fulfilling life regardless of losing a limb, I’ve done something right. The Wounded Warriors foundations have chapters all over the country, so contacting your local chapter is the best way to get involved.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
Well my father is the biggest influence there. He always made me consider everyone of my actions, noting that everything we do, good or bad, has consequences. He encouraged me to do things to the best of my abilities and showed me through his own actions how to be a strong yet compassionate man. I’m still striving to be half as good of a person my father is.

What are you proudest of and why?
I’m proud of the fact that every time someone tells me no, or I can’t, I prove them wrong. I also take pride in participating in the things I fear. For instance, as a kid I was afraid of spiders but I disliked being afraid of them more. So I played with spiders until one day while camping in the desert I let a wild Tarantula crawl on my hand and arm, just so I wouldn’t fear it anymore. I treat most of the things in my life that way.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I’d like to be in a position to have a showrunner or writer create a character for me. For instance, I’ve wanted to talk with Kurt Sutter of the TV show Sons Of Anarchy on FX. The show is all about the sub-culture and relationships of a dynamic motorcycle club and what motorcycle club hasn’t had someone crash in it and loose a limb? I’d love to be a badass character who goes through that experience on screen throughout several episodes, if not a season. Plus I’d save production about seventy grand in CGI costs per episode (Kurt smiles from ear to ear while saying this).

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
The only award I think I have ever received was a police recognition award for chasing down four guys who were in the middle of breaking into my father’s van when I was seventeen. I caught one of them several blocks away and after bringing him to the police, who were by now at my parents house, went back out and located the other three who were then arrested as well.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
I enjoy sitting in Bryant Park. My entire business revolves around people, and Bryant Park is a great people watching place to go and relax.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Not much of a shopper. Lol.

What is your favorite drink?
Whiskey, neat. Preferably a Rye.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
I once had a friend think it was a good idea to bring a Shetland Pony to a party, besides the “natural” behaviors of the animal he decided that women’s skirts were edible… You can guess how that went over.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
I really won’t know where to start on this one, there are far too many I like to just have one.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
A cement skate park- something that symbolizes perseverance.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
I do something called street riding. It’s where you do your stunts on man made terrain around the city. Riding in Manhattan is a blast!
What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
Go out to eat dinner at midnight.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
It may sound contrived, but Manhattan is a work of art in itself. The people, the sounds, there is no place like the city.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Besides the charitable things I get to be involved with, I try to be a person who will tell you it straight. When I see someone acting like a fool, destroying their life, I will – out of love – let them know. When I see someone hurting I’ll try to find why and see if I might be of support to them. If someone has a legitimate need, I have a hard time saying no. So, I give honesty to my friends and acquaintances.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Nothing is overrated, that’s for sure!!! Underrated, being outside at night. Nothing in the world is more beautiful!

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know
 column and what do you like about it?
Sporty Peachy!  I love sports.
Have you drank The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not?
Not yet!  Next time I am in town...

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I don’t mind being asked for favors, so please ask me anytime. The worst thing I can say is no.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
My manager for acting/business related inquiries.
Marv Dauer & Associates
Ask for Marv or Greg. 310-207-6884
Follow me on twitter!/kurtyaeger
And I have an open page on facebook, it might take me a while but I try to answer every question on there, sort of hub.

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