Meet the Fabulous Morgans: The Castle-Dwelling, High-Flying, Coolest, Quirkiest Family in L.A. | Features | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Meet the Fabulous Morgans: The Castle-Dwelling, High-Flying, Coolest, Quirkiest Family in L.A. 

Thursday, Apr 18 2013
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When he was 18, Gary, a self-professed hippie, drove across the country in his Volkswagen bus and settled in Los Angeles. He's never left. As an actor he has appeared in a variety of films and TV shows: The Partridge Family, Outrageous Fortune, NCIS. As a stunt double, he's worked in films including Batman Forever, The Muppets and the second and third Rush Hour movies.

"I segued into doing stunts when I didn't look like a teenager anymore," Gary says. At just 5 feet 5 inches tall, he admits, "People didn't buy me as an adult. When you think of a dad, you don't think of me."

His petite size, however, led to work as an animal stunt double. "When you're little," he says, "they put you in animal suits."

click to flip through (6) PHOTO BY STAR FOREMAN - Bonnie Morgan, left, Suzy Morgan, Aaron Jacobs and Molly Morgan at home
  • PHOTO BY STAR FOREMAN
  • Bonnie Morgan, left, Suzy Morgan, Aaron Jacobs and Molly Morgan at home
 

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He did stunts for the titular dog in Cujo and the eponymous boxing kangaroo in the Elliott Gould film Matilda, among others.

Bonnie says, "Dad has done the things animals are too smart to do. You can't teach a dog to hurt himself. Cut to Gary, who will ram his head into the car door."

"I have had about 10 orthopedic surgeries, stitches and broken bones," her father admits. "You get banged up doing stunts. When you sign up to do stunts, it's stunts. It's part of the gig."

The family is only about two degrees of separation from everyone in Hollywood. The father of Oscar-winning actor Joel Grey choreographed Gary's parents' vaudeville show. Gary hired actor Emilio Estevez, before he was famous, to work his booth at the Renaissance Fair, as well as some of Emilio's "Malibu buddies," who included Sean Penn. Rob Lowe worked in the dunk tank for a day. Molly's godfather is Estevez's father, Martin Sheen. And Bonnie's godmother, Paula Dell Boelsems, is a veteran Muscle Beach gymnast who was inducted into the World Acrobatic Society Gallery of Legends. (She's also the flying woman on the cover of a Taschen book about Los Angeles.)

As for Gary's sister, Robbi Morgan Walberg, she's not just married to Antiques Roadshow host Mark Walberg. She's also an answer in Trivial Pursuit: She was Jason's first victim in the original Friday the 13th.

As the family runs through some of its greatest hits, minutiae exploding like popcorn, they all sit together on the same couch. Pixie-like Bonnie, cross-legged, sits between her demure older sister and her mother. As for her mom, her arms are entwined with her husband's. Quiet though she is, Suzy Morgan has showbiz connections herself: She's a former model and actress who, her daughters boast, dated director Hal Ashby and was actress Ruth Gordon's stand-in in Ashby's Harold and Maude. But she's also the shy Morgan — happy not to be a part of the family's performances.

In fact, Suzy initially rejected Gary's advances. She wasn't interested in a man who wore sequined suspenders and owned a duck named Mick.

They'd met in 1972 at a party in Laurel Canyon. When he later showed up at her apartment with a cousin who was there to see her housemate, Suzy wanted nothing to do with him. "She was the cutest girl I had ever seen," Gary says. "But she wasn't interested."

Eventually, as part of a group of friends who'd swim at Gary's pool on weekends, Suzy became smitten with the young actor. "He was so cool and adorable," she recalls. "I thought I must have missed the boat, and I thought, 'Oh no, what did I do?' "

When Gary asked her out again, she said yes. "We went to a swap meet, we rode the carousel in Santa Monica, we went to a drive-in, and then she slept over that night and never left," he says.

Suzy blushes and laughs as Gary tells their story. He says the pair was married thanks to an acid trip that turned him into a "Jesus freak."

"I got zapped!" he says. "I'm Jewish, but I came home from a trip to New York and I told Suzy about Jesus. Then she got saved and said we should be married, so I said, 'Let's get married.' " And that was that: They've been married 39 years.

Though Gary was born Jewish and Suzy was born Catholic, the pair consider themselves to be Messianic Jews.

Gary reveals the secret to their longevity: "You have to treat your wife as if it's your first date and you're hoping to get laid at the end of it."

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