Ernie F. Orsatti, best known for his unforgettable fall through a glass skylight in the 1972 movie The Poseidon Adventure, has died. He was 80 and passed Sept. 12 in La Quinta, Calif. from a hemorrhagic stroke, his son, Noon Orsatti, confirmed.
Ernie Orsatti was born in Beverly Hills on Feb. 13, 1940, to opera singer Inez Gorman and Ernie R. Orsatti, a former professional baseball player and double for Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr. (1924). The younger Orsatti became a model and competitive swimmer before breaking into show business with appearances in the 1968 film The Acid Eaters and in The Green Berets, starring John Wayne.
He later had roles in the films The Mechanic (1972), The Last American Hero (1973), The Towering Inferno (1974) and Viva Knievel! (1977). He also appeared on TV shows Mannix, The Incredible Hulk, and Hill Street Blues.
In The Poseidon Adventure, the tale of an ocean liner capsized by a huge wave, Orsatti played Terry, the boyfriend of Pamela Sue Martin. The dangerous stunt was his first major task, and asked him to let go from an upside-down table to fall 32 feet onto a skylight in the ballroom of the ocean liner.
Orsatti did the stunt, but was knocked out by the plunge. He later admitted he was “scared to death” by the stunt, but it made his career, and he later was a fan favorite at gatherings surrounding the film. See the plunge at 2:20 of the video above.
Survivors include his wife, Lynda; son, Noon; grandson Rowbie; granddaughter Allie; great-granddaughters Raya and Mira; and a half-brother, Rex Pierson. Memorial plans have not been announced.