In Michael S. Walter's work, success is no easy stuntIn...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

September 19, 1993|By Jean Marbella

In Michael S. Walter's work, success is no easy stunt

In the new movie "Striking Distance," Michael S. Walter gets thrown in front of a speeding train and then off an 80-foot bridge. In John Waters' yet-to-be-released "Serial Mom," Kathleen Turner comes after him with a butcher's knife. Then she drops an air conditioner on him.

All in a day's work. But then, the 39-year-old Annapolis resident is nothing if not indestructible -- a handy trait for a movie stuntman whose resume includes "high falls," "car hits" and "precision driving" under the "Special Skills" section.

But as extensive a career as he's had -- from his first stunt gig in 1982's "Rocky III" to the recently completed "The Pelican Brief" -- Mr. Walter's biggest triumph took place off screen.

A one-time Olympic boxing hopeful, he was paralyzed from the waist down in a 1980 car accident. "I'm in a wheelchair, my mother's feeding me baby food, my father is bathing me, and I said to myself, 'I'm not going to stay like this,' " he says.

In six months, he was walking again. With his boxing career over, he looked for other ways to channel his athleticism and eventually fell in with the stunt-work community in Los Angeles.

A Maryland native, he missed his family and moved back here 1 1/2 years ago to find more than enough movie work on this coast. "I'm working more steadily now than ever," he says.

In "Striking Distance," he doubles for one of the bad guys, but hopes someday to do the honors for its star, Bruce Willis, whom he resembles. "We spent a lot of time together during the filming, and I finally asked him, 'What do I have to do to double you?' " Mr. Walter says. The answer is being worked out, in typical Hollywood fashion, with "his agent and my agent talking."

In the meantime, Mr. Walter is working on the ultimate script: his own life story. He's currently looking for investors for the project, but he no doubt already has a stuntman in mind.

Demetrios Dukas bent over backward to finish his latest project.

Mr. Dukas is an artist who recently completed painting the dome at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Parkville. The job meant climbing a scaffold and reaching up to create a beautiful ** haloed likeness of a serene, brown-eyed, brown-haired Jesus Christ against a brilliant blue background.

"Working overhead was difficult," Mr. Dukas says. "The paint was dripping on my head."

After more than three months of this back-bending artistry, Mr. Dukas (with an assistant who helped with lettering) completed the project. It will be dedicated Oct. 24 to kick off the church's 25th anniversary celebration.

The work was a challenge for Mr. Dukas, but he feels a sense of satisfaction now that it's completed.

It's a feeling he's become familiar with since beginning his career as a Byzantine iconographer and church glorifier about 35 years ago.

After a family friend -- a priest -- suggested Mr. Dukas try his talented hand at painting icons, Mr. Dukas traveled to Greece to investigate the art. He decided that this was indeed his niche. "It overwhelmed me," he says of his discovery.

The Bowie resident has been painting icons and decorating churches around the country ever since. He's done work for St. Sophia Cathedral in Washington, the Church of the Archangel in Stamford, Conn., and Holy Cross Chapel in Brookline, Mass., among others.

A career as a Byzantine iconographer hasn't made him rich, although he is comfortable. "I can't complain," he says. "I am doing something that I enjoy." Besides, compensation comes in many different forms.

"When I get paid, the money goes pretty quickly," he says. "But when I go back years later and look at my work, it's like getting paid all over again."

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Sandra Crockett

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