Story by Lorrie Reyes
Photos by Joe Kukuczka and Lorrie Reyes
With an extensive and diverse resume, Steven Ho, 39, is making moves on and off the set
Most kids growing up watch their favorite cartoon characters fight and triumph over evil on Saturday mornings before their parents wake up.
Watching the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” defeat Shredder each week was the highlight of lots of kids mornings in the 80’s and 90’s.
But not martial artist and stuntman Steven Ho. Steven was handpicked to be Jet Li’s stunt double in the film “Dragon Fight” in 1989 before graduating from Pepperdine University. In the early 90’s, he was busy being Donatello in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II and III. Prior to his film work, Steven grew up doing martial arts.
“My hero at the time was Bruce Lee,” says Steven. “He was the only Asian-American male figure out there.”
Before Bruce, Steven first became interested in fighting while he and his father watched Muhammad Ali fight on television. His family had moved from Indonesia when Steven was 4-years old.
He taught himself how to speak English from library books and wanted to go to pre-school that had the “Rock-em, Sock-em Robots.”
“It was the only pre-school that had them,” says Steven. “But I got in trouble before I even got to play with them because I climbed on the bookcase to get them down.”
Steven was drawn to combat from a young age. He tried to teach himself with books and recordings that his uncle would sneak him. His mother didn’t let Steven take classes until he was almost 11 years old.
But once his mom gave in, he worked on his craft every second he could.
“My parents at several points forbade me from working out too much.” Steven says. “So I set my alarm every night to midnight and I’d train by myself secretly for an hour or two; I just wanted to improve.”
Steven has been cast in many films and can now periodically be seen on “The Conan O’Brien Show.”
He originally went on the show to be a stunt coordinator but ended up teaching Conan some tricks. It was supposed to be a one time thing, but the bit was popular and he was asked to return several times.
Steven has taught Conan how to kick and punch through wood, fly through glass and even how to defend himself with just a baby and a stroller.
Because Steven does adventurous stuff during his day job he isn’t really afraid of anything.
Except for stand-up comedy.
“My biggest fear was just comedy,” says Steven. “It’s just them and the mic and people heckling them.”
So, he decided to face his fear and do a stand-up set.
Nowadays, Steven operates Plush Home with his wife Nina Petrozio in West Hollywood.
They opened it 10 years ago with an idea and one accordion file.
It seems like a far away life from his days as a stuntman.
“It was the opposite of film work,” says Steven. “The challenge was to start something from scratch. We took big chances to make this happen.”
A new challenge for Steven and Nina is that they are currently expecting twins.
Steven has been working locally to be nearby Nina.
One local thing Steven likes to do is to train kids at the Westside Boxing Club in Los Angeles.
Ignacio “Nacho” Saucedo, 32, co-owner of Westside Boxing Club has known Steven for the past four years, since he’s been training there.
“Steven is a great person,” says Nacho. “He’s always helping with the kids and willing to help out in any way he can.”
One of the kids Steven trains at Westside Boxing Club is 12-year-old Jose “Chachin” Saucedo. Chachin has been coming to the gym since he was 8. Steven has been training him for two years and has been teaching him discipline and to work on his form.
“I think it’s important, especially for young kids, to have mentors in their lives,” said Steven.
Steven has become a mentor of Chachin’s.
Chachin was having some problems at school with other kids. Steven stepped in and gave him some advice.
“He’s really fun and has taught me discipline,” says Chachin. “He taught me not to listen to the bullies.”
Stuntmen and coordinators do not see much of the limelight. They stand in and take punches for the action movie stars and don’t ask to be recognized.
“The stunt department is definitely the most under the radar department in all of Hollywood,” said Steven. “It’s the only major department in Hollywood that does not have a category for an Academy Award.”
Although Steven thinks the department is not recognized nearly as much as it should, he still doesn’t necessarily think he is a hero.
“Hero is such a big word and is thrown around a lot,” says Steven. “I think being a stuntman is a fun job, but I don’t think they are heroic.”
Most heroes can’t admit when they are one, but standing-in and getting punched for well-paid actors and being a mentor to children certainly qualifies one as a hero to others.
Photos by Joe Kukuczka and Lorrie Reyes