Ann Miles walked out of her home in Malvern, Arkansas, as a teenager in the 1950s and into a daring and dangerous job at the famous Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She later expanded her repertoire to include hair-raising stunts for movies, modeling work, acting jobs for television, and work in Broadway shows. Using her experience as a teenage rodeo rider and gymnast, Miles landed a job as the star of the renowned Diving Horse Act at the Steel Pier, riding a horse off a platform four stories high and diving into a small tank of water.
Miles later worked as a model in New York and as a stuntwoman in major motion pictures. She eventually became a hairstylist to the stars who performed on Broadway. She is best known for her difficult “Spiderwalk” stunt in the classic horror film The Exorcist. Although the scene was excluded from the original version, a video clip of the stunt has been viewed via the Internet by thousands of fans worldwide. The Spiderwalk scene was reinstated in a new release of the film in 2000 called The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen.
The stunts Miles performed for movies were often dangerous. For example, she was sometimes purposely set on fire. One important part of performing stunts, Miles writes in Spiderwalk, is to be completely prepared. “People always ask me, ‘aren’t you scared?’ and ‘isn’t what you do dangerous?’ I say no, but the real answer is—no, not scary or dangerous enough to stop me. There is danger. There is fear. The danger is in not knowing how—the fear is there to teach you.”
Her book celebrates the pioneering spirit of a young woman in 1950s America and relays what it took for a single woman to survive on her own in the entertainment business. Along the way, she fondly recalls how she became friends with some of the country’s elite entertainers, including teen idol Ricky Nelson and jazz great Louis Armstrong.