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Frank Beddor
Jared Hoffman
April 12, 2024

80s Ski Style: “Hot Dog…The Movie” Turns 40

The 80’s… A time in history I don’t know much about. Wanting a firsthand report, I decided to ask my dear sainted mother about the 80’s. Once she shook off her thousand-yard stare, her only reply was, “God, I miss cocaine.” After that harrowing response, I decided to use Google. I dug through the tales of consumerism, ugly cars, and trickle-down economics, which obviously isn’t working due to us not letting the top get rich enough for the money to trickle down. Then I stumbled across a little ski movie that came out in 1984 by the name of Hot Dog…The Movie. It is the highest-grossing ski movie of all time, with over $17 million in box office returns against a budget of just $2 million. It received glowing reviews like, “light and less moronic than it might have been” and it received the honored title of “sexploitation flick.” I decided to check it out. Boy, was that a good idea because when the movie ended I noticed something that caught my eye, a little name in the credits that I wanted to share with all of you. You see dear reader, one of the stunt doubles in this film was none other than Frank Beddor himself. When I asked Frank why he had not talked much about being in this movie, he told me he was too embarrassed. Luckily for you all, I’m not embarrassed in the slightest.

Image of "The Looking Glass Wars" author and World Champion freestyle skier Frank Beddor with Peter Judge, Jeff Chumas, and friend on the set of "Hot Dog...The Movie" in 1983.

“The Looking Glass Wars” author and World Champion freestyle skier Frank Beddor with Peter Judge, Jeff Chumas, and friend on the set of “Hot Dog…The Movie” in 1983.

Hot Dog…The Movie follows Harkin Banks, played by Patrick Houser, a young freestyle skier who has come to Squaw Valley, California (which has since been renamed as Palisades Tahoe) to participate in a competition. It’s a standard underdog story. But what sets this movie apart from the other underdog stories, is that there are loads of boobs and 80’s racism played for comedy. When watching a comedy from the 80’s, one must remember times were different. You must turn off your 2024 lens and view it as a time capsule of an era that once was. That doesn’t make it appropriate today, but it allows you to laugh a bit more. Allow me to sell you on the film’s plot though. After picking up the hitchhiking Sunny, played by Tracy N. Smith, she and Harkin make their way to Tahoe. When they stop at the hotel, the concierge is busy in the hot tub with a gentleman, where we see a lot of plot. Then there is a wet t-shirt contest that is full of plot. Some skiing stuff happens that gets in the way of the plot and then there’s a party that ignites a love triangle between Harkin, Sunny, and Sylvia Fonda, played by 1982 Playboy Playmate of the Year Shannon Tweed, and of course, we see her plots. More ski stuff happens, and there is an unfortunate date rape joke (remember, it’s the 80s), then the movie ends.

Okay now that I’ve talked about all the plots you see in the movie, let’s talk about how Frank falls into this. The main antagonist, Rudolph “Rudi” Garmisch, played by John Patrick Reger, is an Austrian freestyle skier and all-around not-nice guy. Well as it turns out, John Patrick Reger can’t ski as well as he claimed. Actually, a lot of the actors couldn’t ski. So the studio hired stunt doubles, which is where Frank comes in. Frank was Rudolph’s stunt double. Most of the actors were paid peanuts, but not Frank. Frank had to do multiple flips, so he was paid a whopping thirty thousand dollars for one day’s work. Quick side note, Frank, I know you have at least thirty thousand dollars, can I borrow some money? Okay, back to the blog. As it turns out, Frank Beddor, author of The Looking Glass Wars, also happens to be a very competent skier. So competent, in fact, he was at one point the World Champion of freestyle skiing.

Still image of Shannon Tweed and David Naughton from the 1984 teen sex comedy ski film "Hot Dog...the Movie".
Image of the cover of June 1982 issue of Playboy magazine featuring Playmate of the Year Shannon Tweed reclining in a white, fur-lined robe.

After a second watch of the movie, I realized why the ski stuff was happening between all the plot, Harken and Rudolph are competing against each other. While I won’t spoil who wins, the skiing does not end after the competition. No, the true champion of freestyle skiing will be decided by whoever wins the Chinese Downhill. I’m sure you’re wondering, “What the fuck is a Chinese downhill?” This is also a question asked in the movie. A Chinese downhill is a race where there are no rules, except the winner is decided by being the first one to make it to the bottom and you have to start at the same time and you have to take the same path. That’s three more rules than none. What is meant by no rules is that the people participating in the race are allowed to do anything to win, including but not limited to; tripping other skiers with their poles, knocking skiers off cliffs, using smoke bombs strapped to their helmet to blind the opposition, and dressing up in military garb and using some kind of grenade shaped hammer. Of course, explaining what a Chinese downhill is does not clear up why it’s called Chinese and if you really think about it, a race doesn’t really settle who the best freestyle skier is. While some of the skills will cross over, freestyle skiing and ski racing have as much in common as swimming and diving. They are pretty different from each other. Nonetheless, the scene is very fun.

Poster for the 1984 teen sex comedy film "Hot Dog...The Movie" featuring a collection of skiers jumping off a mountain and a group of characters in a hot tub.

Now let’s talk about the comedy. Not counting the racist and sexist jokes, most of them are pretty funny. I do want to point out one racist joke though that did make me laugh because it was so unnecessary and out of nowhere. There is a Japanese freestyle skier named Kendo Yamamoto played by James Saito. In one scene at a bar, everyone is eating peanuts. There is an insert shot of Kendo’s hand grabbing a peanut and karate chopping it open. This isn’t played up big. There isn’t a “hi-ya!” It just happens. I also want to point out that Kendo is a friend of the group, treated equally and attractive to women. Pretty ahead of its time for the 80’s. Usually, Asian characters in older films are nerdy or soft-spoken and that’s played for comedy but kudos given when kudos due.

Still image from the 1984 teen sex comedy film "Hot Dog...The Movie" featuring actors David Naughton, Patrick Houser, Tracy Smith, and James Saito.

It might sound like I’m hating on this movie, but in actuality, I really did enjoy it. It was funny and easy to watch. A lot of people enjoy it as well, so many in fact that the movie has gained cult classic status. There was even a celebration in Tahoe for the twenty-year reunion which, much like the film, ended with Patrick Houser being paraded around the party on people’s shoulders.

There is a reason this film was so successful, you just have to look at it without your 2024 lens. Hot Dog…The Movie came out at the same time as Yentl. Now, put yourself in the shoes of a teenage moviegoer in the 80’s. When given the option between Yentl, the dramatic musical starring Barbra Streisand about a woman studying the Talmud even though it is forbidden for women to do so, or Hot Dog, the funny movie with tons of nudity and skiing. Which one would you truthfully choose? If you said Yentl you’re either lying because you want to win some PC award or you forgot what it was like to be a teenager. The fact I’m even talking about it today has to mean something. I mean the movie is turning forty this year. I wonder if the fortieth anniversary will be anything as wild as the movie?

Meet the Author:

Jared Hoffman Headshot

Jared Hoffman graduated from the American Film Institute with a degree in screenwriting. A Los Angeles native, his brand of comedy is satire stemming from the many different personalities and egos he has encountered throughout his life. As a lover of all things comedy, Jared is always working out new material and trying to make those around him laugh. His therapist claims this is a coping mechanism, but what does she know?

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