For Playmate Karen Price, being the subject of a centerfold pictorial wasn’t just her entrée into the annals of Playboy, but to celluloid as well. The January 1981 Playmate’s Playboy pictorial is forever canonized in the cult classic film Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, as the image is seen posted on the vertical stabilizer of Max’s gyro machine.
Karen was particularly limber—something that no doubt served her well in her Playmate shoot, which was titled “Gym Dandy.” But the model didn’t use her agility just for posing. She used it to carve an unconventional and powerful Hollywood career, one that would blaze new trails for women in film as a stuntwoman in more than 25 films.
How did this Pasadena native go from Playboy centerfold to pulling off daredevil feats in films such as the action flick Hot Pursuit (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger) and cult classics Less Than Zero and Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment? By pursuing a lifetime of rigorous gymnastics and acrobatics training that began at 12 years old.
Her father, a professional musician, encouraged her to follow in his footsteps by signing her up for intensive piano lessons as a kid. Karen quickly found her true love in practicing gymnastics. She told Playboy that while she thought two-hour piano lessons were unbearable, but five hours on the balance beam was a snap. She competed in local gymnastics competitions and took several top prizes. As a teen she coached and taught younger kids in the sport. She went on to learn acrobatics—the art of tumbling, flipping, and maneuvering with a partner or team.
After trying her hand at acting in a bit part in the 1982 film Swamp Thing, a film released soon after her 1981 Playboy pictorial, the aerial athlete quickly put her lifelong talent to work by suiting up alongside stuntmen and performing in action, drama, and comedy films from 1984 to 1994.
Though she’s best known for her acrobatics on film, the Playmate is still celebrated as a model; Karen was featured in Playboy’s January 2000 “Centerfolds of the Century” issue.