This is a story that has been going around for years. Even I got a good laugh out of it myself. The old rumor goes that Steven Seagal was roughing up some stuntmen on the set of a movie. He began bragging about a sixth fighting sense that enabled him to escape any hold in the process. Annoyed, Gene LeBell steps up.
LeBell, so the story goes, puts a hold on Seagal, who cannot escape. Seagal is forced to tap. ‘I wasn’t ready’, was Seagal’s response. ‘Let me know when you are ready’ (funny how someone at some point even makes up the dialogue in these rumors). Seagal nods, they go again. Seagal this time tries to go for LeBell’s nuts, who takes Seagal to the ground.
Seagal passes out and shits himself – something not unheard of when you lose consciousness. This is the story Joe Rogan, Ronda Rousey and quite a few others are only too happy to repeat on request. Hey, after all Seagal is an asshat, so they say.
But is it true? Stuntman Ron Balicki pretty much destroys the theory. Here is what he posted on Facebook a while back;
Are you talking about the bullshitter, Gene Lebell? The guy who says that he choked Steven out, which is a big, big lie. You mean the Gene who actually is a murderer who went to jail and got out of a technicality, that Gene? You should look that up. That’s a fact, not a fairytale like that bs Gene spins.
No story gains traction quite so quickly, in today’s media frenzy environment, than one that tears down a well respected celebrity. In this instance, there is a fairytale rendition of how the great Gene Lebell choked out Steven Seagal, with rather unpleasant effect. The story is patently false, but this bit of martial arts mythology now seems to have really taken root. Trashing the reputation of a martial artist and movie icon may be a sad part of the entertainment process, but when the story is not correct, and the consequences truly damaging, the situation must be set straight. I can speak to this myth personally as I am close to the people in these circles and was an eyewitness to the exchange that day between Gene and Steven. Know that this is not easy for me to do. My family and I know both Gene and Steven well, so to see this malicious urban legend live on through the years divides people we care about deeply.
There were numerous people present on the day when Gene Lebell met Steven Seagal and allegedly fought. In reality, no fight occurred and there was no contact between Gene and Steven on that movie set. Gene’s role was to work as a Utility Stuntman under the stunt coordinator, Conard Palmisano. Steven also had two bodyguards present who were LAPD officers. As his security specialists and professional law enforcement officials, they would both have been in serious trouble had they let their boss get choked out, and possibly killed, by a marginal stuntman. The stunt coordinator, Conrad Palmisono was there and witnessed any interactions that occurred between Gene and Steven. Conrad Pamisano was one of the most successful Stunt coordinators working in show business at the time. The legal exposure and professional consequences for Conrad would have been severe had he let a stuntman under his supervision aggressively even touch any star on a movie set. Quite simply, Conrad, as a professional with great responsibility, would never have allowed this situation to occur.
Another stuntman by the name of Steve Lambert was also an eyewitness to Gene’s and Steven’s brief interaction. He also stated that Gene never choked out Steven and that no altercation ever occurred. Again, this is not some street fight, or casual dojo situation. If such an altercation happened on a professional movie set the consequences for the producers, directors and the movie studio would be most severe. A stuntman (Lebell) simply cannot choke out and hurt the lead star of a movie in production on the set. The legal liability and damage to their professional reputations would be unthinkable. Quite simply the set would have been closed down. If the star lost consciousness a doctor’s signed release would be legally required for Steven to go back to work. No such record exists. The bonding company who insures the production for the movie would have sued Lebell for the loss of working days. The financial implications would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars given the cost of shutting down production even for a couple of days. Again, keep in mind that we are talking about an alleged fight on a professional movie set. The consequences of such an altercation would be enormous. Casual altercations might happen in the gym, but not on the highly regulated and professionally managed stage of a movie production.
In truth, this story is nothing more than WWE type hype in which Gene Lebell is known to indulge going back to his early wrestling days. He is doing the same thing with Ronda Rousey today. Gene Lebell is now saying that she (Ronda) can beat up Bruce Lee; what could be more absurd? What could get more attention? This entirely fabricated story is simply a way of staying in the public eye and making a living at the expense of the reputation of another. There are radio shows like Joe Rogan and others who validate this ludicrous fiction in order to increase their ratings. Ronda Rousey, and some others, are also telling this story during interviews for their own self-promotion. In a recent interview Ronda stated that she knows the story to be true. That is ridiculous; she was 3 years old when this allegedly happened. It seems that this made up altercation is simply part of the sad story of American media and the cult of celebrity. We build up stars with respect and then enjoy a good story, true or not, that tears them down. Clearly that is the case here. This entirely fabricated story has legs because it creates good hype for side-show acts that need attention and boosts ratings for gossip radio talk shows. The facts are quite clear; Gene never choked out Steven. But as the old proverb says, “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.
We actually have video of all those that were present that day when Gene met Steven. They all say Gene is telling a major lie. Conrad is major pissed a Gene.We actually have video of all those that were present that day when Gene met Steven. They all say Gene is telling a major lie. Conrad is major pissed a Gene.
Sounds pretty definitive to me. Of course, Seagal would later say that he was baffled as to why LeBell would go around spreading such bullshit and that he was hurt and offended. Seagal even went on to swear on the lives of his children that it didn’t happen. Looks to me like it didn’t.
What is the source of this rumor? I’m not entirely sure, but from what I recall it was LeBell himself, who quickly did not comment on it any further. This ‘not commenting’ thing will confirm in some minds that it was true and LeBell is too much of a man to brag. But now with this alternate view, you could say that LeBell does not what to be choked out himself by a heavyweight lawyer. Certainly, ‘not commenting’ would be advisable if major slander unexpectedly got out of hand.
LeBell it seems though, is still fueling the fire. If this didn’t happen, and we now have strong reason to suspect that it did not, LeBell is still lying by omission. When asked to confirm or deny, ‘I don’t want to brag’ is pretty much tacit lying.
So did LeBell actually choke out Seagal?
Credit: Steven Seagal Forums