The Meteoric Rise and Fall of Hollywood's Go-to Hand Model

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Steve Hershon got his start as an extra on shows like Star Trek and Happy Days, but made a name for himself as "the Hands of Hollywood" doing hand insert modeling for the TV hits of the seventies and eighties. His hands played a starring role in The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, and countless other shows -- driving cars, pushing buttons, picking locks. In a poignant documentary portrait by Ryan Palmieri, the retired actor reminisces about the heyday of his career, and his rapid fall from grace. It's a rare glimpse behind the scenes of the Hollywood production world and a thoughtful meditation on work, life, and "being in the right place at the right time." Palmieri talks about the making of the film in a short interview below. 

The Atlantic: How did you find this story and decide to tell it?

Ryan Palmieri: Luckily, this story fell into my lap. Steve Hershon and I are neighbors. He'd always said he was in show business, but I didn't know to what extent. When I had met him, he was 15 years sober. I invited him over to my house for Thanksgiving dinner one year and he began telling these wonderful stories from his time as an actor and hand insert model. I begged him to let me interview him on camera and after about six or seven months of prodding him, he gave in. That interview opened this whole world that Steve was a part of and once I discovered his headshots and the original human-interest piece done about him, I knew I had tapped into something truly unique.

Hershon as a young man in a still from the film


You uploaded the film to Vimeo a few months ago, but it started going viral just this month. Why did you decide to distribute the film online, and what has the reaction from viewers been like?

Vimeo says I uploaded the film five months ago but I was just uploading various cuts of the film. Each day, I'd discover more and more about the extent of Steve's career and the narrative would change with it; it started out as him reflecting on his past but turned into something deeper and more personal. In regards to distributing this online, I felt that the only way this story was going to move people was through a viral/web platform. I liked the idea of this old world of the entertainment industry being released in a new-school way. And so far, I think viewers' reactions have been positive and it takes them back to the TV shows of their childhood.

What's Steve up to now? 

Steve is happily retired.  Luckily for him, he logged 27,000 SAG hours, ranging from featured extra to hand insert work, so he receives a nice pension every month. He's also gearing up for a big move. The Hands of Hollywood is headed towards Palm Springs, haha.

What's next for you? 

For me, I'm continuing to capture personal, heartfelt stories on camera. I currently produce and direct a web series about hip-hop artists called The Anecdote. Episode 2 is coming soon. I'm always adding content to my site.

For more videos by Ryan Palmieri, visit http://www.ryanpalmieri.com

Via Vimeo Staff Picks.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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