Comic Says Onstage Leg Injury Felt Like Bear Trap

Veteran comedian George Wallace told a Nevada jury on Friday that it felt like a bear trap clamped his leg when he injured his Achilles tendon during a stand-up comedy show for a private audience at a resort on the Las Vegas Strip.

The 61-year-old comic never cracked a smile as he recalled his vivid inner monologue after becoming entangled in wiring as he crossed the stage during the show for a corporate group at the Bellagio in December 2007.

“All of a sudden, I thought I was electrocuted,” he said. “Man, I don’t know what a bear trap feels like. But something went through me from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head.”

Wallace, who has been doing standup comedy for almost 40 years, said he kept telling jokes and exchanging laughs with members of the HSBC Card Services Inc. audience, but leaned on a podium as he delivered gifts as planned to several people. He said he was paid $30,000 for the show.

While Wallace testified, jurors saw photos of a black speaker console with black wiring coiled around the base, and an image from the audience of Wallace in the spotlight next to a tabletop lectern.

All the while, Wallace said, “I was thinking, ‘I can’t walk.’ “

Wallace’s attorney, Dominic Gentile, has said he plans to ask the jury to award Wallace $9 million for his injury and negligence claim.

Bellagio attorneys led by Paul Haire say Wallace voluntarily assumed the risk of injury during his show, had a pre-existing injury and was careless onstage.

The defense’s presentation is scheduled next week.

Wallace testified Thursday that his personal and professional life have been permanently affected by his leg injury, and that he’s not able to dance or run on stage like he used to do.

Wallace followed the ill-fated show at the Bellagio with his regular 10 p.m. performance at the Flamingo, where he recently marked his 10th anniversary.

The jury saw a video of him in that show, seated onstage in a swivel chair, playing the scene for laughs as he asked his warm-up performers, MO5AIC, what the audience must be thinking.

“They’re, ‘Oh, George Wallace is in a wheelchair,’” he said. “And they will think I’m doing a joke.”

Some in the audience laughed.

Photo: Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jason Bean/AP
With his attorney Dominic Gentile (right) at the Clark County Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas.

“See, it’s funny to them already,” Wallace said. “But it ain’t funny to me. I’m hurtin.’ “