Actor Balthazar Getty, Norman’s longtime friend and his riding companion for Episode 2, talks about attending a zombie burlesque show, what’s special about Dante’s View and why he wasn’t surprised at Norman dropping his pants.
Q: How long have you and Norman been friends? How did you first meet?
A: We probably both hate to admit it because it dates us, but [it’s been] 23 years. We grew up in Hollywood, pursuing the same career, and it was a natural fit when we met each other. I can’t even tell you when exactly it was that we sat down, had coffee and realized we’d be best friends. [Laughs] It just sort of happened and we always stayed close. He moved to New York about 10 years after that, and if I was in New York, he was the first guy I’d call and vice versa.
Q: How long have you been riding motorcycles? What got you started?
A: I grew up riding and that was one of things Norman and I loved about one another – the love for motorcycles. Riders tend to get along. There’s something about riding that we all love so much. The feeling when we ride is like no other. I grew up riding dirt bikes when I was a kid, but I had a later start in terms of when I really starting collecting bikes myself. I was probably in my early 20’s when that started happening. I wasn’t out shopping for new Ducatis. [Laughs]
Q: What do you love about riding in the desert? How does it compare to other terrains?
A: When Norman told me he was going to do the show, he asked me for some fun ideas. I started doing this particular ride out to Death Valley with a group of guys 10 or 15 years ago. There’s this incredibly old hotel out there that was built in the ‘30s called Furnace Creek Inn. It’s in the middle of nowhere and it’s perched at the top of Death Valley, overlooking one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Death Valley in particular is filled with some of the most breathtaking landscapes — cracked riverbeds that go on forever, incredible rocks that have an array of different colors from the different minerals, Artist’s Drive, Scotty’s Castle. There are massive dunes out there and it looks like you’re in the Sahara. There’s such a wide range of things to look at. Spiritually, the desert is a place where people go to search for themselves. It has a very introspective part to it and when you’re on your bike, it’s just you with that landscape. I think it inspires a lot of creativity and excitement. I’ve always been attracted to the desert. It just does something to my soul.
Q: We only got a quick look at the zombie burlesque. What was the show like?
A: [Laughs] I was like, “Oh god. This is going to be terrible”, but we actually went in and were totally floored. The show was incredible and we met the whole cast afterwards. We were running through their dressing rooms and trying on wigs. I think they really dug meeting Norman. It was a hoot.
Q: Why do you think Norman had so much trouble popping a wheelie in the desert?
A: The guy that was teaching us [Jimmy Lewis] wanted Norman to be able to get the nose of the bike up without actually moving forward. I think that’s what Norman was trying to achieve and that’s not the type of rider he is anyhow. His background is more on Harleys and bikes of that nature, and those aren’t usually wheelie bikes. I’m happy because I’ve recently converted him to European touring bikes and stuff like that. We’ve got him on some other bikes, which I’m excited about.
Q: Does he randomly drop his pants often? Is that something you’re used to as his friend?
A: [Laughs] Well, we’re definitely very immature together. He’s fun, he’s spontaneous and we’re always up for getting a laugh out of one another or people we’re around. So, let’s just say I wasn’t shocked when that happened.
Q: You guys hit some high speeds on those dirt bikes. What does it feel like to be in such an open space and to go full throttle?
A: What was cool was we were able to communicate with each other while we were riding, which we have never done in the past. When you’re hauling 115 [miles per hour] down that road and you’re yelling in exhilaration into your buddy’s ear, it’s a lot of fun. It’s an incredible feeling – that speed and pressure against your body, and holding onto a two-wheeled machine with nothing to protect you. When you ride, you’re always in a heightened state of awareness. I know it’s similar to a fighter because I boxed growing up. You have to think ten cars ahead and you’re just tuned into everything.
Q: How would you describe what’s it like to take in Dante’s View in person?
A: I had actually never been up there. You look down and you see Death Valley with all of its colors and it’s one of the most breathtaking views. These are all real things happening in the episode. It wasn’t staged. We didn’t go up there beforehand and none of this stuff is fake. That was actually [shot] on the last day, so it was the culmination of the months of talking about it and then there we were. We smiled the entire time, and we were like two little kids in a candy shop.
Q: You seemed upset when Norman gave the Babes Ride Out ladies credit for popping his “desert cherry,” when it was your idea to ride to Death Valley…
A: [Laughs] Well, I was! It actually shows when I say something in the episode. Obviously, I was teasing. I was just happy to be out there, but it’s a funny little bit in the episode.
Q: What was your favorite part of the trip?
A: Our rapport with each other feels very effortless and real. In terms of a favorite part, probably Death Valley and being at Furnace Creek. That’s a special place to me, and it’s where I shot Lost Highway, the David Lynch film I did. It’s actually how I found out about the place, so to come full circle after all these years was cool.
Q: What do you hope this show says or does for both newcomers and motorcycling enthusiasts?
A: All bikers don’t have chain wallets and goatees. There are a lot of different types of bikers. It’s a TV show – I don’t see it changing the world, but if it ignites a little adventurous spirit in people, I think that’s great. Sometimes we think we have to go overseas to have an adventure, but some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the entire world are within hours of anybody’s city in America. We have that much beauty here. Hopefully, we get some people up off the couch and on a bike.
Read an interview with Imogen Lehtonen.Read More