Around this time of year, Hollywood will spend more than a few moments congratulating actors for “heroically” playing make-believe on film. Look, we at Maxim are movie lovers, but we’re here to raise a glass to folks who actually did something heroic. So join us as we toast everyday Americans who risked their lives to save others, pull off the impossible, and stick it to the man.
Captain Courage: Pete Vadola
Photo: Bill Lyons / Staten Island Advance/ Landov
One of the biggest heroes to emerge from Hurricane Sandy, Staten Island’s Pete Vadola commandeered a motorboat to ferry 200 flood-trapped victims to dry land. “I wasn’t a hero,” he said. “I was a neighbor helping the people of my neighborhood that I love, the way I know they would have helped me and my family.” As it happened, Vadola’s home was later destroyed in a fire, and his neighbors helped get him back on his feet. Forget a slow clap—this guy deserves a standing ovation.
Smooth Operator: Antoinette Tuff
When an unhinged man with an assault rifle entered a Georgia elementary school and fired a round into the floor, Tuff, the school’s bookkeeper, called 911 and calmly coaxed the gunman into surrendering to police. No kids were hurt, and Tuff lived up to her last name when things could easily have taken a horrific turn.
Pimpin’ Prom King: Jake Davidson
Courtesy of Jake Davidson
Los Angeles high schooler Jake Davidson was either incredibly ballsy or wildly delusional: He posted a YouTube video asking superbabe Kate Upton to his prom while shaving, showering, and talking to the camera Ferris Bueller style. Upton couldn’t make it, but fellow supermodel Nina Agdal came to the rescue and made Jake undoubtedly the envy of his male classmates. Hell, the envy of men everywhere. We just hope he was able to leverage his stunt into landing an actual girlfriend…or at least one of the blowup variety.
AWOL at AOL: Eric Simons
As a 19-year-old computer whiz trying to launch his own start-up, Simons hid out at AOL’s offices in Palo Alto, California for two months before security caught on. It was worth it, though: Simons got his company, Claco, off the ground and became something of a Silicon Valley legend.
The Spandexed Savior: Diamond Dallas Page
From the ring to the mat, the ex-wrestler has reinvented himself as a humble yoga instructor, leading free classes of “DDP Yoga” at his Georgia home. Besides staying limber, he’s helped fellow ex-grapplers Jake “the Snake” Roberts and Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall conquer their addictions.
The Gustatory Gladiator: Matt “Megatoad”Stonie
Photo: Bobby Bank / Getty
No one gave this 125-pound 21-year-old much of a chance against legendary competitive eater Joey Chestnut, who outweighed his challenger by more than 100 pounds. But then Stonie ate 268 gyozas to Chestnut’s 251. Just imagine what he’ll do when he weighs more than an Olsen twin.
An Interview With Charles Ramsey
by Chris Wilson
When the Cleveland native and McDonald’s aficionado helped rescue three imprisoned young women, it was a dead giveaway that he’d become a national sensation.
Photo: Scott Shav / Plain Dealer / Landov
The rescue was a huge story. How have things changed for you?
I’m really not doing anything different. I’ve been doing a little guest speaking. Women, they used to run away from me; now they run toward me. So I’m embracing it, you know what I mean?
How have you been supporting yourself?
You know what? There’s a whole bunch of things coming out with my name and likeness on them. I didn’t give permission for that. It’s not about no video game or action figure or nothing like that—it’s about girls not suffering anymore. I’m not a comic book hero; I’m a real person. I’m just a dude. When I did what I did, for some reason people think I became a millionaire. I’m still just a dishwasher, dude.
Is it true you had to move away from your home?
I haven’t been there since the day it happened. I see people at the gas station, and they’re like, “We just came from there!” I’m like, “Why?”
Have you spoken to any of the women you freed from captivity?
We haven’t spoken at all. I got no reason to reach out to them, and they got no reason to reach out to me.
What do you make of the guy who tattooed your face on his leg?
I was thinking about getting his face on my leg. I figured if he did me a solid, I’d do him one, too.
How did you end up onstage at that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony show?
I knew them when they were peons, before they were rappers. I was going to their concerts 20 years ago. But the coolest thing I’ve gotten to do? I got invited on the boat called The Sequoia; it was the first White House yacht. John F. Kennedy cheated on his wife with Marilyn Monroe on it!
What’s next for you?
I’d like to work for Maxim magazine. I’ll go around with a camera and do some real-world stuff. Me and you could hang out! But I also want to help organizations find missing people.
How about a TV show?
I’d like to do a reality show. It’s the only dream that keeps coming to me in my head, bro. To help find missing people, kids, women, whatever. I’m the black John Walsh!
Illustration by Roberto Parada / Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014
Grandma Moose Mauler: Dorothea Taylor
Photo: Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
You mess with the moose, you get the antlers. But sometimes if a moose messes with an elderly couple, it gets the shovel. Dorothea Taylor, who is 85 and weighs less than 100 pounds, used the tool to beat the bejesus out of an angry moose that tried to gore her 82-year-old husband in Anchorage, Alaska. The beast ran off, her husband escaped serious injury, and Dorothea earned the begrudging respect of Anchorage’s disturbed-moose population.
Big Apple Badass: Jim Denniston
On his first day on the job after returning from a three-month overseas mission tending to wounded soldiers in Afghanistan—where his unit was credited with saving over 100 lives — this N.Y.C. firefighter saved a woman and three children from a burning building. We heard that even the firehouse Dalmatian was impressed.
Marathon Man: Carlos Arredondo
Photo: Boston Globe/ Getty
It was one of the most iconic images of the Boston Marathon tragedy: the goateed, cowboy-hat-wearing Arredondo helping treat and transport Jeff Bauman, who had lost both his legs in the bombing. (It’s a badass bonus that Arredondo’s a dead ringer for Kenny Powers.)
Mr. Megatron:Wilgem “Eddie” Herasme
When a fire broke out in a neighbor’s apartment last fall, this sticky-fingered Bronx resident arrived at the scene and sure-handedly caught an infant and a toddler whose grandmother tossed them from a second-floor balcony. Is it too late for the Giants to sign him up? They could really use a solid receiver.
The Bulletproof Cop: Brian Murphy
Fifteen rounds weren’t enough to take out Lt. Murphy when he responded to a shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012. Two of those bullets remain permanent reminders of the horrors of that day, and the injuries he sustained ultimately forced Murphy into retirement this year. Fifteen shots? We’d say retirement is well-deserved.
Man of the Mat: Anthony Robles
Photo: Hunter Martin / Getty
Who says you need two legs to kick ass? Despite being born with only one, Robles won the NCAA 125-pound wrestling championship for ASU in 2011 before becoming a motivational speaker. Now he’s hinted that he might try out for the 2016 Olympics. He could also compete in the Paralympics, but that just wouldn’t be fair.
Pusher Man: Chris Ihle
This 38-year-old father from Ames, Iowa spotted a stalled car on a railroad track with an elderly couple inside, struggling to start it. As the train barreled toward them, Ihle pushed it off the track just in time. Turns out Superman isn’t the only one faster than a speeding locomotive.
Northern Exposure: Toby Burke
What’s the best way to fight off a raging brown bear? Well, if you’re this Alaskan biologist, you ram your telescope into the bear’s mouth, and when it snaps in two, use the sharp end to stab it in the face and then punch it in the nose. The bear ran off, and Burke went back to his bird watching.
An Interview With Army Staff Sgt. Ty Carter
by Adam Linehan
The recent Medal of Honor winner on what it takes to be a real American hero.
Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / Landov
You won the Medal of Honor for your actions at the Battle of Kamdesh. What was it like there?
There would be firefights every other day, but we were relatively at ease. Still doing patrols, still getting shot at, but in a good position.
What were you doing the day the attack began?
I was sleeping. I started putting on my socks and boots and throwing my body armor on, and a sergeant says we need someone to man the machine gun. I said, “I got it.” I grabbed ammo and went out at a running start.
At some point in the battle, you were wounded, right?
There were five of us inside the guard position, which was an up-armored Humvee. An RPG sprayed the inside of the vehicle with shrapnel. I got a concussion and hearing loss in my left ear.
Your citation states that you risked your life to aid a wounded comrade…
SPC Stephan Mace was crawling back to the vehicle, and I was given permission to get to him. I carried him to the vehicle after giving him first aid. That’s when the first bombs started hitting. We got Mace on a litter and raced straight through the open, stepping over enemy bodies.
What was going through your head?
When good men are dying all around you, you have to start considering how you’re going to die yourself. I told myself that if I run out of ammo, I still got my hands. I thought, If these are my last moments, how am I going to live them?
What was it like to be presented the Medal of Honor by the president?
Wow. When I was up onstage, I couldn’t really enjoy it. Then I started looking out into the crowd. The pride and the joy and the emotion that I saw made everything, all the nervousness, worthwhile.
Now you’re on a new mission to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Part of the problem is people continue to call it post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s not a disorder. It’s an instinct, a reflex of the body and mind. If we remove the “D” and get rid of the stigma, we’ll start saving lives.
Photos by Roberto Parada / Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014