Over the years we've worked with a lot of amazing people on jackass and Wildboyz, but I think we'd all have to agree that one of the most interesting characters was definitely Manny Puig. Although he is often referred to as a modern day Tarzan, I'm more inclined to think of Manny as being the last remaining Atlantean—and I don't mean from Georgia, I'm talking lost continent. All he's missing are the physical gills as proof. Manny truly is a man from a different time… a time when artists and warriors were both one and the same—not at two opposing ends of the spectrum. Glean this and more from a recent conversation of his with Rick Kosick…
Kosick: Manny, I haven’t talked to you in a little bit, what’s been going on?
Manny: Not much, I’m just doing my artwork and guiding. I take people hunting. They hunt alligators and wild boars and I make knives and spears and sell them to the hunters. I like it, but I’m working my ass off and earning every cent I get. It’s a lot of work, but it gives me a lot of freedom with what I’m doing.
So that means you’ve been hanging out in the Everglades?
Central Florida. Private ranch. The Everglades are not private and I can’t do anything in there.
Is there still a big problem with the pythons in the Everglades?
There was a problem, you know, but it’s not the problem everybody makes it out to be. They’re hard to find now. A lot of people hunted them out. I don’t know if they’re going to get wiped out from here, there will always be some, but they’re not in the numbers they were.
When’s the last time you levitated an alligator?
I still do it pretty often. I had a group out hunting some months ago and there was an alligator taking off through the weeds. The water is pretty dirty for diving up there, so I got in and felt for him and found him underwater. I levitated him for the hunters on the airboat to check out. I can go levitate them anytime I want, I’m just busy doing artwork or out there selling it, you know. That occupies most of my time.
What’s the largest alligator you’ve ever levitated?
Probably over 13-feet in the canals south of here. It was probably the largest one I’ve ever seen in the wild.
Were you scared?
No, I was focused and careful. I was more afraid of trying to get the shot. The first time, he came after me, then he went into a hydrilla forest. The water was 25-feet deep and the hydrilla comes up 15-feet from the bottom, like jungle weave stuff. So I crawled in, found him, and I lifted him from there all the way to the surface. They explored him on the surface. It looked like a thousand pounds… just an incredibly good specimen.
How did you even come up with the technique of levitating?
I started by finding ways I could approach the alligator and touch here and touch there, and eventfully I found I could lift them in a non-threatening fashion. First I just lifted them off the bottom. Then I started walking around, so I found different ways to lift them. I don’t always lift them from underneath the chin, grabbing the skin there. I also lift them by the shoulders, where I get above them and grab both of the shoulders real gentle so I can swim them all over the surface. I can lift them by the bellies, I can lift them by the back of the neck unless he’s really, really large and it will slip out of my hand. I found out I could do a lot of things with alligators underwater. Is it safe? No, you can always get bit by an alligator. I’ve gotten a bunch of gator attacks, but one actually bit me on the back one time. Cruising through the Everglades, I got ambushed in a deep canal from behind. I never saw him until after he bit me.
Did you get badly hurt?
No, he got a bad grip on me, but he put 12 scratches on my back. If he would have locked onto my arm he could have ripped it off, or got ahold of my head and killed me. It’s a miracle of god he didn’t kill me.
I agree with you 100-percent. Have you gone out wild boar hunting lately?
I haven’t done much myself, just busy helping people. I usually back them up with giving them a spear they can throw. Mostly I’m trying to keep the client alive, you know, I want to give him an exciting hunt, but I don’t want to get him hurt. We had one client get charged by a boar and he was away from all of us. I told everybody to stick together, because they will attack anybody and anything and when they are being hunted they will turn on you. They are very smart and they know how to get back. But this guy was really big and strong and he was able to stop it with one of my smaller tridents. You hit a boar right in the head with that and it will stop them at a full charge, and I imagine the boar was coming at him about 35 miles an hour. That day two of us got charged, me and him. The one that charged me, when I was going to throw the trident it never left my hand. The boar was coming at me so fast, it never left my hand. It was bizarre.
I’ve been attacked a bunch. I’ve caught some on a full charge and one of them got past my spear and cut me up pretty bad. I ended up hand-to-hand with him. I got a hole in one of my legs, and I was shooting blood out of my arm—I’m missing a tendon in one of my arms from him. While I was trying to hold onto him, I was bleeding everywhere, you know, and the producer had to put down his camera. I grabbed him by the ears and another guy got him by the back legs. The producer had to put another spear in him. Both of my hands are messed up now. One from the boar and the other from the rattlesnake.
What happened with the rattlesnake?
I got bit by a western diamondback about 6-feet long, it put me in the hospital for a bunch of days. I lost a finger and spent months in pain. I’m still recuperating years later. A lot of tissue and nerve damage, really bad. I avoid picking up snakes now as much as possible. I still pick up a few by the tail on a few rare occasions, but I avoid the head and can’t take another bite. I’ve had two rattlesnake bites and that’s enough.
When we were filming back in the day, what did you like doing more: jackass or Wildboyz?
Jackass was fun. It was great just to hang out with the guys and watch them do all kinds of crazy things. It was relaxing and kind of a vacation for me when I was hanging out on jackass, but Wildboyz I liked more. It’s like jackass meets Discovery, and it’s more my style with wild animals, culture, and things like that. The Wildboyz participated a whole lot more and I did a lot more stuff with the guys. Sometimes I would have to do a performance myself, but most of the time I was watching the guys get tore up.
Was there a particular segment you liked doing on Wildboyz that still sticks with you after all these years?
For me, the stuff the guys were doing was hilarious. I was laughing on set the whole time and I couldn’t keep a straight face, just ridiculously funny. I did get a chance to do stuff I never got the chance on any other network, like swimming with grizzly bears, that was a big moment for me. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity thanks to Tremaine and the Wildboyz. I really enjoyed that trip to Alaska… swimming with the killer whales, which is not my specialty, but I went ahead and jumped in and went for it. I did a lot of excellent shark stuff with the Wildboyz in the Gulf, and of course we almost got Steve-O’s leg bit off on jackass with a mako shark, one of the deadliest sharks of the sea. We got that and he didn’t lose a leg—you couldn’t ask for anything better.
Have you been making any sculptures lately?
I haven’t… I sold my goliath grouper, that’s the last one I did. It costs me a lot of money to make the bronze sculptures, and it takes me so long to sell them, you know, because I have to sell them for a lot. I had a really nice great hammerhead, an alligator, a few other sharks, and the goliath grouper. Now I do smaller sculptures in stainless steel. The bronze, I carve in wax first to make a statue of it, you know, you mold it and pour it and so forth. The stainless steel I carve directly into the steel with grinders—it’s like woodcarving but on stainless steel, it’s very hard to do. I’ve done a barracuda and a tarpon and I sold those. I made a war hammer that has two grouper heads on it, one on each side, and some of the axes I made I put Viking faces on the back of the hammer and added more art to them. I did an axe with a gator head on the back of it, too. Right now I have four tridents, three spears, and several knives that I made.
I like medieval hunting, you know, it’s a raw way to hunt, very demanding, and I thought it would be an awesome experience try to hunt a wild boar with a spear. I looked into the market and I didn’t find exactly what I wanted, so I got into the idea of building my own spear to use. Then later on, I used them when I was doing the TV series Savage Wild, but sometimes I kept missing with the spear, so it gave me the idea to use a trident. The trident is what the Roman gladiators used on each other, so I took the idea and turned them into hunting weapons. They’re like three spears coming at the boar. So with the trident I was hitting all the time. I hardly miss with that. You’ve got a 12-inch spread coming at the boar instead of one point, so if you are off a little bit you’ll still get him. Plus, the trident holds a steadier throw, it’s heaver. I build a trident like nobody else in the USA, combat ready. I make them out of stainless steel and ash wood—ash wood is what the Spartans would use on their spears by, the way.
So if someone wants to buy one from you, how would they get in contact?
I have a Facebook; they can contact me on Facebook. There are several Facebook pages and some of them are fake. The one that’s real I’ve got a trident in my hand and a dead boar, so if you see that you are on the right page.