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November 4, 2002

Ferrigno 'incredible' for more than hulk

From: Hampshire Gazette, MA
Nov. 4, 2002

By JUDITH B. CAMERON, Staff Writer Monday, November 4, 2002 -- NORTHAMPTON - A body builder who played the title role in the TV series "The Incredible Hulk" shared his experience of being deaf with Clarke School for the Deaf students Friday, advising them to practice their speech, get a solid education and follow their dreams.

The students, however, wanted to know more: Did Lou Ferrigno, who has won bodybuilding championships and starred in movies and television, ever pick up a car, bus or airplane?

Ferrigno, who was the guest speaker at the school's 23rd annual conference on Mainstreaming Students with Hearing Loss, held in Springfield, told the students he picked up a 2,800-pound car and pulled a bus he was tethered to, but had never lifted an airplane.

"I haven't tried that yet," he said.

Before speaking at the conference, Ferrigno met with about 40 students from ages 11 to 15 and their teachers, offering humor and inspiration.

"One of you could be the next president or the next Miss President," said Ferrigno, who wore a gray T-shirt and black jeans and a hearing aid in each ear.

Ferrigno lost 85 percent of his hearing when he was an infant, the result of an untreated ear infection.

As Ferrigno offered tips on self-empowerment, some students also sought practical advice, such as what to do when hearing-aid batteries go dead.

One student asked whether Ferrigno's hearing-aid batteries had ever died when he was acting. Ferrigno said they had, and that he simply said to co-workers, "Excuse me, I have to change the battery."

Turning the question into a teaching moment, Ferrigno said, "It sounds like a simple thing, but it takes a lot of guts to do that," because announcing a battery problem calls attention to one's deafness.

The 51-year-old recounted the hard times he faced growing up in Brooklyn, enduring the nickname "dumb Louie" and beatings by bullies.

But he said he never felt sorry for himself. "I never wanted to sit back and say I am hard of hearing and I can never be a policeman like my father or a fireman where you need perfect hearing."

Instead, he said he figured he had lost his hearing, but he had gained the motivation to be successful.

Ferrigno co-starred with Bill Bixby in "The Incredible Hulk," which ran from 1976 to 1981. He had a nonspeaking part as the green monster that scientist David Banner turned into when be became angry.

Playing the Hulk, Ferrigno said, "I had a blast. I felt great."

At 21, Ferrigno was named "Mr. Universe," a title he won two years in a row.

He said bodybuilding had been a way to channel anger over being treated differently and made to feel embarrassed about wearing hearing aids. Ferrigno said he continues to train with weights and work out.

Ross Anderson, 12, a Northampton resident attending Clarke School, said Ferrigno was "amazing" and that he appreciated the actor's advice about "following your dreams."

Offering one of his own, Anderson said, "I want to be an engineer or inventor."

Renee Paul, 12, a Clarke student from Chicopee, said Ferrigno "is very funny and a good role model for deaf kids."

She said his most important message was to work hard on speaking to make inclusion and understanding easier.

But, she said, "The thing that impressed me the most was that we are not the only ones that are embarrassed because we are deaf. There are a lot of deaf kids and deaf people."

Judith Cameron can be reached at

© 2002 Daily Hampshire Gazette