I always thought Bruce Penhall was some cute little beach boy that the CHiPs producers found surfing or something. I had no idea he was a motorcycle star. Bruce portrayed Officer Bruce Nelson in the 80’s TV show CHiPs which also starred Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox. He was such a cute little tan blonde boy. He was a teen pinup boy in the magazines such as Tiger Beat and Teen Beat in the early/mid 80’s. I could tell back then that he was an older teen idol, but I still liked looking at him.
Bruce Penhall was born on May 10, 1957 in Balboa, California. That means he would have been late 20’s when he was a teen idol. Not much of a teen, but that didn’t matter. Bruce was the World Speedway Champion (that’s motorcycle stuff) in 1981 and 1982. He retired from racing the same night he won the title in 1982. He then moved onto being an actor. Yay.
Bruce starred as Officer Bruce Nelson in 18 episodes of CHiPs in 1982 and 1983. He was in a few other things after that such as The Facts of Life, The Love Boat, and a few bad movies. He had a brief run as an actor/teen idol before moving onto other things.
- His parents died in a plane crash in 1975. His dad was the pilot.
- Was the first American to win back to back World Speedway titles (1981 & 1982).
- Was the most recognizable motorcycle racer in the world in the early 1980’s.
- He received a special citation from President Ronald Reagan for his motorcycle riding.
- Costa Mesa, California had a Bruce Penhall Day.
- Has also won championships in powerboat racing.
- Bruce Penhall was inducted into the A.M.A. Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
- Has been married to Laurie McDermott since 1985.
- He and his wife have four children – Devin, Ryan, McKenzie, and Connor.
On the night of April 4, 2012, his son Connor was killed in a freeway incident. Connor was working construction on a freeway when he was killed by a drunk driver. Bruce Penhall filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Caltrans who Connor was working for when he was killed. The lawsuit stated that the company didn’t adequately block off the freeway for the night project. Connor was cutting concrete when he was hit.
Bruce Penhall is now the owner of Connor Concrete Cutting and Coring, a business he and his wife created in honor of their son.