Today, we lost an American Icon--the original Legendary Daredevil, Evel Knievel.
Like every boy growing up in the ‘70s, I was mesmerized by the antics and attempts of Evel. From jumping over the double-decker busses in England to the greatest stunt attempt ever-the rocket-cycle jump over Snake River Canyon. Of course that failed, but the build-up, the hype, and then the broadcast on A.B.C.’s Wide World of Sports was all we talked about in 4th grade. I actually learned where Idaho was, just because of Snake River. He was cool...He was hip...He was America.
I remember being on vacation in Connecticut back in the early 70s, and my parents took us to a drive-in movie. It was a double feature: “The Evel Knievel Story” (starring George Hamilton) and “Macon County Line” (starring Max Baer, Jr.). I don’t remember much about “Macon County Line” (really, does anyone?), but I remember “Evel”.
I had the requisite apparel (t-shirt with a red, white a blue “Evel Knievel” logo) and the best toy ever-an Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle You mount it on a crank device, wind it up and reverse the crank to release the bike. That thing would take off, lose control, and crash into something, throwing the action figure off the bike-just like the real Evel!
Evel was larger than life. Little did we know as kids that he was a high-school dropout, a drinker and drug user, a womanizer and abuser. He practically killed a movie executive with an aluminum bat after the Snake River jump failure. But, mired in the depression of the early 70s, America needed a hero, and he was happy to oblige. Television’s mega-hit, “Happy Days” even used him as a basis for the Fonz jumping stuff with his bike. Of course, that episode lives forever with the expression “jumping the shark.” Well, Evel himself never jumped the shark, even with Hepatitis C! He will forever remain America’s Daredevil…warts and all. Evel is dead. Long live Evel!
Here's a sample of the greatness...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wsq3dWTrRWA