"Holy Toledo!"

December 2, 2007

Evel Knievel Lands His Last Jump

Filed under: Life, News & Politics, NHRA, Vintage Sports Video — Bill @ 12:35 am

Robert Craig Knievel Jr.
American folk hero dead at age 69.

Father of six children
Daredevil extraordinaire

He made & lost more money than most will in a lifetime. He thrilled millions, a self-made icon. A man among men.

How many Saturday’s did we spend watching him on that familiar red white & blue Harley as he jumped over nearly everything while on Wide World Of Sports?

He defines the word daredevil.

Who will ever forget the infamous Snake River Canyon jump? Who will ever forget seeing the famous video of his crash while trying to jump the fountains at Caesars Palace?

An interesting bit of trivia about that famous video: It was shot by John Derek & his then wife Linda Evans. The actual slow motion film that is so often shown was shot by Linda Evans (she of Dynasty fame). Knievel had hired Derek to film the jump because Wide World of Sports turned down a chance to televise the jump live. Ironically ABC Sports later bought the film for a much higher price than what they would have paid had they aired the actual jump.

The December 31, 1967 Caesars Palace jump nearly killed him, he was in a coma for 29 days. In his typical style he jumped again just 5 months later (he crashed that one as well). As a 10 yr. old kid I stood and looked at those fountains, I walked the distance he tried to jump and to this day it still amazes me. Years later his son Robbie Knievel would eventually jump those fountains successfully.

He began jumping motorcycles in the mid 1960’s under the name Bobby Knievel. A sponsor asked him to change his name to Evil Knievel, but instead he opted for the different spelling (Evel) simply because he didn’t want his act to be associated with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang.

Before he began jumping motorcycles he loved to play hockey. He convinced the 1960 Olympic Czechoslovakian hockey team to play his Butte Bombers in a warm-up game to the Olympics. He was ejected from the game.

Long before Knievel did the Snake River Canyon jump his plan was to jump the Grand Canyon. After a few years of negotiations he realized the U.S. Government would never let him do the jump so he leased some land in Wyoming known as Snake River Canyon. After two unsuccessful test jumps in ’72 & ’73 he decided to set the date for September 8th, 1974.

Again ABC Sports turned down the rights to air his historic jump, so he turned to Bob Arum (of Top Rank Productions) who sold the jump as a pay per view event. Millions flocked to locations around the world to see Knievel once again almost lose his life, ironically this time he almost drowned as a result of landing in the river.

A little publicized fact about the famous jump is that despite a parachute that shook loose early as a result of his steam powered rocket blasting off Evel did actually cross that canyon. Unfortunately the drag of the chute combined with winds carried him back across the river where he landed just a few feet away from drowning.  What we will never know is if that early parachute caused him to fail in his attempt, or whether it saved his life.

Evel Knievel made his last public jump in Florida in 1981 ate age 43.

In his later years Evel was quite successful marketing his image in toys, action figures, & movies. He never met a bar he didn’t like, Wild Turkey was his drink of choice, and he loved the company of beautiful women. He lives as fast as he drove. One can never argue that he didn’t get his money’s worth out of life.

As a kid growing up in the 1970’s all I can say is that he was the man. He dominated the headlines and whether you loved him or hated him, you definitely got a red, white, & blue leather full of him.

Knievel had been in failing health for years with diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable lung condition. In 1999 he underwent a liver transplant after nearly dying of hepatitis C, which he believed he had contracted through a blood transfusion after one of many violent spills.


1 Comment »

  1. Real good post, great to hear about your experience

    Comment by Jogn — December 19, 2010 @ 2:46 am

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