The 19 Somethin’ series continues. If you missed the previous articles, you can get caught up here.
Here is the next line in the song:
and a couple of Evel Knievel scars on my right arm
Evel Knievel was a famous stuntman and daredevil. He was kind of like the David Blaine of the ’70s. Except that it is way more fun watching somebody wipe out on a motorcycle than it is to watch somebody not move from one place for hours and hours.
Evel was born October 17, 1938, and his real name was Robert Craig Knievel.
Evel Knievel was most famous for his motorcycle stunts. There had been motorcycle stunt people who jumped over animals and pools of water. Knievel wanted to stand out, so started jumping cars. He began adding more and more cars to his jumps when he would return to the same venue to get people to come out and see him again. On June 19, 1966 in Missoula, Montana, he attempted to jump twelve cars and a cargo van. He did not get enough speed off of the ramp, so his back wheel hit the top of the van while his front wheel hit the top of the landing ramp. Knievel ended up with a severely broken arm and several broken ribs. Instead of ruining him, the crash made him famous.
He had some very successful jumps, and some more crashes.
While in Las Vegas, to watch Dick Tiger successfully defend his WBA and WBC light heavyweight titles at the Las Vegas Convention Center on November 17, 1967, Knievel first saw the fountains at Caesars Palace and decided to jump them.
Knievel tried to get ABC to air the event live on Wide World of Sports. ABC declined, but said that if Knievel had the jump filmed and it was as spectacular as he said it would be, they would consider using it later.
Knievel used his own money to have actor/director John Derek produce a film of the Caesars’ jump. To keep costs low, Derek used his then-wife Linda Evans as one of the camera operators. It was Evans who filmed Knievel’s famous landing. It was an incredible crash, and here it is:
After his crash and recovery Knievel was more famous than ever. ABC-TV bought the rights to the film of the jump paying far more than they originally would have had they televised the original jump live.
Another one of Knievel’s jumps was over the Snake River Canyon on September 8, 1974.
ABC Sports was unwilling to pay the price Knievel wanted for the Snake River Canyon jump, so he ended up hiring Bob Arum’s company, Top Rank Productions, to put the event on closed circuit television and broadcast to movie theaters. Then WWF Promoters Don E. Branker and Vince McMahon, Sr., were later said to be silent promoters of this event. Knievel hired an aeronautical engineer to build him a rocket-powered cycle that he could use to jump across the Snake River, to be called the X-1 Skycycle.
As soon as he took of, the parachute deployed. The cycle actually made it across the length of the canyon, but the wind brought it back to the side where he started from. He only landed a few feet from the water. If he had landed in the water, he would have drowned due to a jumpsuit/harness malfunction which kept him strapped in the vehicle. Knievel survived the jump with only minor injuries.
Here is an interesting video about the event:
He had many other major jumps after that event, and he was world famous. There were even Evel Knievel toys:
Evel Knievel died in Clearwater, Florida, on November 30, 2007, aged 69. He had been suffering from diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis for many years.
His son Robbie Knievel has followed in his father’s shoes as a motorcycle daredevil.