One of my child hood hero's has always been Evel Knievel. I couldn't wait until wide world of sports with Howard Cosell would show his next jump. I watched every movie or TV show he came out in no matter how cheesy it was. To this day I own both the VHS and DVD copys of all his jumps and the movie of his life starring George Hamilton.
Evel Knievel's Failed Caesar's Palace JumpHearing of his death reminds me of my first big jump (on my bicycle). We lived in an apartment at Hopewell and Sixth Street in Santa Fe. I was probably 11 or 12 when I built a ramp over an arroyo that was about five feet wide. I got way back and began pedaling that bike as fast as I could. I hit that ramp and sailed into the air for just a few seconds before my bike went head first into the middle of that arroyo. My arm crashed onto an empty beer bottle which broke and cut a good 4 to 5 inch gash into my right forearm. I am looking at the scar and laughing out loud right now. I have to admit I took a few more jumps with better success later. My mother was not happy with the bill for stitches I do remember that also.
Years later I got his autograph and framed and hung it on my wall. It eventually faded with the sun and me not being to bright at the time tried to trace it with a sharpie and ruined it. I always wanted another and In January I got the address to his condo in Florida and asked for another. Turns out he was selling them and I purchased a Photo and he sent it to me in one of his custom stationary envelopes which he also signed. A few weeks after I got the autograph he survived a stroke. I was glad I had gotten a hold of him when I did.
Here is Evel at his home in Florida signing my Photo.
Evel Knievel gave me hope, inspiration and a male figure to look up to. I never had a father and while my mother was a great role model I needed male role models to look up to. I found those as a very young boy from the likes of Evel, Elvis, and other Fifties rock and roll icons. Granted as I grew older I learned of the faults that Evel, Elvis and others had but by then I had learned some good lessons. Lessons like no matter how poor or bad things were you could still be somebody. You could still accomplish something in life. When I was young I never even considered college as an option. I was working since 12 years old and was a young entrepreneur from the age of 18. People like Evel showed me that the difference between success and failure was dependant on no one else but yourself.
I always use to say I would recreate his first paid stunt in which he would jump a motorcycle over two pickup trucks parked end to end. I still haven't done it only because my first bike and all the bikes I have owned since were all heavy street bikes. At 44 years old now I really need to buy some cheap off road bike and take the jump (don't tell my wife !) before I get older and I have to do it on a hover round.
My kids grew up on Evel Knievel videos and have seen all his jumps. I took them with me to see his son Robbie Knievel jump a bunch of semi's at Rt 66 Casino right here in New Mexico. I waited for hours after the jump to get his autograph to place in my game room next to his fathers. He brushed right past the 4 of us who waited outside his trailer, jumped into his SUV and drove off. It's the last time I will see one of his jumps. Every year Butte Montana, the birthplace of Evel, hosts Evel Knievel days, a festival dedicated to Evel. Every year I said I would go but just never made it. This is one of the few regrets I have in life. I have been told that Evel would stay signing autographs until every one who wanted one got one. Every one who has met Evel says he is the nicest person you could ever meet if you were one of his fans.
Evel used to say he did not believe in god that he only believed in himself. I have my DVR set to record anything that has to do with Evel and one day a few months ago I found it odd to see that Robert Schuller's Hour of Power mass had been recorded. I looked at the description and was surprised to see that Evel was getting baptized. Evel was besieged with numerous health problems including Hepititis C, and two strokes. In the mass Evel acknowledged that he used to be an atheist but now believed in Jesus Christ. He actually looked and spoke really well but I remember telling my wife that he must feel like the end is near and decided to be baptized. As a believer in Jesus Christ myself I am glad he found god.
Evel Knievel announces his new found belief in Christ.I guess you know your getting old when all the icons of your younger years start dying. Evel you had a great 69 years and I feel as though I have lost a family member. Thanks to you for inspiring me and I hope they have Harleys in heaven.......