Evel Knievel: 70s Daredevil Icon

Off the Top of my Head

 
By Paul Murray
 

Evel Knievel Prepares for Take Off: http://www.evelknievel.com

Who remembers Evel Knievel?

He’s the guy responsible for the disclaimer “don’t try this at home kids” and for teenagers growing up in the 70s like me he was the epitome of cool…macho, fearless, patriotic and extremely wealthy, Knievel inspired many a painful injury among my friends as we tried to emulate his daredevilry on our bicycles.

Knievel is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having had the most broken bones of any living human…433.

The record is possibly not Kneivel’s most proud achievement given that the broken bones generally resulted from failed stunts like breaking his pelvis in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium in London and the infamous jump attempt over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vagas, which resulted in a crushed pelvis and femur, fractures to his hip, wrist and both ankles and a month in hospital in a coma.

Knievel walked, or possibly limped, out of hospital a legend, his U.S. celebrity hero status well established…his stunts were a hit with the pubic whether or not they were successful. Failed stunts arguably brought him greater notoriety than his successes and as many people flocked to his motorcycle jump shows to see him crash horribly as those rooting for him to land safely.

His most famous stunt was an attempt to leap across Snake River Canyon  in 1974. On that stunt, Knievel’s sky-cycle rocket bike malfunctioned shortly after takeoff. The drogue parachute deployed and, despite almost making it across the canyon, strong winds dragged Knievel and the craft back over the canyon toward the launch ramp. The Skycycle eventually touched down on the floor of the canyon on the launch ramp side of the river…Kneivel was trapped in the capsule due to another technical malfunction in the cockpit and would have drowned if the craft had landed in the water, but it landed on the river bank and he escaped with minor injuries. With Knievel’s record for horrific public crashes, the Snake River Canyon jump could be considered a successful stunt as Knievel emerged essentially unscathed…I’m sure his mother would’ve thought it so.

Knievel’s flair for theatrics, showmanship and pageantry continues to influence American patriotic attire today…he was the last word in U.S. jingoistic costume design.

Early life

Robert Craig Knievel, known as Bobby, was born in Butte, Montana in 1938, the first of two children born to Robert E. and Ann Keough “Zippy” Knievel. His surname is of German origin; his great-great-grandparents on his father’s side emigrated to the United States from Germany. Robert and Ann divorced in 1940, after the birth of their second child, Nicolas, known as Nic. Both parents decided to leave Butte. Bobby and Nic were raised by paternal grandparents, Ignatius and Emma Knievel. At the age of eight, Bobby attended a Joie Chitwood Auto Daredevil Show, to which he gave credit for his later career choice to become a motorcycle daredevil.

Knievel ended high school after his sophomore year and got a job in the copper mines with the Anaconda Mining Company as a diamond drill operator. However, he preferred motorbiking to all this ‘unimportant stuff’ as he put it. He was then promoted to surface duty where he drove a large earth mover. Knievel was fired when he made the earth mover do a motorcycle-type wheelie and drove it into Butte’s main power line. The incident left the city without electricity for several hours. Without work, Knievel began to find himself in more and more trouble around Butte. After a police chase in 1956 in which he crashed his motorcycle, Knievel was taken to jail on a charge of reckless driving. When the night jailer came around to check the roll, he noted Robert Knievel in one cell and William Knofel in the other. Knofel was well known as “Awful Knofel” (“awful” rhyming with “Knofel”) so Knievel began to be referred to as Evel Knievel (“Evel” rhyming with “Knievel”). He chose this misspelling because of his last name and because he didn’t want to be considered “evil”.

Always looking for new thrills and challenges, Knievel participated in local professional rodeos and ski jumping events, including winning the Northern Rocky Mountain Ski Association Class A Men’s ski jumping championship in 1959. During the late 1950s, Knievel joined the United States Army. His athletic ability allowed him to join the track team where he was a pole vaulter. After his army stint, Knievel returned to Butte where he met and married his first wife, Linda Joan Bork.

Shortly after getting married, Knievel started the Butte Bombers, a semi-pro hockey team. To help promote his team and earn some money, he convinced the 1960 Olympic Czechoslovakian hockey team to play the Butte Bombers in a warm-up game to the Olympics. Knievel was ejected from the game minutes into the third period and left the stadium. When the Czechoslovakian officials went to the box office to collect the expense money the team was promised, workers discovered the game receipts had been stolen. The United States Olympic Committee wound up paying the Czechoslovakian team’s expenses to avoid an international incident. Evel Knievel also played with the Charlotte Checkers of the Eastern Hockey League.

After the birth of his first son, Kelly, Knievel realized that he needed to come up with a new way to support his family financially. Using the hunting and fishingskills his grandfather had taught him, Knievel started the Sur-Kill Guide Service. He guaranteed that if a hunter employed his service and paid his fee, they would get the big game animal they wanted or he would refund their money. Business was very good until game wardens realized that Knievel was taking his clients into Yellowstone National Park to find prey. The Park Service ordered Knievel to cease and desist this poaching.

In response Knievel, who was learning about the culling of elk in Yellowstone, decided to hitchhike from Butte to Washington, D.C. in December 1961 to raise awareness and to have the elk relocated to areas where hunting was permitted. After his conspicuous trek (he hitchhiked with a 54-inch-wide (1,400 mm) rack of elk antlers and a petition with 3,000 signatures), he presented his case to Representative Arnold OlsenSenator Mike Mansfield and Interior Secretary Stewart Udall. As a result of his efforts, the culling was stopped, and the animals have since been regularly captured and relocated to areas of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

After returning home from Washington, Knievel decided to stop committing crimes. He joined the motocross circuit and had moderate success, but he still couldn’t make enough money to support his family. During 1962, Knievel broke his collarbone and shoulder in a motocross accident. The doctors said he couldn’t race for at least six months. To help support his family, he switched careers and sold insurance for the Combined Insurance Company of America, working for W. Clement Stone. Stone suggested that Knievel read Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, a book that Stone wrote with Napoleon Hill. Knievel credited much of his success to Stone and his book.

Knievel was successful as an insurance salesman (even selling insurance policies to several institutionalized mental patients) and wanted recognition for his efforts. When the company refused to promote him to vice-president after a few months on the job he quit. Wanting a new start away from Butte, Knievel moved his family to Moses Lake, Washington. There, he opened a Honda motorcycle dealership and promoted motocross racing.[10] During the early 1960s, it was difficult to promote Japanese imports. People still considered them inferior to American built motorcycles, and there was lingering resentment from World War II, which had ended less than 20 years earlier. Once, Knievel offered a $100 discount to anybody who could beat him at arm wrestling. Despite his best efforts the business eventually had to be closed.

After the closure of the Moses Lake Honda dealership, Knievel went to work for Don Pomeroy at his motorcycle shop in Sunnyside, Washington. It is here where Jim Pomeroy, a well known motocross racer taught Knievel how to do a “wheelie” and ride while standing on the seat of the bike.

Daredevil

While trying to support his family, Knievel recalled the Joie Chitwood show he saw as a boy and decided that he could do something similar using a motorcycle. Promoting the show himself, Knievel rented the venue, wrote the press releases, set up the show, sold the tickets and served as his own master of ceremonies. After enticing the small crowd with a few wheelies, he proceeded to jump a twenty-foot-long box of rattlesnakes and two mountain lions. Despite landing short and having his back wheel hit the box containing the rattlesnakes, Knievel managed to land safely.

Knievel realized to make any amount of real money he would need to hire more performers, stunt coordinators and other personnel so that he could concentrate on the jumps. With little money, he went looking for a sponsor and found one in Bob Blair, owner of ZDS Motors, Inc., the West coast distributor for Berliner Motor Corporation, a distributor for Norton Motorcycles. Blair offered to provide the needed motorcycles, but he wanted the name changed from the Bobby Knievel and His Motorcycle Daredevils Thrill Show to Evil Knievel and His Motorcycle Daredevils. Knievel didn’t want his image to be that of a Hells Angels rider, so he convinced Blair to allow him to use Evel instead of Evil.

The debut of Knievel and his daredevils was on January 3, 1966, at the National Date Festival in Indio, California. The show was a huge success. Knievel received several offers to host the show after their first performance. The second booking was in Hemet, California, but was canceled due to rain. The next performance was on February 10, in Barstow, California. During the performance, Knievel attempted a new stunt where he would jump, spread eagle, over a speeding motorcycle. Knievel jumped too late and the motorcycle hit him in the groin, tossing him fifteen feet into the air. He was placed in the hospital as a result of his injuries. When released, he returned to Barstow to finish the performance he had started almost a month earlier.

Knievel’s daredevil show broke up after the Barstow performance because injuries prevented him from performing. After recovering, Knievel started traveling from small town to small town as a solo act. To get ahead of other motorcycle stunt people who were jumping animals or pools of water, Knievel 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. Knievel hadn’t had a serious injury since the Barstow performance, but on June 19 in Missoula, Montana, he attempted to jump twelve cars and a cargo van. The distance he had for takeoff didn’t allow him to get up enough speed. 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. The crash and subsequent stay in the hospital were a publicity windfall.

With each successful jump, the public wanted him to jump one more car. On May 30, 1967, Knievel successfully cleared sixteen cars in Gardena, California. Then he attempted the same jump on July 28, 1967, in Graham, Washington, where he had his next serious crash. Landing his cycle on a panel truck that was the last vehicle, Knievel was thrown from his bike. This time he suffered a serious concussion. After a month, he recovered and returned to Graham on August 18 to finish the show; but the result was the same, only this time the injuries were more serious. Again coming up short, Knievel crashed, breaking his left wrist, right knee and two ribs.

Knievel first received national exposure when actor Joey Bishop had him on as a guest of The Joey Bishop Show. The national attention brought both a larger paychecks and larger fanbase.

Caesars Palace

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. To get an audience with the casino’s CEO Jay Sarno, Knievel created a fictitious corporation called Evel Knievel Enterprises and three fictitious lawyers to make phone calls to Sarno. Knievel also placed phone calls to Sarno claiming to be from ABC-TV and Sports Illustrated inquiring about the jump. Sarno finally agreed to meet Knievel and the deal was set for Knievel to jump the fountains on December 31, 1967. After the deal was set, 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. On the morning of the jump, Knievel stopped in the casino and placed his last 100 dollars on the blackjack table (which he lost), stopped by the bar and had a shot of Wild Turkey and then headed outside where he was joined by several members of the Caesars staff, as well as two showgirls. After doing his normal pre-jump show and a few warm up approaches, Knievel began his real approach. When he hit the takeoff ramp, he felt the motorcycle unexpectedly decelerate. The sudden loss of power on the takeoff caused Knievel to come up short and land on the safety ramp which was supported by a van. This caused the handlebars to be ripped out of his hands as he tumbled over them onto the pavement where he skidded into the Dunes parking lot. As a result of the crash, Knievel suffered a crushed pelvis and femur, fractures to his hip, wrist and both ankles and a concussion that kept him in a coma for 29 days.

The Caesars Palace crash would represent Knievel’s longest attempted motorcycle jump at 141 feet. 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. Ironically, when Knievel finally achieved the fame and possible fortune that he always wanted, his doctors were telling him that he might never walk without the aid of crutches, let alone ride and jump motorcycles.

Before the Caesars’ jump Knievel asked his friend Matt Tonning, a Combined Insurance sales agent, to sell him ten accident policies. Combined’s underwriting policies allowed for only one of these policies be written, since the policy covered any accident and was non-cancelable for the life of the insured. Tonning agreed and was fired by Combined when Knievel filed the claims on all ten. Upon hearing that Tonning had been fired, Knievel contacted Combined’s Vice President Matt Walsh. He agreed to return nine of the policies and be paid full benefits on only one, if Combined allowed Tonning to return to work. Walsh agreed and Tonning was reinstated.

In a 1971 interview with Dick Cavett, Knievel stated that he was uninsurable following the Caesars’ crash. Knievel said he was turned down 37 times from Lloyd’s of London, stating, “I have trouble getting life insurance, accident insurance, hospitalization and even insurance for my automobile…Lloyds of London has rejected me 37 times so if you hear the rumor that they insure anybody, don’t pay too much attention to it.” Four years later, a clause in Knievel’s contract to jump 14 buses at Kings Island required a one-day $1,000,000 liability insurance to the amusement park. Lloyd’s of London offered the liability insurance for what was called a “laughable $17,500″. Knievel eventually paid $2,500 to a U.S.-based insurance company.

To keep his name in the news, Knievel started describing his biggest stunt ever, a motorcycle jump across the Grand Canyon. Just five months after his near fatal crash, Knievel performed another jump. On May 25, 1968, in Scottsdale, Arizona, Knievel crashed while attempting to jump fifteen Ford Mustangs. Knievel ended up breaking his right leg and foot as a result of the crash.

On August 3, 1968, Knievel returned to jumping, making more money than ever before. He was earning approximately $25,000 per performance, and he was making successful jumps almost weekly until October 13, in Carson City, Nevada. While trying to stick the landing, he lost control of the bike and crashed again, breaking his hip once more.

By 1971, Knievel realized that the United States government would never allow him to jump the Grand Canyon. To keep his fans interested, Knievel considered several other stunts that might match the publicity that would have been generated by jumping the canyon; ideas included: jumping across the Mississippi River, jumping from one skyscraper to another in New York City and jumping over 13 cars inside the Houston Astrodome. While flying back to Butte from a performance tour, Knievel looked out the window and saw Snake River Canyon. After finding a location near Twin Falls, Idaho, that was both wide enough, deep enough and on private property, Knievel leased 300 acres (1.2 km2) for $35,000 to stage his jump. He set the date for Labor Day (September 4), 1972.

On January 7 and January 8, 1971, Knievel set the record by selling over 100,000 tickets to back-to-back performances at the Houston Astrodome. On February 28, he set a new world record by jumping 19 cars with his Harley-Davidson XR-750 at the Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, California. The 19 car jump was also filmed for the movie Evel Knievel. Knievel held the record for 27 years until Bubba Blackwell jumped 20 cars in 1998 with an XR-750.

On May 10, Knievel crashed while attempting to jump 13 Pepsi delivery trucks. His approach was complicated by the fact that he had to start on pavement, cut across grass, and then return to pavement. His lack of speed caused the motorcycle to come down front wheel first. He managed to hold on until the cycle hit the base of the ramp. After being thrown off he skidded for 50 feet (15 m). Knievel broke his collarbone, suffered a compound fracture of his right arm and broke both legs.

On March 3, 1972, at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California, after making a successful jump, he tried to come to a quick stop because of a short landing area. Knievel suffered a broken back and a concussion after getting thrown off and run over by his motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson. Knievel returned to jumping in November, 1973, where he successfully jumped over 50 stacked cars at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. For 35 years, Knievel held the record for successfully jumping the most stacked cars on a Harley-Davidson XR-750 (the record was broken in October 2008. His historic XR-750 is now part of the collection of the Smithsonian‘s National Museum of American History. Made of steel, aluminum and fiberglass, the customized motorcycle weighs about 300 pounds.

It is important to remember that while Knievel had many spectacular failures, most of his jumps were successful.

Evel Knievel Jump Timeline:

DATE VENUE JUMP RESULT INJURIES NOTES
Monday, October 17, 1938 Silver Bow County Hospital Robert Craig Knievel born
Saturday, September 05, 1959 Dillon, MT – Beaverhead County Justice of the Peace’s residence Marries Linda Bork
Summer – 1965 Moses Lake, WA – Knievel’s motorcycle dealership Knievel’s first stunt, to draw publicity to his dealership, was to jump over a long crate filled with rattlesnakes and a tethered mountain lion. Knievel’s back tire struck the crate, releasing the snakes and dispersing the crowd of around 1,000. He was not injured in the stunt.
Sunday, January 23, 1966 Indio, CA – National Date Festival Grounds 2 pickups end to end; 1st daredevil show Success First performance of Evel Knievel and his Motorcycle Daredevils
Thursday, February 10, 1966 Barstow, CA Success Cracked ribs Injured attempting the spread-eagle jump; “I was sprained from the bottom of my feet to my waist.”
Wednesday, June 01, 1966 Post Falls, ID – State Line Gardens First time jumping cars Success
Sunday, June 19, 1966 Missoula, MT – Missoula Auto Track 12 cars + cargo van Crash Severely broken arm, several broken ribs First big publicity generating crash
Sunday, October 30, 1966 Butte, MT – Naranche Butte HS Football Field 10 cars Success
Saturday, November 19, 1966 Tucson, AZ – Tucson Dragway 10 Dodge cars Success
Sunday, December 11, 1966 Deming NM – Deming Dragway 10 cars Success
Sunday, March 05, 1967 Gardena, CA – Ascot Park Speedway 15 cars Success
Thursday, April 27, 1967 Gardena, CA – Ascot Park Speedway 15 cars Success
Sunday, May 28, 1967 Gardena, CA – Ascot Park Speedway 14 cars Success
Tuesday, May 30, 1967 Gardena, CA – Ascot Park Speedway 16 cars Success
Sunday, July 09, 1967 Centralia, WA – Lewis County Fairgrounds 13 Dodge cars Success
Friday, July 28, 1967 Graham, WA – Graham Speedway 16 cars(VWs) Crash Serious concussion Hits last vehicle, a panel truck
Friday, August 18, 1967 Graham, WA – Graham Speedway 16 cars (VWs) Success According to some reports this was a success
Sunday, September 24, 1967 Monroe, WA – Evergreen Speedway 16 cars Crash Breaks lower spine
Thursday, November 23, 1967 San Francisco, CA – Civic Center 4 motorcycles, 2 vans Success
Friday, November 24, 1967 San Francisco, CA – Civic Center 4 motorcycles, 2 vans Success
Saturday, November 25, 1967 San Francisco, CA – Civic Center 4 motorcycles, 2 vans Success
Sunday, November 26, 1967 San Francisco, CA – Civic Center 4 motorcycles, 2 vans Success
Thursday, November 30, 1967 Long Beach, CA – Long Beach Arena 10 cars Success
Friday, December 01, 1967 Long Beach, CA – Long Beach Arena 10 cars Success
Saturday, December 02, 1967 Long Beach, CA – Long Beach Arena 10 cars Success
Monday, December 04, 1967 Long Beach, CA – Long Beach Arena 10 cars Success
Sunday, December 31, 1967 Las Vegas, NV – Caesar’s Palace Caesar’s Palace Fountain Crash Crushed pelvis and femur; fractures hip, wrist, both ankles; concussion
Saturday, May 25, 1968 Scottsdale, AZ – Beeline Dragway 13 cars Crash Breaks right leg and foot Local papers say he did jump 13 cars
Saturday, July 06, 1968 Salt Lake City, UT – Fairgrounds Speedway 13 Toyotas Success
Thursday, July 25, 1968 Blackfoot, ID – Sportsman’s Speedway 12 cars Success
Saturday, August 03, 1968 Meridian, ID – Meridian Speedway 13 cars Success
Sunday, August 11, 1968 Walla Walla, WA – Umatilla Speedway 13 cars Success
Monday, August 26, 1968 Spokane, WA – Interstate Fairgrounds Speedway 13 cars Success
Saturday, September 07, 1968 Missoula, MT – Missoula Auto Track 13 cars Success
Friday, September 13, 1968 Salt Lake City, UT – Utah State Fair 10 cars Success
Sunday, September 15, 1968 Salt Lake City, UT – Utah State Fair 10 cars Success
Sunday, October 13, 1968 Carson City, NV – Tahoe-Carson Speedway 10 cars Crash Breaks hip
Thursday, April 24, 1969 Los Angeles, CA – Sports Arena 8 cars Success
Friday, April 25, 1969 Los Angeles, CA – Sports Arena 8 cars Success
Saturday, April 26, 1969 Los Angeles, CA – Sports Arena 8 cars Success
Sunday, April 27, 1969 Los Angeles, CA – Sports Arena 8 cars Success
Sunday, June 01, 1969 Carlsbad, CA Successfully makes 3 jumps over unknown amount of cars
Sunday, July 06, 1969 Gardena, CA – Ascot Park Speedway 17 cars Success
Saturday, September 20, 1969 Butte MT – Naranche Memorial Stadium 16 Toyotas Crash Lands slightly short, runs into fence and is thrown
Friday, January 23, 1970 Daly City, CA – Cow Palace 11 cars Success The Hell’s Angels fight
Sunday, April 05, 1970 Kent, WA – Seattle International Raceway 18 cars Success New record – # of cars and distance – Rear wheel hits ramp on 13th car, Evel stays w/ bike
Sunday, May 10, 1970 Yakima, WA – Yakima Speedway 13 Pepsi delivery trucks Crash Breaks collarbone Landed on 13th truck
Friday, June 19, 1970 Vancouver, BC – Pacific Coliseum 12 cars Success Wearing a special brace, due to recent crash
Saturday, July 04, 1970 Kent, WA – Seattle International Raceway 19 cars (Datsuns) Crash Compound fractures of the 4th and 5th vertebrae Lands on safety ramp, stays upright but crashes 100 feet beyond the ramp
Sunday, August 16, 1970 Long Pond, PA – Pocono International Raceway 13 cars Crash Cracked vertebra, broken shoulder and hand Climbs ladder, thanks the crowd
Saturday, December 12, 1970 Los Angeles, CA – Lions Drag Strip 13 cars Success First jump using Harley-Davidson XR-750
Friday, January 08, 1971 Houston, TX – Astrodome 13 cars Success Set new Astrodome attendance record
Saturday, January 09, 1971 Houston, TX – Astrodome 13 cars Success Reportedly sells over 100,000 tickets to back-to-back shows
Saturday, February 27, 1971 Ontario, CA – Ontario Motor Speedway 10 cars Crash Sprained right hand Handlebars collapse against tank on takeoff (practice jump)
Sunday, February 28, 1971 Ontario, CA – Ontario Motor Speedway 19 cars (18 Dodge Colts and a van) Success New record – filmed for movie Evel Knievel; AJ Foyt wins Miller 500
Friday, March 26, 1971 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre Success Two shows a day, indoor pavilion with low ceiling
Saturday, March 27, 1971 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre Success Two shows a day
Sunday, March 28, 1971 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre 11 cars and 2 trucks Success Two shows a day
Thursday, July 08, 1971 New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden Van, 9 cars Success
Friday, July 09, 1971 New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden Van, 9 cars Success
Saturday, July 10, 1971 New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden Van, 9 cars Success
Sunday, July 11, 1971 New York City, NY – Madison Square Garden Van, 9 cars Success
Thursday, July 15, 1971 Buffalo, NY – Lancaster Speedway 13 cars Success
Friday, July 16, 1971 Buffalo, NY – Lancaster Speedway 13 cars Success
Saturday, July 17, 1971 Buffalo, NY – Lancaster Speedway 13 cars Success Signs autographs until 1 in the morning
Thursday, July 29, 1971 Wilkes-Barre, PA – Pocono Downs 12 Stegmaier beer trucks Success
Friday, July 30, 1971 Wilkes-Barre, PA – Pocono Downs 12 Stegmaier beer trucks Success
Friday, August 27, 1971 Philadelphia, PA – Spectrum 10 Chevrolet cars Success
Saturday, August 28, 1971 Philadelphia, PA – Spectrum 10 Chevrolet cars Success
Sunday, September 05, 1971 Agawam, MA – Riverside Park Success
Monday, September 06, 1971 Agawam, MA – Riverside Park Success
Friday, September 10, 1971 Evel Knievel Motion Picture debuts, starring George Hamilton and Sue Lyon
Thursday, September 16, 1971 Great Barrington, MA – Great Barrington Fair 16 cars Crash Sprained wrist Shortens planned jump due to rainy conditions; Clears jump, falls on wet ramp
Friday, September 17, 1971 Great Barrington, MA – Great Barrington Fair CANCELLED (rain) N/A
Saturday, September 18, 1971 Great Barrington, MA – Great Barrington Fair 10 cars Success
Saturday, September 25, 1971 Hutchinson, KS – Kansas State Fair 10 Kenworth trucks Success
Sunday, September 26, 1971 Hutchinson, KS – Kansas State Fair 10 Kenworth trucks Success
Friday, October 01, 1971 Wichita, KS Success Mentioned in newspaper reports – moved from Hutchinson “to Wichita, where he once again performed flawlessly”
Saturday, October 23, 1971 Portland, OR – Portland Memorial Coliseum 14 cars Success World indoor record
Sunday, January 23, 1972 Tucson, AZ – Tucson Dragway 12 cars, 3 vans Success
Friday, February 11, 1972 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre Success
Saturday, February 12, 1972 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre Success
Sunday, February 13, 1972 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre Success (EK’s note: attempted 15 car jump, landed on #15)
Thursday, March 02, 1972 Daly City, CA – Cow Palace 15 cars Success
Friday, March 03, 1972 Daly City, CA – Cow Palace 15 cars Crash Completes jump, but is thrown, breaks his back and sustains concussion
Friday, March 24, 1972 Detroit, MI – State Fairgrounds Coliseum 13 cars Success
Saturday, March 25, 1972 Detroit, MI – State Fairgrounds Coliseum 13 cars Success
Sunday, March 26, 1972 Detroit, MI – State Fairgrounds Coliseum 13 cars Crash Breaks collarbone Successful landing, but crashes into wall
Saturday, April 08, 1972 Plymouth, CA – Emerson Ranch 100 rattlesnakes and 2 vans Success Two sources list this obstacle…
Sunday, April 09, 1972 Plymouth, CA – Emerson Ranch 100 rattlesnakes and 2 vans Success
Sunday, June 11, 1972 Atlanta, GA – Lakewood Speedway 13 Cadillac cars Crash Compressed vertebrae Crashed during practice jump; cancelled main jump
Saturday, June 17, 1972 Oklahoma City, OK – Oklahoma State Fairgrounds 3 cars Success Wearing back brace from previous crash
Sunday, June 18, 1972 Oklahoma City, OK – Oklahoma State Fairgrounds 5 cars, 2 vans Success
Saturday, June 24, 1972 East St. Louis, IL – St. Louis International Raceway 10 cars Success Still wearing back brace
Sunday, June 25, 1972 East St. Louis, IL – St. Louis International Raceway 10 cars Success
Sunday, July 09, 1972 Evansville, IN – Tri-State Speedway Success
Sunday, July 16, 1972 Coon Rapids, MI – Minnesota Dragways Success Lear Jet crashes into Evel’s trailer when landing at the dragstrip.
Sunday, July 30, 1972 Castle Rock, CO – Continental Divide Raceways 7 trucks and 4 cars Success
Friday, August 04, 1972 Salt Lake City, UT – Lagoon Amusement Park Success
Saturday, August 05, 1972 Salt Lake City, UT – Lagoon Amusement Park Success
Friday, September 01, 1972 Monroe, WA – Evergreen Speedway 22 cars (cleared 21…) Success
Saturday, September 02, 1972 Monroe, WA – Evergreen Speedway Success
Sunday, October 01, 1972 IDEAL Toys debuts Evel Knievel action figure
Saturday, October 07, 1972 Wichita, KS – 81 Speedway Success
Sunday, November 26, 1972 Tucson, AZ – Bee Line Dragway Success
Friday, January 05, 1973 Las Vegas, NV – Convention Center 13 vans Success
Saturday, January 06, 1973 Las Vegas, NV – Convention Center 13 vans Success
Sunday, January 07, 1973 Las Vegas, NV – Convention Center 13 vans Success
Friday, January 19, 1973 Dallas, TX – Convention Center Success
Saturday, January 20, 1973 Dallas, TX – Convention Center Success
Sunday, January 21, 1973 Dallas, TX – Convention Center Success
Sunday, February 18, 1973 Los Angeles, CA – Los Angeles Coliseum 50 stacked cars; 18 rows, 2-3 high Success Broadcast on ABC’s Wide World of Sports
Friday, February 23, 1973 Cleveland, OH – Convention Center Success
Saturday, February 24, 1973 Cleveland, OH – Convention Center Success
Sunday, February 25, 1973 Cleveland, OH – Convention Center Success
Friday, March 02, 1973 Uniondale, NY – Nassau Coliseum Success
Saturday, March 03, 1973 Uniondale, NY – Nassau Coliseum Success
Sunday, March 04, 1973 Uniondale, NY – Nassau Coliseum Success
Friday, March 16, 1973 Atlanta, GA – Lakewood Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall Success
Saturday, March 17, 1973 Atlanta, GA – Lakewood Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall Success
Sunday, March 18, 1973 Atlanta, GA – Lakewood Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall Success
Friday, March 23, 1973 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre Success
Saturday, March 24, 1973 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre Success
Sunday, March 25, 1973 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre Success
Friday, March 30, 1973 Detroit, MI – State Fairgrounds Coliseum 13 cars Success Paper says 5 jumps over the course of the weekend
Saturday, March 31, 1973 Detroit, MI – State Fairgrounds Coliseum 13 cars Success
Sunday, April 01, 1973 Detroit, MI – State Fairgrounds Coliseum 13 cars Success
Friday, April 13, 1973 St. Paul, MN – St. Paul Civic Center Success
Saturday, April 14, 1973 St. Paul, MN – St. Paul Civic Center Success
Sunday, April 15, 1973 St. Paul, MN – St. Paul Civic Center Success
Friday, April 27, 1973 Cincinnati, OH – Cincinnati Gardens Success
Saturday, April 28, 1973 Cincinnati, OH – Cincinnati Gardens Success
Sunday, April 29, 1973 Cincinnati, OH – Cincinnati Gardens Success
Friday, June 22, 1973 Union Grove, WI – Great Lakes Dragaway Success
Saturday, June 23, 1973 Union Grove, WI – Great Lakes Dragaway 10 cars, 3 panel trucks Success
Sunday, June 24, 1973 Union Grove, WI – Great Lakes Dragaway 10 cars, 3 panel trucks Success
Saturday, July 21, 1973 St. Louis International Raceway, Collinsville IN Success
Sunday, July 29, 1973 Providence, RI – Lincoln Downs Race Track Success
Friday, September 28, 1973 Stafford Springs CT
Monday, October 01, 1973 IDEAL Toys debuts Evel Knievel stuntcycle
Saturday, October 06, 1973 Kaukauna, WI – Wisconsin International Raceway 10 cars, 3 panel trucks Success
Sunday, October 07, 1973 Kaukauna, WI – Wisconsin International Raceway 10 cars, 3 panel trucks Success
Saturday, October 20, 1973 Philadelphia, PA – JFK Stadium 13 cars Success
Sunday, February 17, 1974 North Richland Hills, TX – Green Valley Raceway 11 Mack trucks Success Broadcast on ABC’s Wide World of Sports
Friday, March 29, 1974 Portland, OR – Oregon Memorial Coliseum Ford vans Success
Saturday, April 13, 1974 Fremont, CA – Fremont Raceway Success
Saturday, April 20, 1974 Irvine, CA – Orange County International Raceway Success
Sunday, April 28, 1974 Kansas City, MO – Kansas City International Raceway Success
Sunday, May 05, 1974 Tulsa, OK – Tulsa International Speedway Success
Saturday, May 25, 1974 West Salem, OH – Dragway 42 10 Mack trucks Success
Sunday, May 26, 1974 West Salem, OH – Dragway 42 10 Mack trucks Success
Monday, May 27, 1974 West Salem, OH – Dragway 42 10 Mack trucks Success
Tuesday, August 20, 1974 Toronto, ON – Canadian National Exhibition Stadium 13 Mack trucks Success Broadcast on ABC’s Wide World of Sports – 1st appearance of Rob & Kelly doing wheelies
Sunday, September 08, 1974 Twin Falls, ID – Snake River Canyon Canyon Crash Premature parachute deployment Broadcast on closed circuit TV with Bob Arum
Monday, May 26, 1975 London, England – Wembley Stadium 13 single-decker buses Crash Breaks pelvis and back Broadcast on ABC’s Wide World of Sports; helped to his feet, addresses crowd
Saturday, October 25, 1975 Mills, OH – Kings Island 14 Greyhound buses Success Broadcast on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, sets new distance record of 180 ft, broadcast achieves highest ratings in Wide World of Sports history
Monday, October 11, 1976 Worcester, MA – Fitton Field 10 trucks Success Robbie jumped 4 trucks
Friday, October 29, 1976 Seattle, WA – Kingdome 7 Greyhound buses Crash Dislocated left shoulder Broadcast on ABC’s Wide World of Sports
Saturday, October 30, 1976 Seattle, WA – Kingdome 7 Greyhound buses Success Broadcast on ABC’s Wide World of Sports
Monday, January 31, 1977 Chicago, IL – Chicago International Amphitheatre 90 foot shark tank Crash Breaks both arms Loses control during rehearsal, runs into a cameraman
Wednesday, June 01, 1977 Viva Knievel Motion Picture debuts, starring Evel Knievel, Gene Kelly and Lauren Hutton
Wednesday, February 21, 1979 Orange, NSW, Australia – Towac Park
Friday, February 23, 1979 Wollongong, NSW, Australia – Australia Showgrounds
Saturday, February 24, 1979 Sydney, NSW, Australia – RAS Showground
Sunday, February 25, 1979 Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia – Eric Weissel Oval
Saturday, March 01, 1980 Puerto Rico Tour
Saturday, October 04, 1980 Pontiac, MI – Silverdome
Saturday, January 31, 1981 St. Petersburg, FL – Sunshine Speedway
Friday, February 01, 1980 St. Petersburg, FL – Sunshine Speedway
Saturday, March 01, 1980 Hollywood, FL – Miami-Hollywood Speedway
Friday, November 19, 1999 Las Vegas, NV – Ceasers Palace Marries Krystal Kennedy
Sunday, April 01, 2007 Crystal Cathedral Born again/baptized by Dr. Robert S. Schuller on “The Hour of Power”
Friday, November 30, 2007 Clearwater, FL Died of complications from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis
Monday, December 10, 2007 Butte Civic Center & Mountain View Cemetery Funeral/Burial of Robert Craig Knievel

Although Knievel never attempted to jump the Grand Canyon, rumors of the Canyon jump were started by Knievel himself in 1968 following the Caesars Palace crash. During a 1968 interview, Knievel stated, “I don’t care if they say, ‘Look, kid, you’re going to drive that thing off the edge of the Canyon and die,’ I’m going to do it. I want to be the first. If they’d let me go to the moon, I’d crawl all the way to Cape Kennedy just to do it. I’d like to go to the moon, but I don’t want to be the second man to go there.” For the next several years, Knievel would negotiate with the U.S. government to secure a jumping site and develop various concept bikes to make the jump. However, the U.S. Department of Interior denied him airspace over the Grand Canyon. Therefore, in 1971, Knievel switched his attention to the Snake River Canyon.

In the movie, Evel Knievel, George Hamilton (as Knievel) alludes to the Canyon jump in the final scene of the movie. One of the common movie posters for the 1971 film depicts Knievel jumping his motorcycle off a (likely) Grand Canyon cliff. In 1999, Knievel’s son, Robbie, jumped a portion of the Grand Canyon owned by the Hualapai Indian Reservation.

 From WikiPedia

News from Hollywood suggests a new Evel Knievel biopic starring Channing Tatum is in the making…stay tuned stunt fans….

 

Paul and Diva Murray meet Evil Knievel at Alice in VideoLand in Christchurch (Photo by Sanae Murray)

 

About LivinginPeaceProject

Paul Murray is the founder of the LivinginPeace Project. www.livinginpeace.com Paul originally from Australia, but have been living in New Zealand for eight years. Before that he was in Japan for a decade working as a journalist. He met his wife Sanae in Japan and they married in 2008.
This entry was posted in Fashion, Funny, Hilarious, Historical, Humor, Humour, Movie Review, Photography, Social Commentary, Uncategorized, United States, Weird and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Evel Knievel: 70s Daredevil Icon

  1. I’m really impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one today.

  2. Jeff Voss says:

    Very good article. Grew up having Evel as my hero. Thank you for all the info.

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