Friday, November 30, 2007

Viva Knievel!

When I was a boy, one of the few things my brother and I could agree on was that Evel Knievel was an American Badass. Then again, we grew up poppin' wheelies in the same gravel driveway. Whenever the man in the cape would jump something stupid on ABC, we'd immediately try to replicate it with cinder blocks and two by fours. It never worked, but the resulting scrapes and bruises marked us both as male children of the 70's. Without EK's ludicrous bravado to fuel our imaginations, we'd have spent our youths riding around in circles. Instead we soared to new heights, hung on his every slow-motion wipeout and learned to live with our own road-rash. Mom may not have approved, but I dare say Evel Knievel made me stronger. He damn sure made me hurt. Whoda thunk he'd die of old age?

These days, he's difficult to explain. Unlike the legions of extreme stunt-riders he inspired, Robert Craig Knievel wasn't the least bit bohemian. Sure, he possessed Elvis' wardrobe - but he had the demeanor of a traffic cop. When he wasn't hurling himself and his Harley into the void, he was grimly reminding us how much fun he wasn't having. He may have been the Johnny Cash of Daredevils, but Evel Knievel was clearly a tight-ass in a white jumpsuit. Still, from his horrific Caesar's Palace crash in the year of my birth to his premature descent at Snake Canyon eight years later, The Man greatly enhanced my first decade on the planet - all while sporting stars, stripes and a butterfly collar. So please, raise your Bicentennial mug and help toast this deliciously conflicted American Original , for he toughened up a generation of kids made soft by too much Brady Bunch. Awkward role model, leering boozehound, gravity-bound astronaut; the Patron Saint of Testosterone has finally caught Eternal Air - so please, show some respect.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's an old action figure I gotta stick on eBay.


bobbysitter said...

It is hard to describe that era. Everyone in my neighborhood tried to show how far they could jump with a bicycle. I remember that we had a rock jumping contest one day. With double dog dare threats and the need to prove how stupid one actually could be I took the challenge and jumped a record distance over 26 rocks (trust me they were large rocks and spaced accordingly). I landed flawlessly, banged my head on the handlebars, chipped a tooth and got the bragging rights that goes with such acts of a child. Daredevil or the need to be an idiot I am not sure but if you were a kid during that time you know what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Another nice "ode" 'Slinger. Some one should really pay you to write these.

turdpolisher said...

Well said slinger. Got a special spot in my heart for the guy that had me flyinf face-first over the handlebars of my purple monster of a Schwinn.

Anonymous said...

Best Evel Knievel Quote.
"Do you know who the hell I am"
Evel Knievel on the Jim Rome Show

Anonymous said...

as a fan of your blog and the truth
that you reflect on a daily basis
i must unfortunately add one detail
to this post from behind my fancycam ... evel was a thorough
bastard. i asked my ND if i could
write the first line for our newscast ... "hells a little fuller
tonight" he said "no" and asked ...
"so he was not fun to deal with?"

you got that right.

an american legend your glad you never met.

punky cameraman