EVEL KNIEVEL--the FINAL JUMP!
by BRADLEY MASON HAMLIN
Wow, there’s just something about a person who’s willing to risk their life for entertainment. It’s not just that willingness to face the death we’re too scared to deal with ourselves; it’s the style that a true daredevil brings to the act that thrills us. Certainly, this is not a new concept. Why do you think people go to bullfights, to watch the bull die? I don’t think so. That vicarious dance with death, that’s what we want, and who ever did that better than Evel Knievel?
In the 1970s Knievel was one of those rare superstars that becomes synonymous with their style of work. You think of daredevil stunts; you think of Evel Knievel. Amazingly, one of the things we love about Knievel so much is the fact that he crashed so many damn times, but got back up to do it again. He broke both legs, a collar bone, an arm, his back, and who knows what else—all before attempting to jump Snake River Canyon, the big Knievel event of the 70s.
Evel announced his intention to jump Snake River in 1972, but it took two years to actually plan the event, and even though he didn’t make it all the way across—surviving with minor injuries—his career within those two years had more than leapt the distance.
In 1972 the Ideal toy company released the first Evel Knievel action figure. A popular stunt cycle would come the next year as well as several more vehicles and toys released throughout the 70s.
And let’s not forget that kooky lunchbox from 1974!
The toy line actually ended the same year the Evel Knievel movie came out: Viva Knievel! (1977). Remember Viva Knievel? Maybe the public had seen enough at that point, but I have to admit, I remember having a great time with my buddies in a Los Angeles movie theatre, throwing popcorn at girls, and watching Evel (playing himself) in that silly film. You know, it just may have been Arthur Fonzarelli’s lame imitation of Evel Knievel in 1977 in the “jumping the shark” episode that tipped the scales for both Fonzi and Knievel. Pretty funny, that a whole new industry term came out of that absurdity [the moment a show goes too far]. For instance, the TV show Angel “jumped the shark” in terms of verisimilitude when Cordelia Chase had sex with Angel’s teenage son … Okay, that’s too far off subject.
Didn’t Knievel make an anti-drug speech in Viva Knievel?
Good for you, Evel. Kids, don’t do drugs!
Well Evel, you’ve made the final jump.
And you deserve the rest. But somehow, I think, you just might be able to figure the angle on the jump back over Cloud City. Perhaps we have not yet seen the last of Evel Knievel ...
Bradley Mason Hamlin, November 30, 2007
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