Saturday, December 01, 2007

Evel Knievel - spelled "i" before "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"

If you are of a certain age, then this weekend is a melancholy one because the original Jackass (as in the Johnny Knoxville-variety Jackass) slipped the surly bonds of earth to pop a wheelie in the face of God. Evel Knievel died Friday at the age of 69 due to complications from being one crazy self-destructive sumbitch.

When you were a kid, the guy was everywhere. The Tonight Show, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, guest spots on Sonny & Cher and even the freakin' Bionic Woman (the original one, not that new slick piece of crap that defiles the name of Jamie Sommers...but that polemic is for another time). He was a pop culture fixture burned into the consciousness of every kid. If someone grabbed you walking home from school and put a knife to you and said "quick, name someone who's broken every bone their body?" you would instantly reply, "Evel Knievel now let me go I just peed myself".

Every single kid of the 70's who ever wrecked on their bike after attempting something life-threatening did it in the name of Evel Knievel. He was the inspiration for mayhem. As well as contributed to the wealth of countless orthopedic surgeons by producing an endless flow of wanna-be 6th grade Kneivels. If life was fair, those doctors would have been laying bags of cash on his doorstep and naming their first born "Evel".

But alas, Evel died a crotchety shell of a man. Riddled with maladies that would've made Job side with the devil. I can only assume he went out somewhat regretful for what he did to himself, probably wishing that he had gone the hooker, steaks and blow route instead of the motorcycle, gravity and row of buses one. Though I do hope Mr. Knievel realized that a generation of Americans will never forget his adventures.

We will never forget his body bouncing at the bottom of that ramp at Caesar's Palace looking like a sock monkey being swung around by a retarded kid. Nor will we forget the Christmas morning we got our Evel Kneivel stunt bike action figure. A toy that consisted of an Evel Knievel action figure attached to a motorcycle that could be propelled by placing it in a device where you would crank it like hell and release with great speed. If there was one toy that pissed off moms it was this one because the tires would actually leave black skid marks on everything it slammed into; and in my case it was the living room wall. But, as with all children's toys it wore out it's welcome. So one day some friends and I soaked the Knievel doll in lighter fluid, placed him on his bike, set him ablaze. cranked it like it had never been cranked before and let him loose to hit the cardboard ramp ahead of him. For a brief moment his jump was glorious and celebratory. Then just as swiftly, it became a smoldering rubbery heap that was going to leave an indelible mark on the driveway. I look back on that day and realize we pretty much summed up Knievel's life.