Can you look danger in the eye without blinking? Are you invincible? Today’s Wonder of the Day takes a look at a man who did some amazing stunts that left people believing he could answer those questions with a resounding “Yes!”
Who are we talking about? No one other than the famous, the legendary…Evel Knievel! Perhaps no one else in the history of stunts and entertainment has left a more permanent mark on the memory of so many people.
With a name like Evel Knievel, how could he not become famous? But he wasn’t always called Evel. He was born in Butte, Montana, in 1938 with the name Robert Craig Knievel. When he began to perform as a daredevil, he used the stage name “Evel” since it rhymed with his last name.
As a youngster, Evel was fascinated by automobile daredevil shows. These entertainers — called daredevils — would engage in dangerous stunts to thrill their audiences. Inspired by their feats, Evel would jump off homemade ramps with his bicycle. Eventually, Evel moved on to motorcycles.
In 1966, he started his own daredevil show. The centerpiece of his show was usually a daring motorcycle jump. He would race up a ramp, over a chasm or series of objects and attempt to land safely on a ramp on the other side.
Throughout his career, he attempted over 75 such motorcycle jumps. His first major shot at fame came when he attempted to jump over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. His attempt was filmed for television, and he gained a lot of recognition. Unfortunately, he crashed upon landing and spent almost a month in a coma.
Undeterred by failure, Evel continued to attempt even more spectacular jumps. His most successful jump was in 1975 at the Kings Island amusement park in Ohio. On that jump, he successfully flew over 14 buses and achieved his largest television audience.
His career was marked by even more spectacular failures, though. For example, in 1974, he attempted to jump across Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho, in a steam-powered rocket that was essentially nothing more than an unguided missile. The vehicle’s parachute deployed upon takeoff, causing Evel to land at the river’s edge.
Over the course of his career, Evel Knievel suffered many serious injuries, including an astounding 433 broken bones! That fact earned him a Guinness World Record for “most broken bones in a lifetime.”
During the peak of his career, Evel’s motorcycle jumps were some of the most popular televised sporting events of the time. He was definitely one of the most recognizable cultural icons of the 1970s. He was known as a celebrity who would usually wear a red, white and blue “stars and stripes” outfit with a cape. In 1999, Evel Knievel was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.