It's been 50 years since his first death-defying jump, so let's stand back to take a look at the motorcyclist/entertainer/legend that was Evel Knievel!
1. Born on 17 October 1938, his real name was Robert Craig Knievel. He was given the rhyming name ‘Evil’ by a police officer in 1956, who had arrested him for reckless driving.
2. Though he liked the rhyming moniker, he decided to change the spelling to Evel, because he didn’t want want people to think badly of him.
3. Evel Knievel got his first motorcycle when he was 13 – but, while showing off, he crashed it into a neighbour’s garage and started a fire!
4. He started out as an insurance salesman – and he was very successful.
5. He claims that his first motorcycle jump was a just a publicity stunt. To help save a failing Honda dealership, Evel Knievel tried to jump over two mountain lions and a crate of rattlesnakes – but he landed in the snakes.
6. Over his career, he attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps – but one of his most spectacular fails was on 1 Jan 1968, when he tried to jump 151 feet over the fountains at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He crashed, breaking his pelvis, hip, and multiple ribs, and spent 29 days in a coma. Afterwards, ABC’s Wide World of Sports showed the crash, and he became an overnight celebrity.
7. At the height of his career, Evel Knievel was earning about $25,000 per jump – and he was jumping once a week.
8. To distance himself from the image of black-leather-clad bikers, he instead chose to wear a distinctive white outfit with a red and blue trim.
9. He was so famous that, for five years from 1972-1977, there was a range of Evel Knievel of toys sold with collectable figures, bikes and accessories. You can still find them on eBay – at a price!
10. How many bones did he break? The Guinness Book of World Records once said that Evel Knievel had broken 433 bones in his lifetime – but it was later revised to just 35!
11. Over his career, he spent a total of three years in hospital.
12. Sadly, at one point, Evel Knievel was an alcoholic. He even had a diamond-encrusted walking cane that was filled with Wild Turkey whiskey.
13. He also had a terrible temper. He once kicked his son in face, breaking his nose, after catching him stealing alcohol. He also beat a biographer with a baseball bat (and served term for the crime).
14. All of Knievel’s records have been broken by his son, Robbie, aka Evel Knievel II.
15. Knievel once went bankrupt and, to survive he sold two yachts and five mink coats.
16. He wasn’t well. After he retired, he had a stroke, a bleeding oesophagus, incurable lung disease, broken ribs, a broken hip, spinal-fusion surgery, and a liver transplant.
17. On 30 November 2007, he died, aged 69, from the lung condition pulmonary fibrosis.
Do YOU remember Evel Knievel’s stunts?