Saturday, December 1, 2007

American Daredevel: R.I.P.

The original Extreme Gamesman

Name at birth: Robert Craig Knievel

Evel Knievel brought the spirit of P.T. Barnum to daredevil motorcycle jumps in the 1970s. Dressed in his signature red, white and blue jumpsuit, Knievel would race his motorcycle up steep ramps and over obstacles, including the fountains in front of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas (in 1968) and a row of 13 double-decker buses at London's Wembley Stadium (in 1975). Often he crash-landed, thrilling viewers while breaking dozens of bones. His most famous stunt was an attempted jump over Idaho's Snake River Canyon in a rocket-powered "motorcycle" in 1974. The attempt failed when the craft's parachute opened prematurely, but Knievel survived. He retired in 1981; his son Robbie Knievel succeeded him as the family motorcycle daredevil. Evel Knievel received a liver transplant in 1999, due to hepatitis C presumably contracted through blood transfusions after his many crashes.

Extra credit: George Hamilton portrayed Knievel in the 1971 movie biography Evel Knievel... George Eads played Knievel in the 2004 TV movie Evel Knievel... Knievel played himself in the 1977 film Viva Knievel.

More Evel photos and career statistics at Evel Knievel
Knievel jumping lorries in Wembley Stadium

The crippled grandfather of extreme sports inhales deeply. He sits in his leather easy chair, mind clouded by meds, bones throbbing with arthritis. As he watches an NFL game, on which he has bet $1,000, the cantankerous stuntman clutches oxygen tubes supplying life to hardening lungs.

It is a shock to the senses, if not the sensibilities, to see ultra-cool Evel Knievel, 68, looking so feeble, so frayed around his graying daredevil edges, right down to his gnarled knuckles and wobbly gait.

His ravaged, 155-pound body isn't composed of original parts. He has a new liver and a replacement hip, and most recently doctors inserted a drug pump in his abdomen. It gives little reprieve from the excruciating pain in a fused spine mangled by hundreds of perilous, cringe-inducing motorcycle jumps from the 1960s and '70s.

"Ever see one of them before?" Evel asks, lifting a pajama top to reveal a pain-relief gizmo under his pale skin. "This sends morphine and synthetic heroin into my back 24 hours a day. It's awfully strong — it affects your thinking, your brain."

by RidesAPaleHorse
note: mondoreb
[graphics: top-RAPH; bbc]
Evel Knievel - who2
Evel Knievel, long retired, frail, feisty, still cheating death - USA Today


Death by 1000 Papercuts Front Page.

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