Among the greatest daredevils to have ever lived is Evel Knievel. He was a professional stuntman and entertainer who performed many tricks that had cost others their lives, earning him a place as the greatest motorcycle stuntman in the world.
Although most of the records he pulled off have now been eroded by various stuntmen that came after him, the hall of Famer is still respected even years after he passed on. His career saw him defy death over many years until it came to an end in 1980. Nonetheless, many have remained very much interested in knowing details about the early life of the man, how it ended, and everything in between.
The Beginning of Evel Knievel
Robert Craig Knievel Jr. otherwise known by his stage name Evel Knievel was a professional American stuntman, as well as an entertainer and painter. His unparalleled stunt performing skills have placed him as one of the greatest stunt performers the world has ever known, thus putting his name in the annals of history.
During his career, Knievel completed over 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps and was also inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. Evel Knievel was born in a town called Butte, situated in Montana City of the United States on October 17, 1938.
He was raised along with his younger brother Nicholas by their paternal grandparents, Emma and Ignatius Knievel. His parents, Robert and Ann Marie Knievel, divorced after the birth of his younger brother in 1940 and both decided to leave the town. While growing up in Butte, Knievel was inspired to be a stunt performer after watching Joie Chitwood’s Auto Daredevil Show. He also attended Butte High School but dropped out after his second year.
Soon after he left school, he joined a mining company called Anaconda Mining Company where he worked as a drill operator. His flair for stunts landed him in a lot of troubles including spending some time in jail.
Details of His Career Exploits and Attainments
He began his stunt performing career in 1966 while he was working with a motorcycle shop in Washington. Evel drew so many customers to the shop by performing various stunts including jumping over parked cars, caged cougars, and rattlesnakes. Impressed with what he saw, the then-famous stuntman Joie Chitwood created a group called Evel Knievel’s Motorcycle Daredevils.
After a few weeks of jumping over vehicles, blasting walls, and burning plywood, Knievel took a break to repair his body. He suffered a near-death crash on December 31, 1967, when he attempted to jump over the Las Vegas Caesar’s Palace casino fountain. His motorcycle’s back wheel malfunctioned from the edge which made Knievel land on the ramps of a safety van. As a result of the incident, he suffered hip, ankle, and wrist fractures; as well as broken femur and pelvis. This saw him spend about 29 days in a coma.
That wasn’t enough to make him stop. Evel Knievel tried to jump over 13 single deck buses at the Wembley Stadium in May 1975. The stunt wasn’t successful as Knievel broke his back in the process. He also performed one more stunt in October 1975, this time he successfully jumped over fourteen Greyhound buses; after which he went on retirement.
Having survived several death traps all through his stunts career; the iconic stuntman suffered from liver failure during the ‘90s and was miraculously saved after he was told that he had few days to live. He also suffered from an incurable terminal lung infection and diabetes in 2005.
The Family Life and Death of Evel Knievel
He married Linda Joan Bork during the late ’50s, and they were blessed with four children – two sons and two daughters. One of his sons, Robert III, also trailed the same path as his father, becoming a stunt performer just like him. After thirty-eight years of marriage, Evel and his wife went their separate ways in 1997. In 1999, he married Krystal Kennedy; surprisingly, their marriage didn’t work out and they eventually divorced.
A daredevil, many would have thought Evel Knievel would die performing one of his out-of-the-world stunts since death seemed to be too close to him all through his career days. He suffered various crashes including a 1974 crash that left him with 40 broken bones after a failed attempt at jumping Snake River Canyon on a rocket-powered cycle. More so, he would go on to survive a liver transplant in the late 1990s when he was only said to have days to live as a result of Hepatitis C.
For someone who seemed too much alive to die and mocked death on many occasions, the legendary daredevil lost his life on November 30, 2007, at the age of 69 as a result of pulmonary disease. For years before he died, Evel struggled with several health issues including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and diabetes.
He was laid to rest in his hometown, Butte, Montana at Mountain View Cemetery on December 10, 2007.
While the liver issue that nearly cost him his life many years before he died was linked to his career as he got a blood transfusion from an infected individual following an accident, his death was not linked to his dangerous career. Interestingly, he had hoped that he would live to be 70 before he died; the man was only a year short of the age when he passed on.
A Look at His Unique Toy Collection
While his son Robert has become a professional stunt performer just like his father, his brother Kelly Knievel has worked on preserving their father’s legacy through developing different children’s products. The product ranges from playsets to plastic models as well as museum exhibits.
Over the years, he has developed a series of Knievel toy collection including the following:
Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle Set: The first of the toys, you would hardly find a boy born in the late 70s who had a toy box without this. It came with Evel himself, as well as the cycle and the energizer. It is a replica of his XR750 stunt bike.
Evel Knievel Scramble Van: The only thing that could beat the first toy set was what came after it; the Evel Knievel Scramble Van. The playset came with a ton of play accessories for a complete Knievel show. However, it did not come with an action figure or a bike.
Evel Knievel Stunt Game: This is a battery-operated board game that was released in 1974. It is one of the most interesting toys that came under the name of the daredevil. Players make settings and then go ahead with crazy stunts to earn trophies for each turn.