iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Tom Cramer


Evel Knievel: American Original

Posted: 07/05/2013 7:14 am

Evel Knievel

It's the 4th of July weekend, and the '70s recollections that have flooded my brain for the past year or so are currently colored Red, White, and Blue. Growing up in the 1970s, I was greatly influenced by ABC's Wide World of Sports, as detailed in an earlier post. I had promised (some say threatened) to devote an entire post to Evel Knievel, and that time has come.

I can't remember the first time I saw him jump, or whether he was successful or not. He became my hero, however, when I saw the footage from his attempt at jumping the fountains at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. It was a horrific crash, and as his body tumbled, it was obvious he had broken his legs. They just weren't supposed to bend like that.

I've heard that Evel pulled quite a few stunts to arrange the jump at Caesar's in the first place, such as "creating" an organization called Evel Knievel Enterprises and impersonating lawyers during telephone negotiations. You could call that being a scam artist -- I prefer to think of it as American ingenuity. Wide World of Sports passed on the opportunity to televise the jump live, but Evel had it filmed anyway. ABC ended up paying a lot more for the rights to broadcast it after the fact.

So, why did an epic failure make him my hero? It wasn't the fact that someone was brave enough (or crazy enough) to attempt such incredible jumps on a motorcycle. It was that even after breaking 44 bones and spending a month in a coma, he kept jumping. Even after nearly dying, he'd get right back on the bike, and try to jump even further distances.

From then on, I was obsessed. I had an Evel Knievel lunch box that I would bring to school every day. If I was ever bored, I would use one of those cool "four color" Bic pens and draw his motorcycle. I had the stunt cycle toy from Ideal. It featured a 7" Evel action figure, along with a gyroscopic motorcycle. You put Evel on the bike, the bike on the hand-cranked "launcher", wind it up and let him fly. I would spend hours seeing how far he could jump. He once jumped G.I. Joe, Johnny West, the Gold Knight and Big Jim, along with all the Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars I could borrow.

Of course, this led to building real ramps out of plywood and bricks, and using my Schwinn Stingray to impersonate Evel. Starting out, my friends and I would set up the ramps on the sidewalk, and see how many "squares" we could jump. Eventually, that became boring. Once I was staying at my brother's house, and had the idea to jump my nephews Joe (2 years younger than I), Greg (4 years younger), and Brian (6 years younger). My brother and sister-in-law had gone to the store, and I watched the car go up a hill and out of sight. I had my nephews lay down next to the ramp, and used chalk to mark the distance. Once they stood up and got out of the way, I easily cleared that distance in three consecutive jumps.

The house was located close to a T intersection, at the bottom of the hill, so the street was flat and level. I had someone, maybe a neighbor kid, stationed at the top of the hill to keep an eye out for my brother's return, and had the guys lay down in the street. Getting the OK from the lookout, I started my approach. I had enough speed, hit the ramp cleanly and launched. Flying through the air, I locked eyes with my brother, and saw the horrified look on my sister-in-law's face. They had returned via the intersecting street, and were stopped only a few yards away.

That visit didn't end well.

Recently, I came across a couple of fantastic pages on Facebook devoted to Evel Knievel, and each day they would post another great picture. At the same time, I discovered my new computer came with a program to make "movies" out of still photos. It was like the stars aligned. So, my first project is a tribute to my childhood hero, Evel Knievel. Now, it's not an accurate depiction of his life, nor is it correct chronologically. It simply allowed me to learn the program, and display my somewhat twisted sense of humor.

Click on the title in blue to view Evel Knievel: American Original, if you dare.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Melissa Sue Anderson: Then

    <a href="" target="_blank">The actress</a> played the blind, quiet and good-hearted older sister, Mary Ingalls Kendall, in the hit television show "Little House on the Prairie." Anderson was nominated for a Primetime Emmy in 1978 for her role, but her acting career after the end of "Little House" in 1983 was more bit than leading lady. (Though she did nab a Daytime Emmy for a 1972 ABC Afterschool Special!)

  • Melissa Sue Anderson: Now

    Anderson continues to act in small roles here and there, and does voice work for video games and cartoons. She released her memoir, <a href="" target="_blank">"The Way I See It: A Look Back On My Life On 'Little House,'"</a> in 2010. She is married and has two children.

  • Peter Ostrum: Then

    He certainly had the golden ticket alright! <a href="" target="_blank">The young actor who played Charlie Bucket</a> in the 1971 trippy classic "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" was offered a three-picture deal after the movie's release, but turned it down, never to appear in a movie again.

  • Peter Ostrum: Now

    Ostrum left the limelight in favor of a normal life. He went to Cornell University and is now a large animal veterinarian, specializing in cattle and horses.

  • Erin Moran: Then

    Joanie Cunningham was one of America's favorite kid sisters on the 1974 show "Happy Days."<a href="" target="_blank"> Erin Moran played the youngest Cunningham during all of "Happy Days'"</a> 10-year run, then went on to play her again in the short-lived spinoff "Joanie Loves Chachi." Moran did the typical '80s guest star circuit after those shows ended, appearing on "The Love Boat" and "Murder, She Wrote."

  • Erin Moran: Now

    Pardon the pun, but Moran hasn't had too many "Happy Days" as of late. Last year the actress was reportedly living like a <a href="" target="_blank">recluse in an Indiana hotel room</a>, after leaving the trailer park she shared with her husband and mother-in-law after a drunken brawl. Prior to that, <a href="">Moran was evicted from her California home</a>, and is reportedly broke despite a recent royalties settlement from her work on "Happy Days." She's currently working on a memoir in the hopes to settle her debts.

  • Tony Dow: Then

    Swoon! Though the show was called "Leave It To Beaver," we're pretty sure many teens were all about <a href="" target="_blank">older brother Wally Cleaver, played by the handsome Tony Dow</a>. Dow continued acting after "Leave It To Beaver" ended in 1963, appearing in "Lassie" and "Love American Style."

  • Tony Dow: Now

    As an adult Dow continued to play on his first character, appearing as Wally in the 1980s television show "The New Leave It To Beaver." Since then, the actor has taken up an entirely new career as a <a href="" target="_blank">sculptor</a>. Far from a hobbyist, <a href="" target="_blank">Dow's bronze sculptures</a> have appeared in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

  • Pamela Sue Martin: Then

    For an hour every other week in the '70s, viewers tuned in to see <a href="" target="_blank">Pamela Sue Martin</a> as "girl detective" Nancy Drew during the short-lived "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries" television show. She went on to play Fallon Carrington Colby on "Dynasty," but was later <a href="" target="_blank">replaced by actress Emma Shamms</a>.

  • Pamela Sue Martin: Now

    <a href="" target="_blank">Health issues</a> made Martin decide to leave the glamorous primetime soap, but also sparked her interest in alternative medicines. She is now a<a href="" target="_blank"> "qualified spiritual counselor," </a>she told UK's Express.

  • Ted Lange: Then

    Everyone's favorite bartender,<a href="" target="_blank"> Isaac Washington</a>, was there to pour you a drink and listen to your troubles on the hit show "The Love Boat."

  • Ted Lange: Now

    <a href="" target="_blank">Ted Lange</a> reprised the role of Isaac a number of times in a variety of shows over the years and has picked up guest starring roles here and there.

  • Parker Stevenson: Then

    <a href="" target="_blank">Parker Stevenson</a> was always on the case as sleuth Frank Hardy in the 1970s television show "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries." After the show's brief run, Stevenson and his dreamy blue eyes continued on, appearing in one popular show after the other: "The Love Boat," "Falcon Crest," and the mini-series "North and South."

  • Parker Stevenson: Now

    Stevenson continued acting well into the '90s, appearing in "Melrose Place" before donning a pair of red lifeguard shorts in "Baywatch" as Craig Pomeroy. Once married to Kirstie Alley, Stevenson is now pursuing a <a href="" target="_blank">career in photography</a>.

  • Mel Harris: Then

    The actress played Hope Murdoch Steadman in the popular 1980s dramedy "thirtysomething."

  • Mel Harris: Now

    <a href=",,20299531,00.html" target="_blank">Harris is now a regular guest star</a> in television shows like "Dawson's Creek," "The West Wing" and "House."


Follow Tom Cramer on Twitter: