He was the man who literally jumped the shark. Among the feats of the one and only Evel Knievel was riding his motorcycle over a tank of sharks. It was his last grandstanding stunt, which broke both his arms and gave him a concussion. The Australian Age obit may be the best-- naturally, they appreciated a man of Knievel's peculiar talents Down Under. This one from the OC Register in Orange County gives a more chronological account of Knievel's crashes, as well as as a tribute from a US Congressman. Somewhere I read that Knievel said that he'd broken every bone in his body except for the stirrups in his ears. This was a lie, it was only either 35 or 40 bones. It is of course a downbeat ending to be carried off by a treacherous liver (that terrible Hep C) and something called "idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis." ("Idiopathic" is your doctor's word for "damned if we know what caused it or how to treat it".)

Knievel's memory is burnished by today's generation of 1970s worshippers. He lives on in cultural spaces as varied as Kayne West videos (Knievel was not to be sampled for free) and the ineffable Hot Rod. Steve Mandich's stunningly well-researched webpage shows the remarkable amount of bands and songs named after the daredevil. Mandich also provides the tidbit that Kurt Cobain said that Knievel was his only hero. (College radio disc jockeys, looking at this huge roster of songs and bands, may be overwhelmed with riches: one recommends the real prize in this list, the 1974 Amherst album Evel Knievel. Ebay has a sealed and autographed copy for a mere $100. but there's bound to be other copies floating about for cheap. "Why?" by Knievel is a spoken-word song over guitar and harmonica, in which he tries to explain his penchant for jumping his Harley over everything from a pit of rattlesnakes to the Snake River Canyon. Having no c-note to blow on the record, I spent 99 cents the day after Knievel died to pick up a DVD of Evel Knievel (1971) at the Grocery Outlet. Surprise: it's pretty good!

categories Features, Cinematical