As a 70’s kid, Evel Knieval will always have a special place in my heart. I spent many a Saturday morning tearing up and down the living room carpet with my mean and menacing Ideal Toys wind-up Evel Knieval Hawk Cycle set. Not the Stunt Cycle that everyone else had, but the goddamn Hawk Cycle. I also had a rather groovy and massive Evel Knieval Stunt Van, a sort of plastic moulded, bachelor pad Wendy House on wheels. And, no, it wasn’t girly. It was positively Gonzo.
Like any self-respecting Age of Beige pre-pubescent with a wind-up Evel Knieval Hawk Cycle and Stunt Van, I’d re-enact the [other] Jumpsuited One’s death-defying stunts using anything I could lay my clumsy wee hands on. With hindsight, some of these rug-based feats of derring-do were quite surreal. Jumping over scores of double decker buses is mad enough, but jumping over die-cast metal replicas of James Bond’s silver Aston Martin and white Lotus Esprit, Starsky & Hutch’s Ford Torino, the Tracy family’s Thunderbird 2, an Eagle Transporter from Space: 1999 and a Six Million Dollar Man action figure is positively buggier than batshit. I’d like to have seen the real Evel Knieval try that.
(No, I’m not being facetious. I really would like to have seen the real Evel Knieval try that. Really.)
Earlier I glibly mentioned the word ‘Gonzo’ in passing, but a few years’ ago I saw Evel Knieval being interviewed on a BBC TV documentary and was quite taken aback by how Gonzo he really was. He actually looked a bit like Hunter S Thompson, but maybe a pair of oversized Polaroid sunglasses will do that to a man. In any case, he told the interviewer about a biography that had been written about him in the 70s that he took objection to. It made all sorts of lurid claims about his private life and eventually the subject caught up with his biographer and set the record straight, Evel Knieval style. I can’t remember the details, and I’m paraphrasing ever-so-slightly, but he said something along the lines of: “Well, a man can’t type with broken fingers.”
Happy landings, Evel Knieval. May your X-2 Skycycle take you to a better place.
Rest in Pieces.