Friday, November 30, 2007
Death of a Pop Culture Icon
Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel, Jr. died today at the age of 69 (link to SI news). He was an American pop culture icon and will be missed. A man virtually without fear - a super man in his own right.
In the 1960's and 1970's Knievel kept viewers on the edge of their collective seats as he took his motorcycles and risked his life jumping over a variety of things. The first show of Knievel and his daredevils was on January 3, 1966, at the National Date Festival in Indio, California.
After many successful and several unsuccessful jumps Knievel decided to license his image so he could make some real money for his family. in 1973 the first Evel Knievel action figures were produced by Ideal Toys. In 1976 he was immortalized in pinball. Knievel made several television appearances, including a guest spot on The Bionic Woman where he played himself. He was a frequent guest on talk shows such as Dinah! and Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. In June 1977, Warner Bros. released Viva Knievel!, a movie starring Knievel as himself and co-starring Lauren Hutton, Gene Kelly and Red Buttons. The movie was, unfortunately, a box office flop. As he began to get older he attended conventions and signed stuff. LOTS of stuff. Fans of his hold an annual Knievel Days Festival in his home town of Butte, Montanan. Evel Knievel recently partnered with Six Flags St. Louis to name a new wooden coaster after "America's Legendary Daredevil." The amusement park in Eureka, Missouri, outside of St. Louis, Missouri, will open the ride in 2008.
There is an official Eveil Knievel web site, but since the announcement of his passing, it has been down, probably due to the internet traffic. But you can read more about him on Wikipedia.
Deepest sympathies to his family and friends.