Remembering Evel Knievel on his 84th Birthday
Happy Birthday Evel Knievel. Today Butte's legendary daredevil would have turned 84 years old and it is still safe to say that he is remembered in the Mining City. Although Knievel once had properties all over the world and was residing in Florida at the time of his passing, Butte was his home and Butte considered and treated him as such. Most of the older people of our town have and Evel story or two.
I am 50 and was a young child during Evel's heyday. I was born in late 1971 and by the time I took my first breath, Knievel was already prominent on the national scene already having completed successful jumps at the Houston Astrodome and Madison Square Garden in New York City. Growing up I recall fondly the wind-up Evel Knievel motorcycle and doll kit that my older cousin and I would launch at homemade jumps, not once completing one successfully. And not once calling it a "doll". I remember the old Independence Day parades that would go down Montana Street and we even have a picture somewhere of me reaching unsuccessfully for a handshake from Knievel who was all decked out in his bigger-than-life daredevil suit. In the late 1970s, Evel Knievel was mentioned in the same breath as Muhammad Ali, Burt Reynolds and even Rocky Balboa. But he was from Butte. And for me, this made all of his exploits, good or bad, even bigger.
Through the 80s and 90s, Evel's daredevil torch was passed to his son, Robbie, who in his own right rose to national prominence. Evel was the grandfather of the "extreme" jumps we now see from the likes of Keith Sayers an Travis Pastrana. They, themselves give Evel credit. I had the honor of meeting the great Knievel in person shortly before his passing in 2007. I think it was the summer of 2003. He was back in Butte for "Evel Knievel Days" and was the guest of honor at a "toughman" boxing contest being held in the elevated parking lot behind the old Thomas'. He approached me afterwards and actually complimented my work on announcing the evening's bouts. I was completely startstruck and taken back by his kindness. And after a few decades I finally got that handshake.
Here are some of the jumps that made Evel a household name to this day.