November 30, 2007

R.I.P. Evel Knievel

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Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel, Jr. (October 17, 1938 - November 30, 2007)

Knievel had been in failing health for years, suffering from diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable condition that scarred his lungs. He had undergone a liver transplant in 1999 after nearly dying of hepatitis C, likely contracted through a blood transfusion after one of his bone-shattering spills.

His death comes just two days after it was announced that he and rapper Kanye West had settled a federal lawsuit over the use of Knievel's trademarked image in a popular West music video.

Knievel was the first of two children born to Robert and Ann Knievel. He was born in Butte, Montana. Robert and Ann divorced in 1940, just after the birth of their second child, Nic. Both parents decided to leave Butte and their two children to get a new start. The children were raised by their paternal grandparents, Ignatius and Emma Knievel. At the age of eight, Knievel attended a Joie Chitwood Auto Daredevil Show, which he credits for his later career choice to become a motorcycle daredevil.

Knievel dropped out of high school after his sophomore year and got a job with the Anaconda Mining Company as a diamond drill operator in the copper mines. He was promoted to surface duty where his job was driving a large earth mover. Knievel was fired when he made the earth mover pop a motorcycle-type wheelie and drove it into Butte's main power line, leaving the city without electricity for several hours. With a lot of time on his hands, Knievel began to get into more and more trouble around Butte. After one particular police chase in 1956 in which he crashed his motorcycle, Knievel was taken to jail on a charge of reckless driving. When the night jailer came around to check the roll, he noted Robert Knievel in one cell and William Knofel in the other. Knofel was well known as "Awful Knofel," so Knievel began to be referred to as Evel Knievel. The nickname stuck.

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Knievel was best known for a failed 1974 attempt to jump an Idaho canyon on a rocket-powered cycle and a spectacular crash at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. He suffered nearly 40 broken bones before he retired in 1980.

Evel Knievel led a varied life, being at various times a miner, a fairly resourcefull insurance salesman (he even sold some policies to institutionalized mental patients), a hocky player/team owner , a burgler (it was rumored that he bought his first motorcycle with funds that he "liberated" from the Butte County Courthouse) a motocross rider, and a stunt rider.

He certainly wasn't a saint, indeed, often a sinner, bragidocious, self-promoting and gaudy, but he "did it HIS way" and always to provide for his family, and thats not a bad thing to be remembered for.

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