I Am Evel Knievel (2014) Movie Script

My name is Evel Knievel.
I'm a professional daredevil.
My dad did things
that nobody else
would ever even think of doing.
The crowd, the noise, the people...
Evel Knievel was everything.
He didn't have a death wish.
He had a life wish, man.
It wasn't even a wish.
He was doing it.
It was man on steel with an engine.
"Let's get it on!"
You hoped that he made it,
but if he crashed, you know,
it just gave you
that sense of, like,
man, this guy's not joking.
Who else would get busted up,
and two weeks later
be back jumping the motorcycle?
Who else can you think about
that did that?
He's gangster, man.
The guy knew no boundary.
He only knew
go big or go home,
and the dude never went home.
Evel Knievel made a lot of money,
and he spent it
faster than he made it.
I mean, he used to bet
my brother's friends
a hundred bucks
they couldn't eat a can of dog food.
Women, cars, booze...
That's probably
why he wound up broke.
He says,
"Well, I have two choices.
I can either rob banks
or jump motorcycles."
His signature
was "color me lucky",
and boy, was he lucky,
or God was watching out for him.
I think it was God and luck.
His friends used to ask him,
"Evel, why don't you slow down
and save some money
for the future?"
And my dad used to say,
"Look, I'm a daredevil.
I know what could happen to me."
Was my dad perfect?
Hell, no.
His name was "Evel."
I wear a red, white, and blue
number one on my shoulder
because I think I'm the best.
In my business, you have to think
you're the best, or you end up dead.
It was all about that ride.
How can I get to nirvana
with this thing?
You know what I mean?
My favorite jump,
because of what's around it
and how it happened,
is the Caesars jump.
That was the beginning
of this iconic mythic figure,
and he was self-made.
Caesars Palace hotel and casino
had recently opened in Las Vegas,
and it had these massive fountains,
and it was the big attraction
on the Las Vegas strip.
Caesars Palace
was always the greatest place.
When Evel drove by Caesars Palace
and looked up there
and seen those fountains,
and he looked across and said,
"Man, I think I can jump that."
The way that he did it,
you know, he called Caesars Palace.
He built the hype
from the inside out.
I think that Evel Knievel
had just a God-given talent
about how to be... the man.
Let's talk
about a self salesman.
A guy who says,
"I am now Evel Knievel"
makes calls from a motel.
So I got to looking
at this Sarno,
and he was so fast, I didn't know
whether I'd approach him or not.
So I went to a pay phone,
and I called him up,
and I said,
"This is Mr. Frank Quinn.
I'm with Life magazine.
You know Eville Neville?"
He said, "Eville Neville?
Who the hell is he?"
"He's this guy who says
he's gonna jump over your hotel."
"This guy Eville Neville's
going to jump your fountain."
"Who? I don't know
what you're talking about."
So I waited another day,
called him up.
I told him my name was Larson.
I was with Sports Illustrated.
I said, "You ever heard
of Evel Neevil?"
He says, "Eville Neville,
Evel Neevil, Evel Knievel.
"Who is this crazy guy?
"Everybody's calling me up
about him.
"I think we gotta deal with him.
I don't know."
Out of fiction, sells this guy,
and finally the guy goes, "I dunno
who this guy Eville Neville, Evel Neevil is,
but get his ass in here."
So I go to this Sarno,
knock on his door.
He comes running
out of his office.
He says, "Kid, where you been?
I've been looking for you,"
he says.
He created that from a story
that he created in his head,
a setup, a sales pitch
from a phone call in a motel room
to the right people.
Hey, man.
Let's talk about
American dreams there.
In what other country
can you create that?
And he did create that hype,
and then went out and did it.
My dad used to say
that small imaginations
yield small results.
You can't do speed runs.
It's a hard setup there.
It's a very,
very difficult setup
because the fountains
are in the way
and it's hard
to get a good line in.
It's pretty hard
to judge it.
There's really only one way
to cover that ground,
and that was
to fly over it.
He didn't go out
and try and organize himself
around other people's ambition.
He made the world
organize itself
around his ambition.
December 31, 1967 is the day
where what I like to call
"the crash heard
around the world" happened.
We all saw the tape.
They played it a million times...
of him cartwheeling,
the motorcycle running over him.
That was it, man.
You were never
going to see him again.
I've seen that over
and over and over again
and, man,
every time I see it, I go,
"Oh, how would that guy
ever get up and jump again?"
That was a splat.
If you set up a crazy idea,
go through with it, and make it,
it doesn't become
such a crazy idea
because it's "makeable."
But when he failed,
people go,
"Oh my God,
that was impossible.
How did he have the nerve
or the guts to do that?"
There was no one like him.
It was amazing,
having seen the footage,
that Evel Knievel
was actually still alive.
The crowd was freaking out,
and nobody was sure
if he lived or died.
I talked to his wife, Linda,
and she told me
that he was pretty badly hurt,
so I got on a plane
and went down there.
He crushed his pelvis.
It left him with one leg an inch
or two shorter than the other.
He also broke some ribs.
He was knocked out.
He had a concussion.
It was nasty.
They just couldn't get
the medicine regulated right
for the oxygen to his brain
and that,
and he was hallucinating,
and it was kind of a crazy time
to go through.
Evel liked to embellish stories
about his life
and his career
and his accomplishments.
He started telling people
that he was in a coma.
He said he was 29 days
in a coma.
Sports Illustrated
asked him, like,
"What was it like
being in a coma for 29 days?"
and he replied,
"How the fuck should I know?
I was in a coma."
He was not in a coma,
like he used to claim,
for 20 days or so.
In fact, I was down there
about the third or fourth day
after he jumped,
and he wasn't in a coma then.
The fact that he fell,
and fell so horrendously,
set people's minds up,
and I think a lot of people,
subconsciously or consciously,
every time
they went to see him jump,
remembered Caesars Palace.
My dad jumped Caesars
in the red, white, and blue
and crashed,
and boom, all of a sudden,
Evel Knievel was born.
You know,
some people play a part.
You put the cape on,
you take the cape off.
To one extent,
as soon as he decided
he was Evel...
yeah, he pretty much
stayed Evel.
He took on that persona.
He never really looked back
in the rearview mirror to say,
to say...
"Never mind that other guy.
No, I am Evel Knievel."
Evel Knievel was definitely
a product of his time.
He was born October 17, 1938,
in Butte, Montana,
this rough-and-tumble,
Wild West-type
frontier mining town.
He was influenced
by the morality
and everything else
that was going on in Butte then.
It was a tough town
because it was a drinking town.
They were miners,
and they were all out for money.
Lots of guys
did make their fortunes,
but I think it was more the attitude
it instilled in everybody,
that you could come,
and you could start with nothing,
and you could make something
out of yourself.
Bob Knievel,
when he was younger,
you know, was kind of a rogue,
let's put it that way.
He was all over town,
raising hell.
I had heard of him.
He had a reputation around town...
He was a definite bad boy.
I mean, he was well known
by the Butte police.
He was often arrested for shoplifting
or reckless driving
or speeding his motorcycle
around town.
Up and down these hills,
like cra-- like nobody else.
Everybody... the cars would stop
and watch him go up and down the hills.
And he was jailed one time.
He was in the cell next to some guy
named William Knofel.
As the story goes,
the guard says,
"Hey, we got Awful Knofel in one cell
and Evel Knievel in this other cell."
Smart little punk.
By then, I was captivated
with the gosh darn guy,
so I put on some crayon eyebrows
and some bright red lipstick
and fixed my hair,
and went up to the store
so somebody could see me,
and he saw me.
Linda was like this
kind of clean-cut, wholesome,
all-American girl.
We had a goof-ball romance.
I don't know,
you don't call it romance.
It was an infatuation with me.
He started working in the mines,
and he didn't really like it,
you know.
It was dangerous work.
He thought he wanted to do
something more,
so he joined the military.
He was stationed
at Fort Lewis, Washington.
He came back to Butte.
He started a semi-pro hockey team
that played for a season or two.
The hunting guide service,
the merchant policeman,
as he called himself...
He was full of big ideas
and tried them all out.
I got to know Bob real well
when he became a door knocker,
or a merchant policeman,
as he put it.
He had the route on Harrison Avenue,
which included the bar
that me and my brother owned.
Merchants in Butte, Montana
would pay him
to kind of keep an eye
on their shop at night,
and if they didn't pay him,
well, I don't know...
they might have gotten
broken into.
We got knocked over,
lost a few dollars,
a window got broken,
so you basically knew who did it.
He used to pull
some shady shenanigans
when he'd run out of money.
They could never
prove anything on him,
but he confided in me
some of the jobs he did.
He broke into banks at night
and could crack open a safe.
You know, he said, like,
"You don't, like,
fiddle with the dial
"with a stethoscope.
You just whale on it
with a bat."
He told me, he goes,
"You know, you want
to sweat in your boots,
try robbing
a goddamn federal bank."
He had to sweat
in his boots.
He had to do something
to get off,
had to do something
to make him feel alive.
Civilization is a mundane bitch
for a lot of people.
It sure was for Evel.
When my dad started,
he was ditching the cops here.
He was robbing a bank or two
or the city hall
or the sporting goods shop.
He was a good burglar,
you know,
and he knew
which places to hit
that had the stuff
that was easy to steal
and easy to carry.
We were standing
out in the yard,
and he had robbed some place,
and I'm standing there
with this money in my hands,
and what drives in
but the cops.
I just freeze, you know.
I'm not like him,
and he grabs the money
out of my hand
and shoves it
in the washing machine
and talks to the cops,
and I don't even know
what they said
because I was in shock again.
I didn't really like him
doing it,
but, you know, we gotta eat.
The trailer we grew up in
was right next
to my great-grandmother's,
and wasn't even a double wide.
It was almost a double wide,
but me and my brother
had a bedroom,
my sister had a bedroom,
my mom and dad
had a bedroom,
and that trailer was small,
but it was home.
As much as he loved
Butte, Montana,
he wanted to find a way
to get out of town,
to get on
to bigger and better things.
We were living
down in Orange, California.
He had gone down there
to race motorcycles.
Why did he go to L.A.?
He thought he was a better rider
than he really was.
But it didn't work that way.
He found out
he wasn't the best.
He started the Honda shop
in Moses Lake, Washington,
and he did really good at that.
Well, he tried to sell me
half his motorcycle shop one time
for the paltry sum of $2,500
because he was behind
in his taxes
and they were going
to shut him down,
but... I almost did it,
but I got to thinking
that I knew
who'd be doing all the work
and who'd be spending
all the money.
So I backed out.
He was thinking
of what he could do
to help promote his business,
and his idea
was to jump a Honda bike
over a box containing
two mountain lions
and a bunch of rattlesnakes.
Moses Lake
was his first jump,
and him and I built a track
at the edge of town,
and he did the jump there.
He had jumped over
a couple of mountain lions
and a box of rattlesnakes,
and it wasn't very far.
I mean, probably 50 feet, maybe.
Bobby fell short
on his landing,
hit the edge of the box
that the snakes were in,
busted it open,
and the snakes went free,
and the crowd freaked out,
but Evel realized, like,
"Wow, I'm on to something here."
And then he started
this stunt show.
He wanted to show
the whole world
that he was the best.
When my dad started jumping-
'cause he started jumping
he was probably 26, 27,
and then started
his show in 1966...
All of a sudden he just got
a light bulb go off in his head
and he said,
"I know what I'm gonna do!"
I told him he'd starve
to death doing that,
you know,
he'd never make it,
but he fooled me.
He was destined
to be a star of some kind.
Now, can you imagine being a kid
growing up in Butte, Montana,
riding a motorcycle around,
stealing hubcaps,
and doing the things
that he was doing,
that he was ever
gonna become a big star?
How can you do that?
You know, he's not playing
rock 'n' roll, not playing music,
but he comes up
with this thing,
and if he's going to do it,
he's going to do it
better than anybody else.
He couldn't stand for anybody
to beat him at anything.
He had to be the top dog.
If he wasn't the top dog,
he wasn't happy.
He did whatever it took.
He did whatever was necessary.
He did something,
and then he observed,
and figured out how people liked it,
and figured out
a different way to do it
so they'd like it more,
or whatever the hell he did.
My dad was out racing,
you know, breaking bones,
and he paid
all his own hospitalization.
At this little show
that he had put on,
there was one fellow
that jumped the motorcycle,
but for some reason,
he had got hurt,
so Bob thought he would let
the motorcycle go under his legs.
He got hit right in the groin,
and he was knocked out
for quite a while.
There was nothing mundane
about anything to do with my dad,
You know, when you're jumping
a bucket of rattlesnakes and bobcats,
that's one thing that's kind of corny.
But then it turned
into quite a large spectacle...
you know, and it was more
than just the county fair.
He was the first guy to do it
on two wheels, really.
I mean, no one
had seen it before,
and he gave you
your money's worth.
And my dad did everything.
I mean, he put up his own ramps,
drove his truck
from town to town,
made the deals with the promoter,
made the jump,
packed up his ramps.
It was always an event
if Evel was going to jump.
Boy, living life on the road,
it can be pretty hard,
and you just pack a bag
and grab a motorcycle,
put it on the back,
and go jump,
and hope some people show up.
I was happy that he finally found something
that he loved to get up to.
You know, he'd had so many
different jobs before that,
changing jobs about every three months
for five years,
that this was the one job
that he says, "I love getting up
and going to work now."
Of course he loved
the thrill of excitement.
He was not the kind of man
that wanted to have
a 9:00 to 5:00 job.
He would not do that.
He wanted-
He didn't even want
to sit home and watch TV
and be like the ordinary guy.
He liked to be
out where the action was.
He didn't want
to be an ordinary man.
First off, I mean,
this guy was super hot.
If I looked anything
like him,
I wouldn't want to sit around
in my small town in middle America either.
I'd think that there's,
you know, a world to capture.
Evel Knievel was kind of like
a Johnny Appleseed-
he traveled
and touched so many people
in so many different regions
that had no idea
where he came from
and no idea how he got there.
My dad was on the road
all the time.
When I look back at it, though,
the good thing about my dad
is that he dragged us
around with him.
I mean,
he dragged us everywhere.
He dragged us to Florida,
we were on the road,
we were in California,
we were... I mean,
I've been to every state
except for I think two states
I haven't been to.
And most of those states
I've been to because of my dad.
The guy knew no boundary.
He only knew go big or go home,
and the dude never went home.
I'm thinking,
like, of American history,
like badasses
through American history.
He was number one
on the list.
You know, he don't take
no mess from nobody,
and to take it a step further,
American badass, you know,
someone who loves their country,
goes down the road
that they carved out themselves.
He started like a lot
of great bands have started.
You get on the road
and go play your music.
You don't wait
for the record deal.
You go round and take your music
to the people,
you take your show
to the people,
and then
people start talking.
In the next towns, a few more people
are anticipating you showing up.
Next town after that,
people are telling their kids,
"What are we doing
Friday night?"
"No, we're not going
to the movies.
We're going to see this guy,
Evel Knievel."
"You got to see this, man.
You hear about him?
"Look at this pamphlet.
He's going to jump what?
Goddog it."
You know?
And just by word of mouth...
and then
TV caught up with him.
Or he caught up with TV.
He'd watch
ABC Wide World of Sports,
which was
the biggest national show,
and he knew that J.C. Agajanian
promoted national championship events
from Ascot Park.
He had a master plan,
and his plan was to go national,
so he called my dad.
"Aggie, my name is Evel Knievel."
And my dad said,
"Okay, what's an Evel Knievel?
What is that? What...?"
"No, no, that's me.
I jump motorcycles."
"Well, what do you mean,
jump motorcycles?"
No one had done it before.
Jumping motorcycles was novel.
So Knievel comes in
and sits down across from J.C.,
and my father says,
"Well, how do I know
what I'm going to pay you?"
He said, "I'll tell you what.
"Give me a couple bucks a head
over what you had last year.
"Then you'll know
that they came to see me,
that I'm the reason
that they're here."
And so, my dad,
being the good
Armenian businessman that he was,
said, "Well, that makes sense.
That's fine. Let's do it."
Wide World of Sports
was coming out
on a Sunday afternoon
to shoot the event.
Have you ever done
15 before, Evel?
Bill, I never have.
I missed a jump up in the northwestern part
of the United States over 13,
and I was hospitalized and laid up
for nearly five months,
and I sure hope
that doesn't happen today.
Every time there was something
about Evel Knievel
on Wide World of Sports,
we would all talk about it
at school.
"Evel Knievel,
gonna watch that tonight!
Oh yeah."
There was no cable back then.
You know, you only had
your big stations,
and here it comes.
What he did
and the jumps that he made,
most people would think were crazy.
Yeah, you worried.
You were scared all the time.
You would talk to him,
you'd tell him,
"You're nuts. It's too long,"
you know.
"You're not going to make it
one of these times."
Here he goes...
And he makes it!
A beautiful leap
as Evel Knievel gets the roar of approval
from the crowd.
It was a beautiful day.
The grandstands were full,
and Evel comes out
and does a beautiful jump,
and it was the first time
this was seen nationwide.
My dad calls down to the office,
and my brother,
Cary Agajanian-
"You know the deal we have
with Knievel, right?"
He says, "Yeah, Dad."
"How'd we do?"
"Well, we did real well, Dad,
and we owe him
about 2,300 bucks."
This was some years ago,
so that was a good figure.
My dad said,
"Okay, great, Cary.
"Put $3,000 in an envelope
and bring it up
to the press box for me. Cash."
Evel comes in, sits down
across the desk from my dad,
and he reaches into his pocket
and tosses
an envelope full of money
over to Evel.
Evel takes it, counts the money,
puts it back
into the envelope, closes it,
throws it back
across the desk at my dad.
"That's not right.
The money, it's not right."
And my dad looks
back at him and says,
"How do you know
it's not right?
"You haven't looked
at my books yet,
"you don't know
how many people were there,
"you don't know how much money
you're supposed to get.
"How do you look me
in the face,
throw that envelope
back across..."
He was getting hot now.
He was upset.
"Throw that envelope
back across--"
He thought
he'd done him a favor--
"And tell me
that it's not right?"
And Evel looks at him and says,
"Listen, J.C.
"I had my people at every gate.
"They had those little clickers.
"I know how many people you had,
"I know how many
you had last year,
"and I know how many
you had this year,
and you've overpaid me."
Well, J.C. sat back and smiled
and said, "Well, I have
to tell you something, Evel.
"When I do well,
"everyone that works
with me does well.
"When I make money,
"the people that help me
put on my promotion make money,
"and I did very well,
"and I wanted to pay you more
than we'd agreed upon,
because I thought
that was fair."
Now Evel sits back
and smiles and said,
"You're the first promoter
that's ever done that with me,
"and you know
something else, J.C.?
"Your word is as good as gold,
"and I'm never
going to forget that,
and I want to jump
for you exclusively."
Butte was a place where
your word meant everything,
and it was a handshake.
I mean, there wasn't-
I don't even remember meeting any lawyers
when I was growing up
in my dad's business.
My dad did everything himself,
and he told somebody
he was going to do something
and he did it.
It was a wonderful relationship
that started with two guys
that didn't know each other
and ended up them being
very, very close friends.
In kicking off the brand,
you always have
to have something,
and that's what Evel
chose my dad for,
so it was, you know, symbiotic.
He helped him
get the national publicity
and international publicity.
But then Evel did it
from then on.
I mean,
using Evel Knievel's name,
I mean, it was a no-brainer.
He was always, always thinking.
He'd get up in the morning
just panting
and get huffing and puffing.
"Linda! Linda!"
"Okay, take this letter,"
you know.
Always, I was taking letters,
writing contracts,
you know,
while we were driving along.
He had to create stunts.
He had to create the charisma
and everything
that he was trying to do.
He'd try to add things
every time.
That's what you've got to do
being a stunt guy.
You know, he wore black
and yellow leathers,
and then he decided to go
red, white, and blue
and take the black off
and be like Elvis.
As much of show and glitz
that he had
with the outfits
and this, that, and the other,
which was great,
there was still an element
of realness there,
especially in this day and age,
when so many people
are faking it.
He was the full package,
doing something,
stunts that no one
had ever done before.
He was doing it, you know,
and he came with the packaging,
and he came with the show,
and he wanted the bright lights.
He had the ultimate tease.
You've got to have
a couple of run-bys.
"He's going to do it,
he's going to do it..."
If things weren't just right,
he'd go by.
It's the great tease,
and people still do it today,
but I think he, in some way,
created that
in American consciousness,
that "give 'em the tease,"
that he was such
a great showman.
He came out of the mountains
of Butte, Montana,
in his star-spangled suit,
and offered people
a simple truth to watch.
He says, "I'm going to go
from one place to another place,
"over a bunch of stuff,
"whether it's cars
or rattlesnakes...
"Come and watch,
'cause I'm going to risk
my life and limb to do it,"
and everybody was thirsty
for that kind of thing
during those times.
When I came back
from Vietnam,
America was
kind of split in half.
We didn't get the big parades.
We didn't get anything.
What we got was spit on,
and, you know,
we served our country.
And seeing a guy
like Evel Knievel
wearing the red,
white, and blue
and doing what he wanted to do
and being free,
it meant a lot to me.
He came along at a time
when there were
no black-and-white answers
to anything.
No black-and-white answers.
We were in the Vietnam war,
the role of women in society
was changing,
everything was wishy-washy gray,
no easy answers.
The country was in a certain place,
and I think my dad
was one of the first people
to really throw off
this father figure
of the government
taking care of you,
and really being his own man,
really an individual,
and that's
where the country was,
and I think they were ready
for my dad to do that.
It was a perfect storm,
which happens in history
where different cultures
come together.
Counterculture was really
kicking into high gear
with the whole peace-and-love
hippie movement,
and the '60s
kind of symbolically ended
with the Rolling Stones'
free concert
at the Altamont motor speedway.
The Hells Angels
were put in charge of security.
They wound up beating up
a bunch of hippies.
They stabbed one guy to death.
So now the Hells Angels
came over
to see Evel's show at the Cow Palace
six weeks later.
My dad wasn't a biker.
He was Evel Knievel.
I mean, when you think
of Evel Knievel,
you think of somebody.
You don't think of somebody,
part of something else.
You think
of an individual person.
I mean, he was Evel Knievel.
That's the one night all hell broke loose
with the Hells Angels.
I was standing pretty much
in the middle of the arena,
and Evel's making his practice runs,
and I hear the announcer say-
and this guy
was half in the bag, okay.
He said, "If Evel Knievel
makes this jump tonight,
he'll set the Hells Angels back
a hundred years."
I'm thinking, "I don't know
if that's a good thing to say,"
because I can see
the Hells Angels in the crowd.
You say something like that,
then you're going to get a reaction.
He made the jump,
and he was on his way back,
and one of them stood up
and threw a tire iron at him.
He actually threw a wrench.
Of course, that's what everybody
carries with them
to an event, right?
A wrench in your back pocket.
But he threw a wrench,
missed Evel.
And it pissed off Evel.
After he made the jump,
he rode his bike
right up to the guy
that threw it,
and the guy
was giving him the finger.
Evel came back around,
and I saw this Hells Angel out there,
and I thought,
"What's going on?
I'd better get over there."
So I started moving
in that direction.
Evel throws his bike down.
The guy grabs him
and just throws him
to the concrete.
I mean, Evel just was
like a rag doll.
At the time
Evel hit the pavement,
I hit this guy.
I had about a 30-yard run.
This guy
never saw me coming.
He went out.
Two more jumped out
of the arena.
It was on.
You know, I was ready
to take on two or three guys,
but they never got to me.
The crowd just went crazy,
jumped on the Hells Angels
and just beat the hell out of them.
And when the Hells Angels
tried to attack Evel Knievel,
and Evel went after them,
the audience jumped in
to help Evel Knievel.
My job was to get Evel
out of harm's way,
so I grabbed Evel,
I got him under my wing,
and took him back to the RV.
There was no love lost
for the Hells Angels
in California.
They hauled a lot of Hells Angels
to the hospital.
Yeah, it was scary, you know,
for a few days there.
The Hells Angels are not...
they're not around
to monkey with, you know.
They don't put up with much.
And after the Cow Palace,
we went back
to the San Francisco hotel
that night,
and he was afraid.
He was afraid
that they were going to find out
where he was staying,
so he asked me
if I had a gun.
I said, "Well, I've got a gun,
but I got it at the apartment."
He said, "Go get it."
So I went and got my gun.
It was a little .22 Beretta.
It couldn't stop anybody.
I bring it into the hotel room.
Dr. Graham is there,
going over him
and gave him a shot
and everything.
So it's Ray Gunn, the doctor,
and me, and Evel in the bed.
He said, "You bring the gun?"
I said,
"Yeah, I got the gun."
"How's this work?"
he says.
I said, "Just pull back
the sleeve and shoot it."
He says, "Like this?"
and he fired one off
into the ceiling.
The doctor gets up,
he says, "See ya, Evel.
I'm out of here."
That was Evel Knievel.
Gene and Evel went out
to have a couple of drinks,
and I stayed at the motel.
They came in there.
They were both
pretty well lit up, drunk,
and they started talking
like Hells Angels.
You know, and I was asleep,
and then I woke up,
and these two guys,
they got me in the bed
and they had me wrapped up
in the covers,
and we had
a 12-gauge shotgun there
lying against a wall,
and I was trying to reach that thing.
I told them, I said, "You bastards,
you're lucky one of you didn't get shot."
When you're a kid, you don't
really understand what it takes
to really get famous
and make something of yourself
and the pace
that you have to do it at.
This is work.
This is a guy
getting out on the road
and booking himself
in every racetrack and carnival
he can book himself in.
He was on a rodeo circuit, basically.
"Get the caravan together.
We're going to go city to city, man."
You just knew
there wasn't a safety net.
You knew the...
You had a feeling...
you had more of a feeling,
"This is not going to work.
"He's not going
to pull it off.
How the heck
is he going to pull it off?"
But he didn't have a death wish.
He had a life wish, man.
Not even a wish.
He was doing it.
It was man on steel
with an engine.
"Let's get it on!"
Most of the time,
he jumped just in pain.
His injuries
never really healed.
Can you imagine
being on a motorcycle,
thinking you might crash again,
and you're already in pain?
Who else would get busted up
and two weeks later
be back jumping the motorcycle?
Who else can you think about
that did that?
Get beat, get back up.
Get knocked down, get back up.
Now, that's an attitude
that this guy lived
on a daily basis.
You hoped that he made it,
but if he crashed,
it just gave you
that sense of, like,
"Man, this guy's not joking."
He crashed so many times.
I know he hurt like hell,
but he'd sometimes have
the smallest little thing
happen to him,
and you'd think
he was going to die, you know,
so sometimes he was tough,
and sometimes he wasn't.
Look at that helmet.
If that thing doesn't save my life,
I can't believe why,
I hit that wall head on.
Jesus, where'd I hit that at?
We don't know.
Over here.
Want to get-
No, no. I'll be all right.
I'm going to jump some more.
He had a lot of crashes,
and he had a lot of operations,
so when he was young,
though, I mean,
it seemed like it went by quick.
It seemed like he was injured,
seems like he healed up quick.
I don't know
how quick it was for him.
But he made 175 jumps.
He only crashed 12 or 13 times.
The jumps he made, and you look
at the falls that he had,
he should have died
a young man.
I think I've probably
become immune to pain.
I do not have
a high pain threshold.
However, I've learned
to live with pain for so long
that I think what would hurt
an average person
doesn't hurt me so much.
A high threshold for pain,
I don't know if such a thing
really exists.
People throw that around
pretty loosely, I think.
It's more about, like,
what's your character?
I mean,
he didn't like the pain.
He didn't like the fact
he had to endure it,
but, I mean,
he was resolved to it.
His mantra and his attitude,
if he got hurt-
that he would come back
and finish the act.
Come on.
He disregarded pain.
I think he even said that
to me once.
"I disregard pain."
He didn't want to recognize it.
It was a negative factor to him,
and he didn't want
any negative factors
based on what
he was trying to go for...
his dreams, pursue your dreams.
When you do what I do
for a living,
you have to have
a positive mental attitude,
and if that positive
mental attitude
doesn't work
when you make that jump,
you have to be man enough
to handle the circumstances.
In my case, I'm man enough.
I learned the power
of one individual's belief...
in their own abilities...
to affect their own life...
You have to have
that confidence in yourself,
what you're doing,
what you're about,
and what you know
you can do
and what you know
you can achieve.
If you don't know
what you can pull off, you know,
how do you speak confidently
and stand there on two feet
and keep saying
yes and yes and yes?
He had sticky notes
covering almost every square inch.
"I can do this jump."
"I'm number one."
All kinds of little notes,
I mean,
stuck all over the walls.
He really did
have second thoughts
about this one,
but giving credit to the man,
what did he do?
He sat up there,
he overcame his demons,
he focused in
on what he was gonna do,
he didn't feel
like he was gonna make it,
but you know what?
He did it.
He gave it
the best shot he had.
He looked great.
He just didn't make it.
My dad would get
a little nervous before a jump,
and he would take a hit
off of some Wild Turkey
just to calm his nerves,
maybe two sometimes.
I'm Evel Knievel, honey.
I'm not supposed to be afraid.
He almost died several times,
and the difference between him
and most motorcycle jumpers
is they'll admit it.
When they crashed,
or crashed that severely,
they either never walked again,
they never jumped again.
He refused to do that.
He would crash, heal,
do it again,
go back to work.
To him,
it was a job that he loved,
and he was an entertainer.
He had a sixth sense
about promotion,
and he wasn't shy.
No way was he shy.
He was front and center,
and he enjoyed it.
And he was good at it.
The first time
I really saw him,
I was intimidated.
And he'd come to town.
He was in Madison Square Garden,
and I sort of met him,
but he was so welled up
with being
in Madison Square Garden
and being Evel
that I was not on the top
of his priority list at the time.
I found him
to be extremely charismatic,
but very much eager
to make sure
that Evel Knievel
was being seen and recognized
and paid attention to.
I do remember the first time
I saw my father jump,
was in Madison Square Garden
when I was eight years old,
and me and my brother, Kelly,
did an appearance with him
where we just rode out
on a motorcycle together,
and that was our first show.
Madison Square Garden
was, like, 11 cars
'cause it's a real small place,
but he sold the place out.
That's when I really--
It sunk in.
The crowd, the noise,
the people...
Evel Knievel was everything.
My dad got so popular that Hollywood
started being interested
in making movies about him,
and of course
this appealed right to my dad.
And there he is now,
the man in the white leather suit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
here's Evel Knievel...
who's going to make
this almost impossible jump today.
I made 312 public jumps,
and I never crashed...
until I was paid to crash
for doubling Knievel.
On the set of Viva Knievel!,
that was a whole
new experience for Evel.
He was now acting.
And by the way,
he kind of sucked as an actor.
He was one of the greatest
public speakers
when he was Evel
out on his own,
at the top of the ramp,
but he said,
"I'm very heartfelt and true."
When you gave him dialog,
he sucked.
I mean, he's not an actor,
so for him
to be faking someone else,
it's like,
he wasn't that good at it.
He thought
he was good at it,
but we all used to laugh
at him a little bit.
We thought it was funny.
He and the costar, Lauren Hutton,
got along terrifically.
He was always flirting with her.
He was surrounded by a lot
of good character actors.
The trouble with him being surrounded
by a lot of good character actors
is they act very well,
and that makes him
look worse, you know?
I think he thought he was gonna get
an Academy Award for it, but...
A lot of guys called themselves
a daredevil, and I do, too,
but man, this guy was...
he was true blood.
It's not a perfect science.
you had to be different.
He had tremendous drive.
He wanted to work.
Tremendous drive.
"I've got to do it.
I'm going to do it.
I'm going to beat those guys."
When Evel started jumping the Harleys,
he didn't want
to make any changes to them.
He wanted to jump them
pretty much stock.
Everything you got
was for real.
He could have changed it up,
made it a lot easier for him,
but he thought
he was cheating the audience.
This is a 300-pound motorcycle.
To take that thing
80 miles an hour
and jump it off of a ramp
is... it's...
I hate to say ludicrous,
but it almost is.
The way that we
see it nowadays,
the geometry of a bike
needs to be a certain way
for it to fly
through the air,
and he didn't have that
built into his bikes.
A lot of his jumps,
his front end high,
just sailing
through the air...
and that's an out-of-control jump
when you're front-end high.
Oh no.
Oh no, no, no, no.
There was no science.
He was pure guts.
I don't know how
he hung on to that thing
on some jumps.
It was unbelievable.
We're using, you know,
motocross bikes now
that have full
suspension kits on them.
The bikes
that Evel Knievel would jump,
they didn't have
the type of suspension on them
that could handle these jumps
that he was taking.
He was the first to really do
what he was doing,
and there's something to be said
for that, big time.
Evel Knievel,
what he did with those bikes
was extraordinary.
Nobody even jumped then,
not to mention on a bike
that was meant for the street.
You know, that bike was never meant
to be jumped whatsoever.
I mean, it had probably
this much suspension travel.
The technology, you know,
we had in those days,
I mean, we had
three inches of travel
on our rear shocks
and five inches on the front.
Today, the motorcycles
have 12 and 13 inches,
front and rear.
Besides having that travel,
the shocks work.
What I do
and what Evel Knievel did,
there's no comparison.
He was the first daredevil.
The daredevil.
Yeah, he started it off,
definitely the pioneer
of what happens today.
He was just so much more...
I don't know...
balls and steel.
I mean, you take these kids
that jump motorcycles
on these computer-designed
launch ramps-
if you ask them
to get on one of these Harleys
like Evel used
and run 80 miles an hour
into a wood-plank ramp,
try to jump over it,
you're not going to get
any takers.
Those kids won't do that.
You know, Evel did stuff
that was unbelievable.
Now, I appreciate what I see today,
but it feels much more
like a video game
than when Evel was doing it.
It feels like there's
a whole lot less gravity....
than when Evel was doing it.
Nobody jumped
a motorcycle like him,
a big heavy V-Twin Harley
at the distances
and the things he did.
Nobody did it.
He was all about
and Harley was all-American,
and it all went together perfect.
The XR has always been woven
into the fabric of Harley-Davidson.
Strength is a second word
when you describe that motorcycle,
'cause it has to run
short races, long races,
rough tracks, smooth tracks...
That fit his jumping
because it was
a high performance--
it had to gain speed quickly,
he had to hit that ramp
at an exact speed.
He wanted a motorcycle
that was agile and fast.
Evel and that bike were--
that worked.
He was forever linked
with our brand.
He was truly a character,
and we are a company
of characters,
and we're very proud of that.
What I loved about Evel
is there was no fake to it.
He did what he did.
No sane human being
is going to do it
more than once.
Everyone has fears
they have to deal with,
but who's going
to actually step up
and get past the fear
and say,
"Well, I made the commitment,
"I said I'm going to do it,
now I have to do it"?
When you walk the plank,
you don't turn around
and walk back, you know?
When you walk the plank,
you jump,
for better or worse.
Sometimes you find out
when you jump off the plank,
maybe it's not as bad
as you thought
it was going to be.
At least with skateboarding.
Jumping motorcycles,
that's a different story.
Conquering fear is like,
is literally having 100%
of your body and your mindset
invested in what
you're going to do.
Like, there can't be
a fraction of you
that doesn't believe it.
I never really understood Evel
at the level
that I needed to understand him
until I got on my own bike,
got up on my own takeoff ramp
eight-foot high,
and looked across the gap
to where I was supposed to land
on my landing ramp.
The biggest thing
about jumping ramp to ramp
is not how physically fit
you are
or how coordinated
you are
or how much experience
you have.
When you're in the helmet
and you're looking
through the visor,
and you're the guy
getting ready to do this,
it's all mental.
Time does slow down
when you're coming up
to the ramp and you--
you don't necessarily
look right at the ramp.
You're kind of looking past it.
Once you hit the ramp,
then time slows down,
and when you're in the air,
everything is slow motion,
but it's, like, quick
at the same time,
so it's, like, slow, but fast.
The second I turn at my mark
and head towards the ramp,
I don't hear anything.
There could be 30,000 people
screaming at me,
and to me, it's silent.
I just literally
know what to do.
I tell myself all the time,
"Don't think, just flip,"
and that's what I do.
RPMs, speed, center line.
That's my checklist,
and once I get that
into my mind,
I'm pretty blank.
I don't really--
I'm not thinking a lot.
You can over-think this thing,
you know.
I tried to explain to him
what a motorcycle does in the air,
and if his front end's down,
to rev it in the air
and it'll bring it up,
and if it comes up too high,
you'd have to brake...
He blacks out.
He doesn't remember any of it.
From the time he hits the ramp
until now he touches down,
he doesn't know what happened
in the middle.
Even if he was gonna crash,
he didn't adjust at all
for the crash.
He never prepared himself.
He always had
the same position.
Being a daredevil,
you're daring yourself
to take a risk with the devil.
Risks are one thing.
Insanity is another.
You've got to take risks
or you'll go nowhere.
First of all, when you talk about
risking your life,
is awfully different than what, say,
a quote "normal" person thinks
that risk is.
Some people think
betting five bucks is a risk.
So, I mean, risk is relative.
Evel is the poster child
for the American dream,
and his name-
think about his name.
It's the most fantastic name
of all time.
He was like Captain America.
He's one of a kind, absolutely.
We were right down in there
amongst these people,
and he says,
"Can you believe this?
"Can you
believe this?
I never thought
this would ever happen,"
and I said, "Well, it has,"
and I said, "I can believe it,
and I don't like it."
But he did. He loved it.
As Evel's legend grew
and popularity grew,
he started making more money
from his stunts,
from gate receipts and so forth,
but what really made him
the most money,
a couple years later, in 1972,
the Ideal Toy Corporation
licensed Evel's name.
They produced all manner
of Evel Knievel toys.
You couldn't go down
any street in America
where you didn't see the kids
playing with the toys.
Evel Knievel,
wind it up and let it go.
I had the windup motorcycle.
I was actually able to get it
to do a lot of the things I saw
in the commercial,
but that's how much
I played with it,
that I had positive results.
These wheels are real exciting
and bear my name, Evel Knievel.
T-shirts, posters,
jigsaw puzzles,
board games,
pinball machines.
He started
the licensing business.
The toys sold
hundreds of millions of dollars.
Outsold G.I. Joe one year.
Everybody had
my dad's wind-up toy.
I mean, these things
are the biggest selling toys
in history.
He created a character
named Evel Knievel
and lived it...
living high, living fast,
living bigger than life,
he just was Evel Knievel.
Come on with me,
and I'll take you
on a little tour
of my office and dressing room
and show you what you can buy
with a few dollars
if you're willing
to jump a motorcycle
over 19 cars.
I don't know how many shirts
I have here, 200 or 300...
All of a sudden, it went
to yachts, Ferraris, Lear-jets.
We'd fly back and forth
in the Lear-jets
to Fort Lauderdale,
to the yachts.
You know, from a trailer
to all that...
turns into like,
"What the heck is this?"
Evel had these two planes.
I asked him, "Evel,
why do you have two jets
when you can only land
in one?"
He says,
"When I'm flying around,
"I look out the window
and I see that jet next to me,
I like to see my name written
on the side of it."
I thought that
was pretty cool.
I was in Butte
to do a TV special,
an hour special,
and he wanted me
and my camera crew
to come and see
his office building
that he had built.
He was proud
that they used the rock
from the mountains around Butte,
very proud of that.
And he--
As we were going over, he said,
"We've got to hurry,
we've got to hurry."
"Well, why do we have to hurry?
I don't understand."
We get there, he opens the door,
and against the back wall
is a bar.
But the most extraordinary thing
in the room
was a full-sized, stainless steel
bank vault sitting there.
And the reason we had to hurry
was because it was on a timer,
and he wanted to open it up
and show us the inside.
So we walk in,
and you know those big wheels?
"Oh, we made it in time,
we've got about three minutes."
He opens it up,
swings the huge door up,
and there in front of us
is a full-sized...
Now, you couldn't see it all
because it was covered
in loose cash
that had been thrown in
like confetti.
Later on, when he got
in trouble with the tax--
with the government,
I wasn't surprised.
Unbelievable sight.
He made so much money.
I don't think
he was a brilliant investor.
No one came to Evel and said,
"Evel, what should I do
with my money?"
I was sitting at a bar
with Evel one time,
and he says,
"You want some Wild Turkey?"
I said,
"Well, yeah, that sounds great."
So before we knew it,
we'd had a couple drinks,
and we were doing all this,
and I said, "Evel,
we've been here an hour."
I says, "When are we going
to go eat that wild turkey?"
He says, "What?"
I said, "When are we going
to eat that wild turkey?"
"We're not eating wild turkey!"
He says, "That's what
you've been drinking!"
Wild Turkey.
I didn't even know what it was!
As a result
of the Caesars Palace crash,
he had the crushed pelvis,
and one leg was an inch or two
shorter than the other,
so he required a cane to walk.
So he had one, but the cane
was also hollowed out.
He found these flasks,
these long tubes,
and he would stick them
in the cane
and fill them up with whiskey,
and then he'd unscrew
the top of the cane
and take the flask out
and have a drink from it.
It was necessary
for my dad to buy boats
and Ferraris and airplanes
and travel
and have fame and notoriety.
It's living large,
and being Evel Knievel
was part of all that.
I'm going to have
the best clothes, best boots,
best diamonds,
best cars, trucks,
motorcycles, booze, and women
on the face of this earth.
Evel Knievel
was irresistible to women
for several reasons.
I mean, for one,
the fame and fortune.
That's obvious.
And he dressed himself
in all these snazzy threads.
And the way he carried himself
and his swagger
and his confidence,
women found it sexy
that there was this guy
that was risking his life.
It must have been tough
being that sexy
and having, you know,
a wife and kids, you know.
I know that could get rough.
Well, it's pretty public news
that he liked the women,
and, you know,
when I grew up, it was like,
when you get married,
you're married for life,
but believe me,
there was a lot of times
when I would have liked
to get out of that.
Let's face it.
My dad was a good-looking,
handsome, aggressive daredevil.
For my dad to not be attracted
to other women would be like...
I mean, of course
it's going to happen.
At press conferences,
he would boast
about all the women
he slept with.
Everybody knew he was married.
He didn't give a shit,
you know?
He was proud of that.
I cannot believe the girls
that this guy attracted.
He was like a rock star.
You know, he was a man,
you know,
and all these women
hanging around.
It was crazy.
I used to watch and say,
"Are you kidding me?"
My dad walked into a bar
in Hollywood,
and there was
a bunch of celebrities in there.
They all wanted
to meet Evel Knievel.
I mean, my dad used to hang out
with Sammy Davis Jr.
And Phyllis Diller
and Flip Wilson and...
I mean, my dad didn't care
if he was hanging out
with a truck driver, though, really.
My dad just loved to have fun.
Sometimes he had it
at other people's expense.
He could drink anybody
under the table.
I've never seen a guy
that could put away as much booze as him
and really not show it.
We'd walk into a bar.
We wouldn't be in there
five minutes
and it'd be lined up
with drinks and bottles and all this,
and Evel goes, "Man..."
He couldn't go anywhere
without people buying him drinks.
And he used
to take care of people.
He used to have
a wad of hundred-dollar bills
he used to set up there,
and he says,
"All my people drink
till that's gone.
When that's gone,
you come back and get me."
And he'd take us up
to Filthy McNasty's
or wherever we'd go,
and, you know, I remember him
with a bar room full of people
throwing a beer bottle
across the--
over everyone's head
and crashing it on the walls,
and people are looking around
going-- completely in shock,
and then they realize
that they're in the presence
of greatness.
You know,
Evel Knievel's in the house.
Women, cars, booze...
that's probably why
he wound up broke.
He always told me
he made $60 million,
but he spent $80 million.
Evel Knievel
made a lot of money,
and he spent it
faster than he made it.
February 18th, 1973,
Evel had another
big high-profile jump
at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum,
which was fitting,
because Evel called himself
"the last gladiator
in the new Rome,"
and here he is
in the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
It's a huge venue.
It's, like, 90,000 people.
He had been promoting this jump
for several weeks in L.A.,
and he caroused nightly
at this night club
called Filthy McNasty's,
and the marquis outside said,
"Now drunk inside:
Evel Knievel"
He kind of made a big spectacle,
made a big splash, in a way.
There was a big demolition derby
on the floor of the coliseum,
which was sort of the warm-up act
for Evel's jump.
Now, demolition derbies
were always junk cars,
but this was a new car
demolition derby.
The cars had to be no more
than a couple of years old.
They were Cadillacs, Mercedes,
they were Lincolns.
The fanciest cars they had
at the time,
and then they got all the famous
Indianapolis drivers
to drive these brand-new cars,
and they had
a big demolition derby
before my dad jumped.
J.C. and Knievel
had bought a Rolls-Royce,
a white one,
and that Rolls-Royce
was purchased
to be in the demolition derby,
and it had "Evel Knievel"
on the side of the car,
and it had the date
of the event.
It was really a nice car.
Whenever Evel did something,
he did it to excess.
It was always going
to be over the top.
My dad and J.C. Agajanian
came up with this plan-
they were going to stack
50 junk cars
on top of each other...
All of the smashed-up cars
were stacked
into a long, narrow row of cars,
two and three deep,
and, really,
it was only about the width
of 18 cars
that he was jumping over.
My dad, he had to build
a ski-jump ramp
'cause the stadium
wasn't big enough,
go down one side of the stadium
and up the other side.
He was doing
whatever he wanted.
He was the boss.
There was only one boss,
all the time, my dad said.
If you guys give it
one final checkover
before tonight,
we'll be all right.
Robbie, what the hell's this?
Look at this.
You want to get hurt?
Why don't you change that?
You're not supposed to have
a brake lever like that.
I want you to get that fixed
before tonight, you understand?
And make sure
you wear that helmet.
Let's go home. Come on,
we've got to get some rest.
Comes the time
for Evel Knievel, American father,
out of the great mountains
of the West,
to present his boys,
and he does it in Toronto
at a jump that he's doing
prior to the canyon show.
My dad wanted both Robbie and I
to follow in his footsteps.
I really wasn't
that interested in it,
but Robbie,
Robbie was really interested in it.
Robbie wanted to be famous,
and Robbie was a very skilled
motorcycle rider.
When I was 11, I was wheeling
across the football field
in front of 25,000 people.
Robbie did such a great job,
there was just no need for me
to perform ever again.
My dad was nobody,
and in the span of seven years,
he was the most famous person
in the United States.
Perfect! Right on target.
I went to Idaho,
and I bought a canyon.
It's my canyon,
and on September the 8th,
I'll jump it,
and the only way
they'll get me out of the air
is to shoot me out
with an anti-aircraft gun,
because I am going to go,
believe me.
In every adversity,
there's an equivalency to benefit,
if you just look for it.
The toughest competitor
that anyone ever has
to face in life is death.
I wanted to get
on the motorcycle
and go against death.
I was a life-risker.
My dad always wanted
to jump the Grand Canyon.
He was just a guy
that did what he did.
He created his own dream,
and it was to jump
the Grand Canyon.
One of my favorite memories
of my dad--
I mean, this really tells
who he is.
He's sitting on the edge
of the Grand Canyon,
on this motorcycle
with these fiberglass wings
and, like,
two propane tanks on it,
and there's two Navajo chiefs.
Now, my dad can't be
any more than 28 years old,
and he's pointing across
to the other side of the canyon,
and he's pointing to where
he's going to jump to.
That's, like, the most--
I love that picture of my dad.
There's no--
My dad had no idea
how he was going
to get across the canyon.
He had no idea what it even took
to get across the canyon.
He had no idea.
He had to go contact
the National Park Service
and the Secretary
of the Interior,
but he's explaining
to anyone who will listen,
including these two Navajo chiefs,
and they're looking at him like,
"Oh, my God,
this guy's off his rocker."
He originally saw himself
as being able to create
some kind of a winged motorcycle
that would have airlift
and fly it over the canyon.
I didn't think
a whole lot about it.
I thought it was
pie-in-the-sky stuff.
I think most people did.
We took it to an auto show
in Chicago.
I had to have this thing
put together in Chicago
in about a week,
and, well,
it was a hurry-up job,
but I got the wings on it
and mounted the engines,
and I just run all of the lines
and everything up under the tank
and taped 'em up there.
This one guy,
he told me, he says,
"How come all those lines up there
underneath the tank are loose?"
And I said,
"Mm, I don't know,
maybe somebody
forgot to hook 'em up."
I said, "They'll have it all ready
before the canyon jump,"
and... you know, Evel,
he taught me to lie
as good as him, you know, so...
I was in Vietnam,
and my mom sent me an article,
and it was a picture of a guy,
he was on a motorcycle,
and all you see
is the Grand Canyon,
and it says some guy named Evel Knievel
wants to jump the Grand Canyon.
I go, "Holy cow, this guy..."
you know.
That was
in the early days.
So he had that dream
for a long time.
First thing was
it wasn't a motorcycle.
He was a motorcycle jumper,
and this was another thing.
So I was suspect,
and I think
everyone in the world
it really was something that could be done,
was questioning whether
and that, of course,
was the appeal of it,
and he knew that.
I have no idea
how he thought
of everything he did.
He had the way
to promote himself,
he had charisma,
he had the family jewels,
as I should say.
I knew about it.
We all knew about it.
The man knew
how to hype the game!
The man knew how
to hype the game.
He was talking about it,
he was fighting people about it,
the government,
about jumping the Grand Canyon,
and they wouldn't let him,
and how long did that go on?
Seven years?
My dad used to tell me things,
and I would be thinking
to myself,
"Oh, bullshit.
That's not going to happen."
Somehow, my dad
would arrange things,
and it would happen.
My dream was to jump
the Grand Canyon.
The Secretary of Interior
told me that I could.
I took his word for it,
then he changed his mind.
So I told him to go get hosed,
and I bought my own canyon.
A lot of people have said
that I couldn't jump a motorcycle
a mile across a canyon,
but they said that Lindbergh
couldn't fly the Atlantic.
They said that Shepard and Glenn
would never get around the world,
and they said that Armstrong
wouldn't step on the moon,
and if those people have done
what they've done,
a person has to be an idiot
to think that they couldn't get Evel Knievel
a mile across a canyon.
My dad hired a guy
named Robert Truax
to design his Skycycle...
that was a chief engineer
at NASA,
and it led from a bike with wings
with jets on it,
which never would have worked,
to a Skycycle
that was 15 feet long.
It was a contraption that was going
from 0 to 450 in 3.5 seconds,
and you're going
to be in that thing.
I'm like,
"What are you thinking?
What are you thinking?"
I mean, really,
he was just flipping a coin.
He didn't know whether...
Both test rockets went
right in the middle of the canyon.
How would that make you feel?
Here this guy's supposed to be
one of the top scientists in the world,
and the two shots,
the two practice shots,
both of them, the thing wiggles
and falls into the canyon.
Here's this huge gash in the earth.
And here's this little...
what looked like a Tinkertoy,
on a scaffold.
It didn't look like the whole device
was really adequate.
It was a rocket ship driven by steam.
It's going to go over
a huge, gaping canyon.
It was a lovely, fun,
cartoon-like painted coffin,
tin coffin.
I think I got to the point where,
when he was jumping the canyon,
I was just pretty well numb
and fed up with it all.
I know it was so hard on the kids.
We figured if he didn't make it,
he was going to die that day.
I didn't think I was going
to see my dad again.
No, I didn't think it was safe,
but I never thought
that there was death involved.
I never saw him
so apprehensive in my life.
He was like, "We've got to go.
We've got to go.
"I want to get this over with.
I'm either going to die,
or I'm not."
And I think that all of you
that are here right now
know what this thing is.
It's a monster,
and I think you all know now
by looking at me,
I wish that I didn't have to do this
and I wasn't here.
The mood out there,
I'll never forget it.
It was sombre.
You'd almost swear
this guy had a death wish.
I almost hate to say that,
but it looked extreme,
and it was.
He wasn't any more confident
than I was.
I don't think he thought
he'd get across there,
but he'd dug hisself
such a deep hole,
he couldn't get out.
He had to do it.
This is what he said he would do,
so he's getting into that thing,
and he's really putting his life
in the hands of,
as some people would say, fate.
He really thought
he was going to die,
but he knew his family
was going to be in good hands
because he was going
to make a lot of money doing it.
He didn't know
what was going to happen
when they lit that thing off.
When he came out
and he got in that rocket,
your adrenaline is just pumping,
and you have no idea
what's going to happen, you know?
That's when I started
getting sick to my stomach.
Three, two, one.
Whoa, it looks like a good one.
Oh, Evel, stay with the bird.
The next thing you know,
the chute's out.
We knew the parachute
was not supposed to come out,
so when the parachute
did come out,
I mean, I saw
the two test rockets
go right in the middle of the canyon.
He never reached full acceleration.
He made it almost to the other side,
but he was jumping against the wind,
so after the chute did come out,
he started coasting back in
and ended up down in the canyon.
Whoa, there's been a mistake.
He looks like
he's going into the canyon.
The ship's going down.
He floated down
beyond our view.
I remember looking
over the edge of the canyon.
Hey! Hey!
- Did he hit the water?
- Yes.
The family, and we're racing
around to them now,
is hysterical and in shock.
They think Evel may be dead
or may be drowning in the river.
It's a sheer wall for half a mile down,
and it blows the rocket
into the side of the canyon
10 feet from the ground,
and there's a 20-foot embankment
where the rocket can topple over
and my dad can live.
Had he gone into the water,
he probably would have drowned
because he was unable
to get out of the thing by himself.
Evel Knievel is standing
in the boat and waving.
He is alive and well.
Evel gets accused a lot
of pulling the chute early.
Evel always claimed
that something failed back there
and it deployed on its own.
You didn't do a damn thing
wrong there.
- The can is still on the bank.
- It is.
It blew off by accident?
It was our fault.
The chute came out early.
It had nothing to do
with Evel Knievel.
It had to do with the top blew off
and pulled the chute out.
That's more dangerous
than letting it fly.
He had a dead man's switch.
He had to keep his hand closed,
and that was so that
if he lost consciousness
and went limp,
his hand would open,
and that would spring the switch,
and it would deploy the chute.
He never pulled that chute.
It blew off from the G force,
just like a shotgun shell.
Boom, boom.
What I don't believe
is that he pulled
any switch on purpose,
because what fool
would pull a chute
while you're accelerating?
You've got a good chance
of burning the whole thing off
or ripping it off.
Whatever happened, I believe it to be
an accident of some sort,
no matter whose fault
it might have been.
Does it really matter,
you know, looking back on it,
whether it was mechanical failure
or whether it was human failure?
What difference does it make?
There's just
a small percentage of people
that think that
that might have been a con.
I'll tell you what...
put them in that rocket.
You haven't seen
anybody else go since.
Who cares
what the critics had to say?
I know my dad
didn't give a shit
what the critics had to say.
If I'd had made it
across the canyon,
everybody would have said,
"Well, it's easy.
I could have done it."
If I'd had died,
they would have said,
"Well, the daredevil died.
Evel Knievel,
that was his grand finale."
But excuse me. I didn't.
I'm still alive.
That moment made me realize
the situations in our life, you know?
It just helped me to see things
a little differently.
That being the pinnacle
or the dream-shot.
That's not the ideal end
of the narrative.
That's not the climactic end,
you know?
It was either make it
or crash into the other side.
That's the climactic end
to Evel's life.
Well, neither happened.
Evel kept quiet for several months
after Snake River.
You know, the American public
probably had kind of grown
tired of him at that point,
so he'd planned
a 10-show U.K. tour,
and the first event
would be at Wembley Stadium.
He arrived about three weeks
before the London jump,
and he'd sold 3,000 seats
for a 100,000-seat stadium.
He had a problem on his hands,
and he gets off the plane,
and as the legend goes,
there's a few members
of the press there,
and then he makes
his first statement.
"I'm so glad
to be here in England,
where we came
and won the war for you."
"Oh, really?"
And they start writing.
A little lady from the BBC
raises her hand in the back.
"Mr. Knievel, don't you think
"that your failure
to jump the Snake River Canyon
has damaged
your credibility?"
Without a beat, he says,
"No canyon and no woman
I ever jumped
ever damaged my credibility."
He knew exactly
what he was doing.
Who could go to London,
before Wembley,
and not have the place
even close to sold out,
ride around in a car
and tell everyone in England
that this whole place
would be rubble
if it wasn't
for the Americans?
Challenged them.
Put them down
and got them pissed off.
Well, what did it do?
It filled Wembley Arena, didn't it?
I think it might have been
the biggest crowd of his career,
maybe 70,000 or 80,000 people.
What he planned to jump
was 13 London transit buses.
There's a lot of wonder
as to whether
they're coming there
to see him succeed
or not succeed.
Evel always thought
he was going to succeed,
except in Wembley.
He was concerned
about a gearbox being delivered,
proper gearbox
for his motorcycle.
He said,
"I knew I wouldn't make it."
I said, "If you knew
you wouldn't make it,
why didn't you take
a bus away?"
So he looks at me
like I am the greatest idiot,
and he says,
"I'm the world's
greatest daredevil, Doug.
"Can you imagine turning
to 80,000 Englishmen
"and saying, 'I'm sorry,
I have to take a bus away
"because my gearbox
hasn't arrived
from New Jersey."'
He's going to put on a show
no matter what the consequences.
When Evel's looking at his ramp,
getting ready to go,
rolling up his motorcycle,
knowing that he has to do it,
got 80,000 people out there
watching him,
you know the guy
can't even hardly breathe.
You know he wants
to get this jump over with
so he can breathe again.
He was badly hurt...
broken hip, broken bone,
hand broke, ugh.
And he broke his back,
so I'm sure
he was in a lot of pain,
so he had enough
about his senses
to, like, ask the guys
to help him up.
And he made everybody
pick him up
and take him up
to the top of the buses
and give a speech to the crowd.
He's like,
"No, no, no, no, no, no.
"You guys
are going to take me,
"and you're going to put me
back on that ramp,
and I am going
to address my audience."
He's gangster, man.
The crash wasn't enough.
He had to still get back
and say something
to these people.
Ladies and gentlemen
of this wonderful country...
I've got to tell you
that you... are the last people
in the world
who will ever see me jump
because I will never, ever,
ever jump again. I am through.
"You wonderful people,
this wonderful country..."
"You are the last people to ever
see me jump, because I will..."
"Never, ever,
ever jump again."
And the crowd was just silent.
70,000 jaws dropped
all at once.
That's a pretty strong statement
to say, "I am through."
You have this grand idea
of what you're going to go and do,
and when it doesn't work out,
it's kind of like,
it spins you a bit.
It really starts pulling the stitching
that holds the whole thing together.
He wanted to walk out of the stadium,
and I think by that time,
he was beginning to go into shock.
I walked in.
I want to walk out.
Evel, Evel, Evel, Evel...
That day in Wembley Stadium,
that was the most dramatic moment
of his career.
I went back to New York,
started editing.
About two days in,
phone call, 5:30 in the morning.
"Doug, Evel."
"Hi, Evel."
"You can't use that quote."
"What quote?"
"The one where I said
I wouldn't jump again."
"Evel, why? Why..."
"'Cause I might jump again!"
He threatens to sue me,
the whole television network,
and he hangs up.
When the show is over
the following Saturday,
he started getting calls
in his hospital room, immediately,
that it was a pretty good show.
He crashes trying to jump over 13 buses,
announces he's going to retire,
then he thinks about it
for a while and says,
"I'll be a son of a bitch
if I'm going to retire crashing."
And I'm not going to quit that way.
I will try it again.
If I make it, I'll continue.
And if I don't...
if I don't,
I'm going to pack it all in.
And he decides to come back
to the United States
and jump over 14 buses.
That's probably
the longest motorcycle jump
he would have attempted
in his career.
He had told people on the air
that he would never,
ever jump again.
Now he's going to jump again.
We want to watch that.
Perversely, I think it was because
of the brutal Wembley Stadium crash
that so many people
wanted to tune in
to see if it was going
to happen again.
He's not hesitating.
He'll go.
And this time, he rode back up
to the top of the landing ramp
and he addressed
the audience once again.
As far as I'm concerned,
I have jumped far enough.
Today, I'm going
to walk away from here with you,
and I feel
that's being a professional.
That's what I'm going to do.
It became
the highest-rated show
in the history
of ABC's Wide World of Sports
in 37 years of coverage.
About 60 million people
watched that thing.
Muhammad Ali was huge,
but his fight with Frazier
was second in the Nielsen ratings.
I think that may be the moment
that everybody bought in.
Finally, he was getting the exposure.
Finally, he was getting the recognition.
Finally, he was getting the payday,
and by that time,
he had been through it all,
and that is kind of what happens
to folks, unfortunately,
is they get that recognition
at the time
when they're coming
to the crescendo of their career.
That was, like,
his last big, hairy jump.
He did jumps
later in his career,
but they were all smaller
and got a lot less attention,
and, you know,
he had his kind of nest egg
from all his Ideal toys
to live off of,
so I think he decided to back off.
I don't believe that he ever wanted
to throw in the towel,
because he loved
being Evel Knievel.
He loved the lifestyle.
He loved the money.
He loved doing
what he wanted to do.
The biggest fall
Evel Knievel ever had
was not on a motorcycle.
It was on a misjudgment.
Shelly Saltman was a PR guy
who Evel hired
to promote
the Snake River Canyon jump,
so Saltman accompanied Evel
on his tour around the country,
and he turned it into a book
called Evel Knievel on Tour.
You know,
from my dad's perspective,
he's out every night.
He's promoting the jump.
He could live or die.
He's drinking.
He's probably
shooting his mouth off.
This Shelly Saltman
that was traveling with him
the whole time was writing
all this shooting-your-mouth-off
stuff down,
and then after my dad
jumped the canyon,
Saltman published a book with...
I mean, you know,
things you say to your buddies
when you've had
a few too many cocktails
that you don't really mean,
or you're just
being bravado, or...
Boy, that pissed my dad off.
So my dad
beat the hell out of him.
The three main points
that Evel was upset with-
he said that Saltman
said he took drugs
and that
he was an alcoholic
and that
he hated his mother.
So he found the guy
on the Fox parking lot
one day in L.A.
And had a guy hold his arms
and broke his arms
with a ball bat
and says,
"Now write a book about me."
The reason my dad brought
one of his Montana buddies
with him is,
this is right
after he had crashed
and broke both of his arms.
He couldn't swing
the baseball bat
and hold Saltman down
at the same time.
Saltman had to have, like,
steel rods
put into his arms.
And I said to him,
"Evel, what the heck
were you thinking about?"
And he said,
"Look, he wrote stuff in that book
"about womanizing
and other stuff.
"My daughter Tracey's 13.
"She's going
to junior high school in Butte.
"What do you think it's like
for her to go to school
and have people talking
about that stuff?"
As the story goes,
when he was going
to the judge to plead,
and the couple of lawyers
were with him
and they pleaded not guilty,
and he stopped them right there,
fired them both,
looked at the judge,
and said,
"Judge, I did it,
and I'd do it again.
Do what you will with me."
The charge is hitting a man
with a baseball bat,
intending to do bodily injury,
and I did it.
Evel Knievel
grew up in Butte, Montana
and, you know, when somebody
does something to you,
you stomp your own snakes,
and that's what he did.
You publicly slander somebody,
that's the lowest thing
you can do,
and it's the slimiest thing
you can do.
Did he deserve a baseball bat
to his arms?
Hell, yes, he did.
In my world, all you have
is your name and who you are,
and what you stand for
and what you believe in.
This guy was an insider to him.
This is one of his guys.
This is one of his promoters.
For him
to write that kind of book,
that was Evel Knievel's way
of handling it.
I did what I did because I felt
that after I put my faith
and trust and confidence
in a human being,
that he violated that faith
and trust and confidence.
You're a worldwide figure.
You need to know
how to take the punches.
And if you don't like what people
are writing about you that's true,
change your life.
It's simple.
He's a guy
out of Butte, Montana
who still may be thinking
that frontier justice
is justifiable,
and it was not, of course.
Evel, due to the beating,
was sentenced to six months
in L.A. County jail.
He spent about 4.5 months in there
and then was set free.
You know, I thought Evel Knievel
just kind of faded away.
I never knew
what happened to him.
I didn't realize that beating up
this guy with a baseball bat
was pretty much
what killed his career.
He lost his Ideal Toy contract.
That was his biggest moneymaker.
Those toys were
the biggest-selling toys in history.
Really, it was the beginning
of a financial tailspin
for my dad,
and that was...
I mean, that was probably
a lot more rough on my mom.
You know, after you live that life,
and knowing he's doing
what he's doing,
you might say
I was kind of like Clark Gable
in Gone With the Wind-
I really don't give
a damn anymore.
When I look back
and think about
the things we went through,
I wish I could have had the guts
to stand up to him,
but I never really knew
what to do,
and... and it was like
fear just overtook me
till I found somebody bigger,
praise God.
When my mom and dad
got divorced,
I thought it was the best thing
for my dad,
and I really thought
it was the best thing for my mom,
and it did turn out
to be that way.
I first met Evel...
I worked at a bar
called Mugs 'N Jugs,
just came back from college.
I was playing
in a celebrity golf tournament.
I mean, I knew the name,
but I didn't really...
That was about all
I knew about him.
Well, he had white hair.
He seemed older.
And I had dinner with him,
and a week later,
I packed up my stuff,
and we left for Atlanta,
and I never came back.
And here's this young,
much, much younger blond,
and found out
she had a real low handicap,
and they started setting up
scams on golf courses,
where she'd go over
and putt with the ladies
and he'd be over
putting with the guys,
and he'd pick somebody up
and say, "You know what?
I will take you on,"
however much a hole,
da da da da da,
and "Hell, I'll tell you what.
"I'm so confident I'm going to whip your ass,
I'll take the ditsy blond
over there on my team."
We were pretty much
just hustling golf, I guess,
and he knew groups
all over the United States.
When he fell in love with Krystal,
he had her out golfing
at the golf course, you know,
and he wanted me to come out.
I think he wanted me
to meet her,
and so when I did,
I walked up to her and I said,
I shook her hand,
"So glad to meet you."
Take over, baby!
She made 38 years,
and that's a long time.
As a person that was there,
I know what she went through,
and I did not have kids
with him.
She had four kids.
So that even adds
a whole new variable.
She sure as hell
never tried to change him,
and obviously
that was the only way
it was going to work
with somebody like Evel.
You could tell they were buddies, man.
They got married at Caesars Palace.
It was a big spectacle.
My dad wore
a big, fancy blue suit,
drove out on a motorcycle.
It was really cool.
Today when I rode
the motorcycle out of the tunnel
and down the walkway,
I had the same butterflies I did
the day I jumped the fountains.
It's wonderful.
This is a wonderful day
for myself and for Krystal,
and I'm very happy.
One of the funniest things.
Sometimes he'd be
in his RV driving along,
and all of a sudden
he's in one of these rants,
he'd go on for 15 minutes,
and it's brilliant stuff,
and all of a sudden,
just in the middle of it,
he goes,
"Goddamn it, Krystal.
"You know better
than to walk around here naked
when I'm eating pizza,"
and he just jumps
right back in the conversation.
You'd never walk around naked
when Evel's eating pizza.
Well, thank God
my dad met Krystal.
I mean, she had the youth
and the energy
to really keep up with him.
I'm not a weak person.
I had no problem saying no,
and I stood up
for what I thought sometimes,
and that didn't always end well.
He had a hard time
controlling his anger.
The doctor attributed it
to maybe the numerous concussions
that he'd had.
It was a long process,
but ultimately,
once he was on
the right combination of drugs,
it completely changed him.
He was in much better control
of himself,
and I think
he was proud of that,
to be honest with you.
I mean, like,
that was a really big deal.
That Evel turned
into a different sort of Evel.
He turned into a man
that was more compassionate,
into a man that was-
that wanted to do people right
who he felt he did wrong.
He was a little less self-absorbed
as he got older,
and he really put
a lot more importance
on relationships
with friends and family.
And then, really, the last five years
of their life together
couldn't have been
that easy for Krystal
because my dad was, you know,
really sick a lot of the time,
but, you know, she stuck by him.
He had a hip replacement,
a pelvis reconstruction,
a back fusion,
a liver transplant,
so he had a tremendous amount
of health issues
as he got older.
He had idiopathic
pulmonary fibrosis
and he couldn't breathe,
and that was really
the only thing
that truly slowed him down
in the end.
I mean, he looked
at me one time
and he said, "You know, it's...
I'm going to die.
"Is this all there is?
"You go through your whole life,
"and then this just can't be
all there is.
"There's no way someone can do
"all the things they do
in their life,
and then they just die."
He got religion
right at the end,
and I thought
he was just putting on a show,
but he wasn't.
He was serious.
He suddenly started watching
The Hour of Power
with Reverend Schuller.
I'd come home once in a while,
and he'd have that on,
and he'd say, "I really think
this guy's genuine."
So he called him,
and he said,
"I want to come there,
and I want to get baptized."
And he got up on international TV...
Now may the Lord bless you
with eternal life.
Robert Schuller Sr.
got some water and just,
"In the name of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost," baptized him,
and you could hear a pin drop
in that place.
He was telling me
that I ought to be able
to see the light,
or I should see the light,
and go and do this and do that,
and I said,
"Don't be preaching to me, boy,
because you haven't been good
all your life."
His last years were a struggle.
It was just...
He was...
I mean, he was ready to go
when he went,
I can tell you that.
You know, in the last few years
before he died,
we had a lot of good talks
and a lot of "Hey, I love you,"
"I love you too, Rob," you know,
so that was a good thing.
I was praying
that he wouldn't go to hell.
I know I've forgiven him for it.
Sure, I still have flashbacks,
and I can get angry with him,
but now
I've been trying to think
of all of the good things
we had together.
And my dad,
whenever I would leave
or we'd be sitting down to dinner,
for three or four years,
he'd say,
"Well, this could be
our last dinner together, Kelly."
I'd say,
"Oh, for crying out loud,
I'll see you in six months,"
or I'd say,
"Okay, then you pay the bill,
since you're not going to need
the money anymore,"
or however
we'd work it out, right?
And he said
the same thing to me.
He said,
"Stay a couple more days.
I'm not going to see you again."
Then I said the same thing
I always say...
"Oh, I'll see you
in a few months, Dad."
And he died a week later.
There was no church
in Butte, Montana
big enough to hold
Evel Knievel's funeral,
so they had to have it
in the local hockey rink.
You know what?
It was an Evel Knievel
It was in the Butte Civic Center,
which holds
10,000 or 12,000 people,
and it was grand in nature.
People that he wanted
to speak spoke,
and thousands of people
came to see him.
I think it was exactly
the way he would have wanted it.
Matthew McConaughey was there,
and the governors were there,
and Robert Schuller
was the master of ceremonies,
so to speak.
So the night
before the funeral,
we had a big fireworks show.
I remember Robert Schuller
looking at me,
going, "A fireworks show...
I think I'll do that
at my funeral."
At his funeral, there were
a number of magical moments,
but the climax of that
is an extraordinarily
powerful moment.
He wrote his own last words.
He says, "I know
I treated people badly.
"If some of you were hurt...
forgive me."
Last words?
Two words.
"I'm sorry."
Evel Knievel was one
of my brother's heroes.
My brother being my own hero,
Evel became one of the guys
I looked up to.
A lot of times you're pissed off
because they don't live up
to the romanticized idea
of who you thought they were.
That's okay.
You're getting something from a hero
that's going to make you
a little better person,
and even if they didn't do it,
and they know they didn't do it,
but they were just teaching you that,
usually that's because
they were hoping you, yourself,
could be a little bit better
and actually maybe do
a little bit better than them.
The message,
not the messenger.
I want to go
to my own kind of heaven.
It's got a canyon there
that I can jump across
and make safely.
It's got a golf course
that I can shoot par on every day,
buses I can jump easily.
It's got draft beer
that doesn't make you fat.
It's got a lot
of beautiful girls
and my wife won't get mad
if I go out with any of them,
and my kids stay small
all their lives.
That's the kind of a heaven
I'd like to go to.