Saturday, December 01, 2007

More Thoughts on Evel Knievel

As somebody said on TV yesterday, ABC's Wide World of Sports meant two things: Ali/Cosell and Evel Knievel. Those were the days, back when spectacles like the Caesar's jump (which happened before I was aware who EK was) or the Snake River Canyon debacle (which was a questionable coda to his career) could be seen on broadcast TV, not on pay-per-view.

Evel was one of the first to truly recognize the union between sports, marketing and entertainment and I'd venture he made more money over the years licensing his image to toys, lunchboxes and other pop culture items than he ever did as a daredevil.

I had the Evel action figure and stunt cycle in its original 1970s incarnation as well as when it was reissued in the 1990s. I still have the original 1970s instruction manual somewhere and always held out hope that I'd get to meet the man and have him sign it for my wall. If I close my eyes I can still remember the full-page, back cover, color ads for the EK toys from Ideal that adorned many a 1970s superhero comic (see image at right found on The other comic ad that's forever etched in my mind is that of a cartoon Dr. J and Rick Barry playing basketball on some playground, hawking a Spalding basketball.)

Naturally, Simpsons daredevil Captain Lance Murdoch is a graduate of the EK School of Showmanship and had some of his finest moments on the great episode 'Bart the Daredevil', telling an audience gathered to see him perform...

Ladies and gentlemen, and especially little children. I'm glad you're all here to witness what may very well be my grisly death. Tonight, my most dangerous stunt. I will death-defy both nature and gravity by leaping over this tank of water, filled with man-eating great white sharks, deadly electric eels, ravenous piranha, bone-crushing alligators, and perhaps most frightening of all, the king of the jungle, one ferocious lion! Heh heh heh. I almost forgot. To add a real element of danger, one drop of human blood. Now, in case I don't survive, let me just say, seat belts save lives, so buckle up!
And later when Lisa takes Bart to see the Captain in the hospital, the attempt at dissuading her brother from attempting to jump Springfield Gorge doesn't go as planned:

Now let me start by saying... Good for you son! It's always good to see young people taking an interest in danger. Now a lot of people are going to be telling you you're crazy, and maybe they're right. But the fact of the matter is: Bones heal. Chicks dig scars. And the United States of America has the best doctor-to-daredevil ratio in the world!

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