A New Museum Dares To Showcase Stuntman Evel Knievel
by Frank Morris
Half a century ago war, protests, and political scandal rocked the United States. Sound familiar? But, out of all that a small-time hoodlum from Butte, Montana rocketed into national prominence, on a motorbike. Evel Knievel’s career took off like a rocket, but crashed even faster. Now a new museum celebrates all that is Evel.
Robert Craig Knievel was the kind of kid you’d probably medicate these days— an ornery, reckless small town guy always in trouble with the law. He tried lots of careers: mining, insurance, semi-pro hockey, and selling Honda motorcycles, before declaring himself a professional daredevil. He started with a jump over two mountain lions, and a box of agitated rattle snakes. By his late 20s he’d hustled his way into the national spotlight.
“Evel Knievel was an original. And to a lot of people, young people, he was a super hero,” says Brad Zimmerman, director of the Evel Knievel Museum, in Topeka, Kansas.
Evel certainly dressed the part. With his flamboyant red, white and blue, motorbikes, helmets, leather jumpsuits, and, yes, capes, Knievel was part Elvis, part Liberace, part John Wayne.