Racer X Illustrated - 1997
Interview with Evel
It all happened so quickly. After three years of searching for the man they call Evel Knievel, we stumbled upon him on the Thursday evening before the 1997 Orlando SX. His manager/friend Mike Gray was searching for the photographs we took of Evel’s treasures that were found in Canada. It appears that the bikes and artifacts were obtained under questionable circumstances. Evel wanted the photos; we wanted the interview.
With that kind of bargaining power, we were able to set up an audience at the East Bay Country Club Lounge, which is located next to a giant feed store in Clearwater, Florida. I took along McGuyver, a Florida local and fellow Evelologist, to meet with Mr. Knievel and his friend Mr. Gray. (Evel- was there because he spends half his year in Las Vegas, the other half in Florida.) We met Gray first, then waited for a full three hours before we saw any sign of Evel. Just as we were about to give up in defeat once again, our mythical man of motorcycle jumping walked in through the dark-tinted bar room doors.....
Evel Knievel is taller and smarter than you think. He is also a bad ass. He drinks a mix of O’Douls and Miller Lite, and he absolutely hates cigarette smoke. He can swear like a world champion. The people at the bar all knew and respected him and they seemed to welcome us, but not enough to turn down the stupid juke box. The 58-year-old Knievel brought along his young, funny girlfriend Crystal, who is just about half his age. He had just finished golfing and was in seemingly good spirits.
After some brief introductions, Evel granted us our long-sought interview, and he started out talking about the said-to-be stolen bikes and merchandise. From there the interview wound it’s way through a myriad of topics, from his childhood in Butte, Montana to his days as one of the most popular figures on the planet.
The strangest part came when I mentioned my father at one point. Evel picked up McGuyver’s cell phone and said, "Call him. I want to say hello to Dave. I haven’t spoken to him in a long time." Evel Knievel knows my dad? I was stunned. Then once he got him on the phone, Evel invited Big Dave to come to Florida and go golfing.
Two hours later it was just all about to end; three years of searching high and low, from the Nevada desert to the industrial wastelands of the Northeast; from Milwaukee to the Gold Coast of Florida; from Seattle to Daytona. I’d spent thousands of dollars and countless hours in search of Evel, reading all the books, buying all the movies. I even joined his Fan Club as a Lifetime Member in the hopes of finding Evel himself. And then, just before it all sunk in the frustration, the expense, the man hours, the hangovers and Evel was about to walk out the door into the dark mist from which he emerged, I came to a sudden realization: At any one point during my entire three-year odyssey, all I had to do to find Evel was ask my dad for his phone number.
Life is harsh.
Evel Knievel talks it upRacer X: First of all, do you have any idea how long we've been looking for you?
Evel Knievel: No.
Rx: Do you know who we are?
EK: Yeah, Mike Gray told me. Mike told me about your magazine, he said you've done some investigating on this phony prick from Canada. (The guy who had Evel’s bikes in Canada.) Let me tell you something. Some fat asshole named Louie Guitano came to me...
Waitress: You want another one?
EK: Yeah, and I want an O'Douls, too, and a glass... He says, ‘I want you to help me, I got this gold bike I built for you, gold-plated. I want to put an Evel Knievel museum together. We're gonna travel around the country, show all your toys, all your bikes.’ He said, ‘What do you want out of it?’ and I said ‘20% and I'll help you book it.’ I said, ‘You don't have to buy all this stuff, I'll donate it to you. I'll get these companies to give it to you, but you gotta give it back.’
See, I met this guy through a promotion in New Jersey or something. He had me jump, then skip-ped me for $10,000. His dad beg-ged me to let him off because he lost money on some show or some-thing I did. So anyway, I got Ideal Toys to build him a trailer – build it for him! I gave it to him but he had to return it. I gave him the test rocket that I jumped the Snake River Canyon with – not the X2 – and a motorcycle and leathers, bicycles, toys… (To waitress) Just put that on a check please…. So he goes to all these race tracks and I start getting calls from everybody including Bill France from Daytona. He said ‘Evel, this guy came in, he's using your name, said he's gonna pay us rent, then skipped out on the rent at midnight.’ I said ‘He what?!!’ So he told me that he skipped out at Charlotte Speedway, then he went to Talledega and did it.
This son-of-a-bitch stiffed every-body in the world, so I called him up and said ‘Look, you're an asshole, bring the stuff back. You're #@%!ed, you're an asshole and a liar. You can't go around the country representing me with a museum and not being honorable to these race tracks.’ He was selling all kinds of stuff, toys, everything.
Rx: If the guy in Canada has it now, he says he’s selling it for $275,000.
EK: No, not that guy, this #@%!ing Guitano guy!
Rx: Well, what about the guy in Canada who has it now: How'd he get it?
EK: He got it from Guitano. Guitano called me up and told me if I took the stuff away from him he was gonna kill me. Well guess what? He made a horrible mistake. I had an FBI man standing in my kitchen on the phone listening to him. He just happened to come down that morning because Guitano called me three or four times during the week, and he threatened me. So the FBI sent a guy down from the Pacific Northwest headquarters to hook up a tape to my phone. While he was there, Guitano calls. They arrested him thirty minutes later in New Jersey. Anyway, he took the stuff to Canada and sold it.
Rx: To the pawn shop?
EK: Yeah, he sold the rocket and everything. This guy that bought it bought stolen material, and this guy's been notified by lawyers, with register receipt letters that he’s got stolen material, that it belongs to me and he has no right to sell it, and he is going to be breaking the law if he does.
Rx: Is that why he's keeping it in Canada?
EK: Yeah. Don't worry about him. This guy's the funniest prick in the world. He knows he's got stolen stuff. He said ‘I bought it from a German conglomerate.’ But that's all right, don't worry about it. He let you see the stuff?
Rx: Yes, sir. We went to Canada because we saw this guy hawking your stuff in a motorcycle shopper magazine. We get up there and he gives us the run-around for most of the afternoon, and finally takes us to his pawn shop and shows us the stuff. He’s got the goods.
EK: He isn’t even a #@%!ing motorcycle dealer?
Rx: No sir, it's a #@%!ing pawn shop.
EK: Yeah, I heard you went up there and met him and he took you to the pawn shop.
RX: We talked to him on the phone.
(Stairway to Heaven is now kicking in the background.)
EK: This is stressful.
Rx: So he's got a pawn shop and it's full of your memorabilia, but not your bikes. They were somewhere else, but he took us to see them.
EK: He's a phony. Believe me. Has he got the Harley-Davidson?
Rx: He’s got the one with the playing cards painted on the gas tank, a black jack hand.
EK: He's a #@%!ing liar. Let me tell you something. Wait a minute. Harley-Davidson gave me three XR750s. I have one, locked up here in town – Mike and I have it in our warehouse. The other one was donated to the Smithsonian Institute World Museum of Natural History. The last one was stolen by Karl Green, a guy that used to work for me. That's the only ones that I ever got from them. And I have an agreement with Harley that I would never sell them, loan them, or do anything with them. This guy is lying, see, he don't have one.
Rx: I’m just telling you he's trying to move your stuff.
EK: He's a #%ing liar. He don't have a bike. I’d like you to do me a favor. I’ll furnish you with doc-uments, actual certified documents that nothing of mine is to be sold, auctioned or anything. They sold it anyway. Tell them you’ve talked to me personally, and that you know that I have never sold anything to anybody, and that anybody who buys anything is buying it under false pretenses.
Rx: What about the backup rocket bike? He's got the Skycycle.
EK: The Skycycle he’s got is the one that was shot across the river for a test shot, not the real one.
Rx: He swears that this really belonged to you.
EK: Yeah, it probably did. He's been put on notice, he's been served papers, he's been told that these were stolen.
Rx: Well, is it all right if we ask you some other questions, like do you ever ride bikes at all anymore?
EK: Yeah, sometimes.
Rx: When's the last time you rode a bike?
EK: (To his girlfriend Crystal) Hey, when's the last time I was on a bike?
Crystal: You rode one in the Little Caesar’s commercial.
EK: In the Little Caesar’s Pizza commercial. And I don't really remember anybody laughing at me 'cause I killed (the motor).
Mike Gray: I was laughing at you.
EK: I said I don't remember killing it!
Mike Gray: No, when you pulled up the first time, you wanted to shut it off, you let the clutch out...
EK: No, I stopped it on the #@%!ing spot, yeah, I had to. My motor-cycles never had any brakes on them, and I pushed them to start them because they never had any starters on them, either. Because my left leg is hampered, it's hard for me to reach a brake.
Mike Gray: We were doing a commercial for that medical device and he had to keep going out into the street and back into the parking lot to stop it for the camera. The first time he did it, when he stopped, he killed the motor...
EK: Nothing phases me!
Rx: So tell me, Mr. Knievel, how did you hook up with the Pain Stimulator guys for the info-mercials?
EK: They sent me a letter and they sent me a Stimulator and asked me to use it.
Rx: Did it really work?
EK: Yeah, it's a good product. You know what this does? (Evel pulls out a highly modified stimulator called the Pain Stimulator that looks more like a stun gun than a gadget and touches it to his arm without flinching.) Oh, turn that son-of-a-bitch up.
Rx: It looks like a stun gun.
EK: That’s a great product, boy. Great product. (Evel turns up the juice, leans over and zaps a frightened McGuyver on the fore-arm. McGuyver spills his beer.)
McGuyver: Oh my god!....
EK: That son-of-a-bitch is powerful. See, what this does, it disrupts the nerves that send signals to the brain that tells it you’re in pain. It upsets it and scrambles it. (Evel zaps me, and I am moment-arily incapacitated and even more confused.) I guess it’s a little more powerful than the old Pain Stimulator.
Rx: (Shaking) Are you going to work with this company, too?
Rx: What’s this one called?
Girlfriend: Electrical Acupuncture.
Rx: Are they still selling the Stimulator?
EK: No, they seized them. That’s because the asshole that we all put our faith in, the owner and chairman of the board of the company, he didn’t do things right.
Rx: So the FDA won’t let you sell it anymore?
EK: Not until he does it right.
Rx: Do you spend a lot of time golfing now?
EK: Every day, yeah. And it’s work. I have this beautiful little friend I golf with (Crystal), she never gets mad on the golf course, she always helps me, makes me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to go on the golf course with, and she NEVER loses her temper and she’s a great player. She has a great smile, she even had a little ball with a smile on it. A little pink smile.
Rx: Does she ever make you feel like you are her caddy?
EK: (Sarcastically) No, she just treats me like you wouldn’t believe. She grabs my clubs for me, she never swears or cusses…
Girlfriend: What kind of pill are you on?
Rx: I met Robbie a month ago in Seattle. He came to a Supercross and I got him tickets and stuff. Do you ever talk to Robbie anymore? Do you guys get along?
EK: I saw him at my grandmother’s funeral. I wish Robbie well, I just don’t tell him what to do ‘cause he’s in charge of his own, uhh, ship now. He sets his own sails.
Rx: In your opinion the wind is blowing in the right direction?
EK: He’s the master of his own ship, but in my opinion the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. (Evel shuts the tape off momentarily to discuss this more off the record.)
Rx: All right, this is a question you’ve been asked a million times: How many bones did you break?
Rx: What was the worst one? The worst crash?
EK: It was Vegas by far, the Caesar’s Palace jump… (Talking to someone else) Hey, this guy’s doing an interview for Hustler Magazine! (Woman walks up and Evel puts his arm around her waist) Of all the thousands I’ve been with, she’s probably in the top three or four. (Everyone laughs) I’m serious!
Rx: Evel, did you know that you weren’t going to make that jump, that you were going to crash on landing?
Rx: Because it didn’t look like you had a lot of room.
EK: I thought it was a piece of cake, a piece of #@%!ing cake. It wasn’t the jump – it was the landing! I landed on top of a van. I parked the van there for a safety ramp, and I put a piece of steel across it and the steel was flimsy. When I hit it, it bounced me up in the air and right over the top of the handlebars. My shocks were bad and they only had a little bit of travel, and it just through me right over the handlebars. It was horrible. I was unconscious for 30-some days that time. Boy, it was horrible.
Rx: When you were jumping, did you know you were going to make it every time, or were there times that you went out there and you had no idea what was going to happen?
EK: Yeah, there were times that I thought I might get... Well, that I couldn’t make it.
RX: So why did you do it?
EK: I’m a risk-taker, a chance-taker. Thought I could do it. I performed under some horrible circumstances. But you know, when you’re in a certain age category, you think you have balls the size of Superman and you’re bulletproof! After I got hurt two or three times I wondered why I never dummied up; I just seemed to gain strength over it. Then I had that canyon dream (Snake River) and I knew that I had to earn the money, and I wanted to keep my word and do it so people wouldn’t think I was a phony.
Rx: I was just a little kid, but it seemed like you had the whole world behind you at Snake River Canyon Jump (in ‘74).
EK: Yeah. I would have never backed out of it. I mean, Bob Trunax (the designer of the Sky-cycle), when it came time to do it, he told me that we had a head wind against me. I forget what the knots were. He said ‘Do you want to postpone?’, I said ‘Bob, we’re on closed circuit television all over the world....’
Rx: This the NASA guy?
EK: Yeah, he’s a #@%!ing... what-ever. He had a small man’s ego, boy. I had no dislike for the guy until that happened. He was tough to get along with, and I admit that I was too because I was drinking a lot - Wild Turkey. Way too much. But this guy bumped heads with me. He didn’t say it with any animosity, though, because he was afraid for me. He was really afraid for me. But the true him came out later, and he was an egotistical little bastard. Egotistical little bastard. (Pause) He wanted to be on TV and pat himself on the back, and he wanted them to do books about him and all this bullshit. And I said ‘Bob, these people who are calling you want you involved in specials about me!’ and I said, ‘The only reason you’re going on the Carson show is because I asked them to put you on!’
‘Goddam, how stupid are you gonna be?’ I said, ‘You’re a cog in the wheel of a bureaucratic system who worked for the government and is now retired and you’re trying to fire me across #@%!ing canyons.’ And he wanted me to become the first private astronaut in the world. He wanted to fire me out into the Pacific and shoot me as high as Alan Sheppard went.
Rx: Would you have (made the canyon jump) if you could have gotten a better vehicle for it?
EK: I wanted to, yeah, but I just felt, I don’t know... (Evel shuts the tape off to discuss the NASA guy in more graphic details, then starts again) ..... I tried to save as much money as I could, pay the govern-ment what I could pay them, take care of my family, pay my hospital bills. It took its toll on me. Christ, I went through some hard times. Ten years of hard times, maybe fifteen years. Trying to recover from never performing again, it hurt terrible. To know that I was out of it, to know that I could never be the man I used to be. Then, I spent a lot of money over those years. Shit, I gambled for one hundred thousand dollars a day on golf courses, I went through $50,000 a night, she could tell you, in Vegas. All of the sudden I reached a resolution with myself. Like today’s the biggest bet (about $2,000) I’ve had in so long it ain’t even funny….
Rx: Yeah, but you lost, Evel.
EK: Yeah, but it don’t matter. I beat this guy for $15,000 a month ago. $15,000, and gave him back $5000 ‘cause I felt bad for him, for his wife and kids.
Rx: Did the same guy feel bad for you today?
EK: We only bet a couple thousand. He’s in the hole, but he’s my buddy. I’m glad he won. I beat a guy for $100,000 at Myrtle Beach. That’s $100,000 cash. A guy named Tyson Leonard.
Rx: Do you hurt every day? Every minute, does your body hurt?
Rx: How do you deal with that?
EK: I take this Tylenol 3 two or three times a day, about two or three times a week. It’s the only thing I take. Nothing else.
Rx: Have you tried Aleve?
EK: Yeah, but it hurts my liver…
McGuyver: You have a liver?
EK: (Not hearing) …I’ve tried everything as far as pain killers go. I never took any drugs in my life. I wouldn’t know what cocaine looks like if you set it in front of me. Don’t need it.
Rx: How did you get started riding bikes?
EK: My dad started me riding when I was a little kid, 13 years old in Oakland, California. I had an old BSA 125, a BSA Bantam. I still have it. The first motorcycle I ever had, and I still have it.
Rx: A friend of mine named Hugh Fleming is from Montana. He works at the AMA as the Pee Wee Racing Commissioner or something. Anyway, he says knew you from back in the day, back in the early 60’s. He says you were a hell of a racer.
EK: Yeah, I rode flat track, scrambles, I tell you what. A guy named Rob Slack from Great Falls, he’s the oldest Triumph dealer in the U.S.. Well, he had a scrambles track in Black Eagle, which is out at Great Falls. When they started the races, they started two rows, then they started me in the back, behind the two rows, facing the opposite dir-ection! I could still turn around and pass everybody on that track. There were only two guys I couldn’t beat in the whole Pacific Northwest in scrambles. A guy named Pomeroy and a guy named Triber.
Rx: Jim Pomeroy? The Jim Pomeroy?
EK: Jimmy Pomeroy was his son. I taught Jimmy how to ride a motor-cycle. This was Don Pomeroy. But I taught his son. His dad never taught him how to ride, so I taught him how to ride on a Yamaha 80. And he became one of the best motocross racers in the world. (Note: In 1973 Pomeroy became the first American ever to win a Grand Prix motocross race.) I used to take him to Sunny Grand Speedway every single night and teach him how to ride, you ask him. I started him out.
Rx: Was Jim Pomeroy better than his dad?
EK: Oh yeah, forget about it. Shit, his dad couldn’t carry his shoes across the street.
Rx: So why didn’t you pursue a professional racing career as a dirt track racer or something?
EK: I did, I was an AMA rider. The only place I never won was Ascot. Then, when I got into it, they made the Novices ride 250s, instead of 650s. And I was about 185 or 190 pounds, and this Sammy Tanner guy – the "Flyin’ Flea" – and Al Gun-ner, shit they went by me like a rubber band on the backstretch. Sammy Tanner only weighed 120 pounds, and that bike is putting out all that horsepower to the ground. He’d ride that BSA Goldstar and I’d ride the Goldstar, and he’d go by me like I was sitting still.
Rx: When your first jump was?
EK: At Lake Washington, I jumped over a bunch of rattlesnakes and mountain lions at a race I was putting on.
Rx: That’s right, you promoted a little bit.
EK: Yeah, I always did.
Rx: When I was a little kid, my dad brought me home a copy of Rolling Stone when that guy Joe Eszterhas (now a screenplay writer for movies like Basic Instinct, Sliver and Showgirls) wrote that article about you, "King of the Goons." I still have that.
(Evel shuts off the tape and explains his opinion of Joe Eszterhas in very graphic terms.)
Rx: Man, you like the action, Evel. Whether it’s jumping, gambling, anything you do.
EK: I don’t like to bet on anything I can’t really watch or participate in. In other words, I don’t want to bet on anything that I have to watch CNN to see who won the game.
Rx: Who’s your favorite fighter right now?
EK: Evander Holyfield. By far.
Rx: How about Roy Jones, Jr.?
EK: Yeah, he’s a good fighter. I’ll tell you who’s not my favorite, that stupid #%ing Pollock that hits below the belt. What an idiot, he’s a #%ing idiot, this guy.
Rx: My dad hates him too. He’s a hell of a fighter but he’s cheap.
EK: Listen to this. You know how many guys in this bar I’ve beat?
Rx: Beat up?
EK: No! I’ve won $1000 a day playing golf for the last two weeks, $1000 a day. I won $14,000 in the last two weeks off these guys.
Rx: Is that just you daring your-self, the daredevil carrying over?
EK: What do you mean?
Rx: Do you have that much confidence or do you just like to put pressure on yourself?
EK: I’m a good golfer, that’s all. Where I play, which is like ten miles from here, I play at 10:30 in the morning and I get done at 4:00. And there’s a golf course right behind this bar, about a quarter of a mile away, and I come down here at about 5:00. I drive down here and I hit balls until 6:30 – hit 300 or 400 golf balls, and then I go out on the golf course and I pick up their flags for them on the greens, and I play nine holes before it gets dark. I practice every day. Every single day, for hours. Crystal practices with me every night!
Rx: (Laughs) What I’m saying is that everything you do, there’s always skill at it. You have a great amount of confidence in yourself as an athlete.
EK: Well, I’ve been an athlete all my life. I ski jumped and pole-vaulted, and I was a cross-country skier. The guy that out pole-vaulted me in the army was Don Bragg (the Olympian).
Rx: What’s the highest you pole vaulted?
EK: Fifteen feet.
Rx: But that’s before fiberglass, right?
EK: Yeah, but I take that back. I didn’t pole vault 15’, I pole vaulted 13’ 6".
Rx: Didn’t you play hockey?
EK: I played pro hockey, yeah. I also owned my own team, the Butte Bombers....
(The conversation drifts off.... Way off. When we come back it’s more motorcycling.)
Rx: Do you know who Jeremy McGrath is?
EK: Is he from Butte?
Rx: No, he’s not from Butte, he’s a top Supercross racer right now.
EK: No. The reason I asked, Nick McGrath named me Evel Knievel.
Rx: I’ve heard about this, the story where that there was this bad-ass guy in jail...
EK: Awful Knauffel. No, he didn’t have anything to do with it. He was a shoplifting, cheap murderer – he killed a Chinese woman in a laundry. His name was Bill Knauf-fel. He was a friend of mine, I saved his life one night. The time he passed out in the middle of Montana Street, I picked him up and drug him out of the way. There was a bunch of cars drag racing and I got his ass out of there. Nick McGrath named me Evel Knievel. He was a little baseball referee, a one-armed guy. Great guy.
Rx: And it’s a great name. There are three people in contemporary sports, that I know of, still alive, that have such great name recognition: Evel, Muhammad Ali and O.J. Simpson....
EK: O.J. got his notoriety because he’s a #@%ing murderer! He wasn’t even that well known ‘til he killed that girl. He’s a murderer. They ought to shoot that....
Rx: You know he wants to move to Florida now? Wants to just play golf. Hey, if you saw O.J. on a golf course, what would you do?
EK: I played in the Heismann Trophy Tournament this weekend out here at the Eagles. They called me and asked me to be in it, and I said I would on one condition. I said if either (football player) Alvin Harper was playing or if O.J. Simpson was playing, I wouldn’t play in it.
Rx: Today, they took O.J. Simpson’s Heisman Trophy away...
Rx: ...To pay off for his murders. They took his clubs, they took his trophies, they took his car, every-thing, they seized it. Took the pictures right off the wall of his bedroom.
EK: You know what? (Olympic Skier) Jean-Claude Killy and me and O.J. Simpson were the first clients that Sports Headliners ever had in Los Angeles – Bruce and Chuck Barnes. They were both vice presi-dents of Goodyear and they started their own agency. O.J. Simpson used to come to my jumps - he was on cocaine then - he tried to get me to take it, I told him to go #%* himself.
Rx: He tried to make his wife and that kid (Ron Goldman) out to be drug addicts, whatever. Anyway, the third guy is Evel Knievel. In the 70’s, you were the most popular...
EK: I had a good career. You know, when you look at it, it’s just unbelievable. Like I’ve had a billion dollars worth of publicity on my artwork, my paintings and things that I do. Like my doctor today said, ‘I never knew you painted.’ I painted an Arabian stallion for Dr. Armon Hammer before he died. He gave me $25,000 for it. I was just thinking to myself, ‘I’ll never overcome being a daredevil.’ There are some of us that get marked or branded in life forever. Muhammad Ali, no matter what he does, will always be great as the heavyweight champion of the world. Arnold Palmer will always be a golfer. With Ali, I know the Vietnam thing was a tough thing, but no matter what he did he’ll always be known as the greatest fighter in the world. He is The Greatest.
Rx: When he was at his peak and you were at your peak...
EK: Like the time at K-Mart, they wouldn’t let him in. Eartha Kitt (?), Jesse Jackson, they all tried to get him in, and they couldn’t. They blockaded the doors with guards, and we had the sheriff of Detroit take us out to K-Mart headquarters. And the Chairman of the Board, Joe Antonini, he said, ‘The only guy I’ll let in here is Evel Knievel.’ They wouldn’t even let Ali in, I was the only one they’d let in. I rode out there on a motorcycle with a sheriff’s escort.
Rx: I think I know why the CEO, and but you’re probably not going to believe me when I tell you this. My father, from Morgan-town, West Virginia, had a band called ‘The Bonnevilles’ back in the ‘60s. He was the bass player. Joe Antonini, the guy that became the K-Mart CEO, was the sax player. They grew up together, my dad and Joe, they went and saw you jump at Kings Island in Ohio or something. That’s unbeliev-able. I mean, Joe was the best man at my mom and dad’s wedding!
(At this point Evel asks me to call my dad on the cell phone and they talk for a few minutes before deciding on a golf trip. I go to the bar, order a shot and digest what has just happened.)
EK: What the hell are you talking about, Mike?
Mike Gray: When Ali asked you what the most common name in the world is.
EK: Oh yeah, Ali says, ‘What do you think is the most common name in the whole world is?’ And I said ‘I don’t know, Joe, John?’ He said ‘No, it’s Muhammad.’ People don’t know it in the U.S. because they’re ignorant of the population of the world. More men are named Muh-ammad than any other name in the world. Then he said ‘But did you know there is only one man in the whole world named Evel? Do you know who he is?’ (Laughs)
McGuyver: Who? (Evel looks at McGuyver with contempt, then order more drinks.)
Rx: You’ll always be known as the "King of the Daredevils."
EK: I hope so. I earned it. I was a freak. I came along at the right time at the right place. America was down on its ass when I came along, they needed somebody that was truthful and honest.
Rx: So you’re talking about what the Vietnam War did to America’s psyche?
EK: They wanted what I did, someone who would spill blood and break bones and suffer brain concussions, someone that really hurt and that wasn’t a phony. And I wasn’t a phony. That’s what they needed, that’s all. That’s what happened, and they pulled for me, ‘cause they pulled for the underdog. And I got hurt so bad, but yet I kept trying. I refused to lay down and die. I didn’t quit, I always tried to get up. And America needed that worse than anything in the world, ‘cause we were down pretty bad in the ‘70s.
Rx: I can remember the first time I got your Evel Knievel wind-up toys. Do you still have any of your toys?
Rx: I have them all.
EK: So do I. We’re trying to get some others, too. We’re opening a restaurant in Vegas, and I’m putting all my memorabilia in there.
Rx: OK, I can help you with that.
EK: And the toy cycle. How much money do you think that toy made?
Rx: It was the number one selling toy in the ‘70s, wasn’t it?
EK: How much?
Rx: I’d say you sold four million of those.
EK: $300 million, it did.
Rx: I meant the number of toys sold.
EK: Hell, I don’t know. Mike, ask him to give me another O’Douls.
Rx: I understand you did a jump with Robbie down in Miami.
EK: I was trying to help Robbie, and that was the start of Robbie’s career. Then he ran off with some girl and went back to Butte with her. She was an exercise director or something.
Crystal: Of all places, he took her to Butte!
EK: I said ‘You can make it on your own, you don’t need your dad.’
Mike: Evel always tried to help Robbie with his career.
EK: In Miami I jumped cross-ways with him. He jumped one direction, I jumped the other. We both jumped the same amount of cars. But I told him, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, but I’ll do it with you to get you started. I tried to help him. And I took him all over when he was a kid, Holy Cross Stadium, Boston, everywhere.
Rx: How far can you ride a wheelie?
EK: ‘Til the top end ran out of oil! Forever. Nobody can wheelie a motorcycle farther than I can. One time in Akron, Ohio I did a show with a guy named Rick Case, and he was the biggest Honda dealer in the world. A good buddy of mine. And I told the people that if I couldn’t do a wheelie the whole quarter-mile standing on the seat at over 80 miles per hour, that he’d give everybody their money back. Boy, he about had a goddamn heart attack. So I was going to do it. He said ‘No, no, Jesus Christ, I know you, you’ll fall off.’
Rx: Did you get it done?
EK: Yeah. But I had to take the cape off, because at 80 mph, I couldn’t keep it up. It would go over backwards on me.
Rx: I know you lost a friend a few weeks ago, Roger Reiman (killed at Daytona).
EK: Yeah, I talked to his dad this morning. Hank. He’s getting along pretty good. I was going to go to the funeral, but my grandma, who raised me since ever since I was a year and six months old – she was my mother – she died a few days before Roger got killed. So I flew to Montana instead.
Rx: Was Mr. Reiman a good guy?
EK: Oh, boy, yeah, a wonderful guy. One of the best I ever met in my life. Hell of a racer, too. He was Grand National Champion. AMA Grand National #1, and he’s the only guy that ever won Daytona four times. Roger was a great guy. He and a guy named Ray Gunn, from Moses Lake, Washington, they’re the only ones that ever touched my Harley-Davidson. Ray worked on all my motorcycles. But when I set all the world records, Roger worked on it. Mike Gray and Mike Mur-dock, they helped me in the last part of my career in the wheelie races.
Rx: Tell me about this guy, Mike Gray. (Pointing at Mike) He’s a good friend of yours, right?
EK: Yeah, I’ve known him for twenty-some years.
Rx: Could he build a bike faster than you could ride it?
EK: No. (Laughter)
Rx: Could you go 236 mph on a bike?
EK: Yeah. I’d bet my life on it.
Mike: At that speed, you would!
EK: If I couldn’t, it wouldn’t go that fast. I just had some guys offer me a deal to break the pro water record for jet, turbo, and gasoline – all three of them. I told them I’d do it. We’re negotiating deals now. But I think instead that they’re going to get some American Indian to do it or something. They found an Indian they want to get drunk and have him do it. Boat racing.... I don’t know, it’s not as popular as auto racing or motorcycle racing.
Rx: I gotta tell you, do you know how big of a hero you are to our generation? Do you have any idea? I know you went through it in the ‘70s, but it’s starting up again. It’s a retro thing, a whole new generation of Evel Knievel fans.
EK: I want them all to send me money so I can bet it tomorrow. I’m betting on North Carolina tomorrow (in NCAA basketball).
Rx: I’m taking Kentucky.
EK: I’ll bet you $100, and if I lose, I’ll send it to you framed and autographed, and if I win, you send it to me.
Rx: You’re on! You’ve got my word!
EK: Same here. (North Carolina lost to Arizona, then Kentucky lost to Arizona. Evel called it a push.)
Rx: The Racer X house poet Charles Raese’s dad once played golf in the foursome behind you at the Bing Crosby Golf Tour-nament. He said you whacked a drive off a porta-potty while a woman was in there, and she came running out screaming, still pulling her panties up! Did that really happen?
EK: It sure as hell did, and Lee Trevino – the guy playing with me – he went in the can next and said, ‘Evel, don’t you swing that club while I’m in here!’ Sure, I remember that…. I remember all those times.
Rx: Any regrets, Mr. Knievel?
Rx: Any unfinished business?
EK: Nada. If a doctor tells me that I’ve only got 90 days to live, 60 days, or 30 days, there won’t be any unfinished business. It will all be taken care of with a bullet. There are some people that need killing, and Joe Eszterhas is one of them.
Rx: What about the journalist you whipped. Didn’t you already beat the living hell out of some guy for what he wrote?
EK: Oh, that jack off?!! I had casts on both arms because they were both broken. The only reason I took a guy with me is because I was afraid he’d take a ball bat and beat the hell out of me. But I only broke his arms to teach him a lesson, to set an example – that you shouldn’t write lies about people. That’s all I did that for. What he said about my mother I should have killed him for. I should have killed that little bastard.
Rx: You almost did.
EK: Yeah, I know, but he’s not worth it.
Rx: One last question. What is the coolest motorcycle publication in the whole world?
EK: Racer X! x x x