Stunts

The American Legend: Evel Knievel

posted: 10/11/13
Evel Knievel shown prior to his jump over the fountain at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas on December 31, 1967.
Read more Read less Evel Knievel shown prior to his jump over the fountain at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas on December 31, 1967.
Evel Knievel shown prior to his jump over the fountain at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas on December 31, 1967.
©Bettmann/Corbis

In less than a decade, Evel Knievel took motorcycle jumping from its sideshow origins to unthinkable heights of popularity that still resonate today - while breaking nearly every bone in the process. Knievel redefined what it meant to be an American daredevil. He is reported to have described himself as "the last gladiator in the new Rome."

Born Robert Craig Knievel in the mining town of Butte, Montana, Evel Knievel was lauded worldwide for his daring feats. He is the Guinness World Record Holder for the most broken bones - over 433 fractures received in over 20 crashes throughout his career.

In 1965 he formed a troupe called Evel Knievel's Motorcycle Daredevils, but hit the big time as a solo performer in 1967 with his much-publicized jump over the fountains at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. The accident left him with a fractured skull and broken pelvis, hips and ribs.

Driven by ego and fearlessness, he had a haunting ambition to succeed at any price. To the public, Knievel was an American hero and dedicated husband and father. But behind-the-scenes, there was a much darker and violent side. "He would tell kids - study, go to school, get good grades, treat your mom and dad right," said motorcycle racing legend Skip Van Leeuwen, who was friends with Knievel. "Two hours later, he'd be chasing 15 girls naked around his boat. It was nuts."

Knievel wasn't simply just a stunt man. He became an American brand; inspiring countless entertainers, a line of toys and even a Marvel Comic.

When he retired in 1980, he told reporters that he was "nothing but scar tissue and surgical steel."

Knievel passed away in 2007 at the age of 69.

More on
Pure Evel