Seventies Superiority: Thanks To Evel

evel-knievel-533I read an entertaining blog post over at Insidethelifeofmoi in which Amanda makes a compelling and comprehensive case for the awesomeness of growing up in the 1990’s.  It was an eye opener, because I spent most of that decade well off the mainstream culture grid, my free time pretty much absorbed by either hiking and camping, drinking in dingy bars, or writing a succession of uniformly inept novels and short stories. I rarely watched television, didn’t go to the movies much, and there wasn’t much internet to speak of–nothing like the internet of today, with it’s “30 Celebrities Who Totally Rocked It This Year” lists (29 of which I never heard before).  Judging from Amanda’s colorful tour of her childhood, I missed a lot.

Justin-Bieber-image-justin-bieber-36489193-1970-2000 Which got me to think about my childhood, and current culture, and the obviously imminent collapse of western society.  Kids today don’t have a chance, especially boys, when their biggest cultural role model is a pint-sized douchebag called Justin Beiber.  Now, apologists might argue that Beiber is a symptom, not a disease, a product of our coarse and vapid culture, and that may be true, but if that’s true he’s like a Patient Zero, carrying disease wherever he goes, gleefully and callously spreading his sickness to everyone he encounters.

knievel1It wasn’t that way when I was a kid, and we have one man to thank for it: Evel Knievel.  That’s right: it’s a real name.  Okay, maybe his real name was Robert Craig Knievel, but it’s the nickname–er, knick-kname that counts.  Who was Evel Knieval, you ask?  Well, he was a barnstorming motorcycle daredevil, a back room  brawler, an alleged bully, self-proclaimed bank robber and safe-cracker and an iconic cultural phenomena who mesmerized the nation and inspired the absolute coolest toy of the 1970s.

And what exactly did he do?  He jumped his motorcycle over stuff–cars, trucks, and school buses mainly.  He crashed.  A lot.  The guy was infamous for all his broken bones, for his comas–what kind of genuis promotion makes a guy get more famous for being in a coma?  Every boy in America wanted to be this guy who rides motorcycles and jumps over stuff.  In a cape.  The seventies were an amazing time.

Napoleon-Dynamite-GIF-Going-off-ramp-of-the-sledgehammerIf you watched Napoleon Dynamite and laughed at the scene with the bike ramp jump, and you’re younger than 40, you really didn’t get the whole joke.  See, while the punk ass kids of today are sitting around taking selfies and waiting for that twit Beiber to Tweet something interesting, we were in the alley behind our garages, building ramps out of old cinder At_Home_With_Evel_Knievelblocks and pillaged lumber so we could crash and burn our old Free Spirits and Schwinns, our banana seat and ten speed bikes, in an attempt to be like Evel and grab some sky.  This was long before mountain bikes, and even before BMX bikes became widely commercially available.

Try to imagine the bubble-wrapping parents of today allowing their kids to run off and jump bikes off home-made ramps with no supervision.  These people call the police on mothers who dare to let their ten-year-olds play in the park unsupervised.  At that age I was not only jumping ramps, but wandering yard sales to buy old bikes for exhorbitant prices–sometimes as much as a dollar–and, with the help of older kids, cobbling them together to make “jump bikes.”  So, when I was launching myself into a very low, very brief orbit I was doing so on a frankenstein bike thrown together by a mechanically inept kid–me.  And I never broke a bone.  Most everyone else did, though.  Evel broke nearly all of his, or so it seemed. the-many-injuries-of-evel-knievel1

 

For a while, Knievel was justifiably considered the most famous man in the world, a fact made all the more interesting because no one realized at the time that he was Evel-Knievel-Lunch-Boxpioneering the entire “extreme sports” subculture that would, twenty years later, captivate millions.  Kids carried his lunchbox to school–it was one of the more popular ones for boys, and played with his toys and action figures.  That’s right, action figures: not bad for a half-crazy barnstorming daredevil on a motorcycle who, I am convinced, evel3drew audiences which didn’t really care if he succeeded or failed.  A success might be exhilarating, but a crash and burn is pretty interesting, too.  His wind-up motorcycle was the bell-weather of my childhood.  All the kids I admired had one, and I desperately, achingly, wanted one.  I could only imagine the thrill of cranking that baby several times–it was made to sound like an approximation of an engine revving–then flicking the release and watching Evel tear down the sidewalk.  My mom thought it was stupid, of course, like all the toys I wanted.

Evel got old and, after a failed attempt to launch himself across the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho, he slipped from the public eye, but it’s my understanding that he continued to do his stunts on a smaller stage until his body eventually gave out.  He died a few years ago, mourned by pretty much every American man in his mid- to late-40’s.
RIP_Evel_Knievel

 

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About JunkChuck

Native, Militant Westsylvanian (the first last best place), laborer, gardener, and literary hobbyist (if by literary you mean "hack"). I've had a bunch of different blogs, probably four, due to a recurring compulsion to start over. This incarnation owes to a desire to dredge up the best entries of the worst little book of hand-scrawled poems I could ever dream of writing, salvageable excerpts from fiction both in progress and long-abandoned. and a smattering of whatever the hell seems to fit at any particular moment. At first blush, I was here just to focus on old, terrible verse, but I reserve the right to include...anything. Maybe everything, certainly my love of pulp novels growing garlic, the Pittsburgh Steelers and howling at the moon--both figuratively and, on rare occasions, literally.
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9 Responses to Seventies Superiority: Thanks To Evel

  1. I’m not quite sure about the point of view – i don’t really know enough to comment – but i do very much like the delivery with its strong wording and confident expression.
    My best to you
    john

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  2. Yes, it’s a shame and sad to think about how our heroes seem to have been replaced by much shabbier models. I too am a child of the 70s who wasn’t very concerned with the pop culture of the 90s. Your post brings to mind that a friend’s band had a song about Evel Knievel. I will put the Youtube link here but sound is terrible.

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  3. I get it completely. Evil and the Superstars were around long before the X-Games.

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  4. Thank you so much for the mention – it is greatly appreciated! Man, that Napoleon Dynomite gif made me laugh! It never gets old… Evel kienivel was a bit before my time, but his legacy has definitely lived on. I watched a documentary about his life, not so long ago. What a legend!

    Ps; I totally agree in regards to Beiber! There aren’t many role models left… I feel sorry for my children growing up today’s world *sigh* and greatful to have grown up in better times.

    Great post!

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  5. Totally! It was an introduction to plywood and cinder blocks. I had a sweet fake motorcycle bike that had a plastic race number zip tied to the handle bars and bright orange plastic fenders. Crashed the heck out of it while awaiting Evel’s next epic stunt.

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  6. M T McGuire says:

    I do try to let my lad try the mad stuff… Just so long as he doesn’t develop an interest I par cour… Although I’d he does it will be true spirit of Mr Evil K.

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  7. Pingback: Need More to Love this Week? (#5) | Living a Beautiful Life

  8. I know exactly where you’re coming from. Evel Knieval was an unforgettable icon to grow up with. He inspired me to want to grow up to be a stuntman; a vocational goal I later abandoned after breaking a couple bones myself and learning that it can be rather painful.

    And yes, I had the Evel Knieval stunt cycle – coolest toy I ever had as a kid.

    Thanks for the flashback!

    Like

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