Lived An Exciting Life, But It Took Its Toll
Though admittedly known more for his
daring motorcycle stunts than his piloting skill, one can't deny
storied daredevil stunt man Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel also racked
up his share of time in the air... albeit only a few seconds at a
time, and more often than not followed by a hard landing. It is
with this in mind ANN honors Knievel, who died Friday at the age of
69, with the following 'Gone West' salutation --
In the end, it wasn't one of his stunts that cost Evel Knievel
his life... but, in a sense, all of them. Riddled with scars from
his many attempted daredevil feats, Knievel's health had failed him
for years. He also suffered from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis,
an incurable condition that scarred his lungs.
Knievel underwent a liver transplant in 1999 after nearly dying
of hepatitis C -- which he believed he contracted through a blood
transfusion from an earlier injury. He also suffered two strokes in
recent years, according to the Associated Press.
Longtime friend and promotor Billy Rundle told reporters Knievel
had trouble breathing at his Clearwater, FL condominium, and died
before he could get to a hospital.
"It's been coming for years, but you just don't expect it.
Superman just doesn't die, right?" said Rundle, organizer of the
annual "Evel Knievel Days" festival in the daredevil's Butte, MT
"I think he lived 20 years longer than most people would have"
after so many injuries," son Kelly Knievel said. "I think he willed
himself into an extra five or six years."
Knievel was best known for a failed attempt to jump an Idaho
canyon on a rocket-cycle and a stunning crash at Caesar's Palace in
Las, Vegas, NV. He is even immortalized at the Smithsonian
Institution as "America's Legendary Daredevil."
Knievel racked up over 40 broken bones before he retired in
1980. The tall thin man, loved the limelight, and always had
something to conquer... some new feat to jump.
"No king or prince has lived a better life," he told The
Associated Press in May 2006. "You're looking at a guy who's really
done it all. And there are things I wish I had done better; not
only for me but for the ones I loved."
Jumping on motorcycles wasn't his only feat -- he also had a
knack for tales: "Made $60 million, spent 61... Lost $250,000 at
blackjack once... Had $3 million in the bank, though."
Knievel died two days after an announcement of a settlement over
the use of his trademarked image in a popular Kayne West music
video. The stuntman had enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in
recent years, allowing him to make a good living selling autographs
and endorsing products to fans.
"They started out watching me bust my ass, and I became part of
their lives," Knievel said. "People wanted to associate with a
winner, not a loser. They wanted to associate with someone who kept
trying to be a winner."