The real story behind the myth of American icon Robert 'Evel' Knievel and his legacy.

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The real story behind the myth of American icon Robert 'Evel' Knievel and his legacy.

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daredevil | two word title | See All (2) »

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Risk everything. Regret nothing. See more »


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21 August 2015 (USA)  »

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Zly jak Evel  »

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Exhaustive Bio of a Rather Unpleasant Man
6 May 2016 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Robert ("Evel") Knievel grew up in a tough mining community in Bute, Montana, where the prevailing philosophy seemed to be to throw a punch first and ask questions later. Gender roles were well-established there: the men had to be aggressive as well as assertive, while the women simply existed to serve them.

This upbringing had a profound effect on Knievel's subsequent life, which was dominated by the desire to prove he was the best. After a successful, if meteoric career selling insurance and motor-cycles, he decided to become a stuntperson. He began by working as part of a team, but soon discovered there was far more kudos attached to working on his own. The Evel Knievel legend was born. With a combination of brash salespersonship and often crazy stunts - that frequently went wrong - Knievel rose to the top of the celebrity tree, making fantastic sums of Money and appearing regularly on big chat-shows of the Seventies hosted by Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett.

Daniel Junge's documentary also shows that he was a deeply unpleasant person. He was serially unfaithful to his wife, and any member of the press unfortunate enough to cross his path was subject to a torrent of abuse. While certainly suffering from insecurities immediately prior to his various stunts, Knievel was also driven by hubris, prompting him to put his life (and family) continually at risk. No one, it seemed, was more important than himself.

His fall from grace was as rapid as his rise. Sentenced to six months in jail for assaulting his one-time publicity manager, he continued to manipulate the media for his own ends, without realizing that they had turned against him. Lucrative contracts were suspended; the girls, gold and glitter evaporated; and Knievel was left virtually destitute.

In his last years he tried to atone for his past behavior, but the documentary suggested that this was equally driven by hubris: why not manipulate the media in another way, even though you might be on the professional scrap-heap? BEING EVEL told a cautionary tale of a celebrity who quite literally did not understand the limits - either of human endeavor or his close associates' patience with him. Despite his enduring reputation, he came across as a rather sad case.


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