Strange Famous Records

Thoughts on HBO’s “Brave New Voices”

For a couple of years after I left the national slam scene, I stayed involved with the Brave New Voices festival. And for a year or two, that festival seemed on track to become everything I’d always imagined the “adult” slam could be.

The first year I went as one of Providences coaches, and ended up totally dumbstruck by how great it all was. Huge cyphers outside every event (which I always see as a sign that the crowds are leaving charged up,) all night gatherings of kids in the rooms of the youth hostel… kids and adults taking turns reading stuff for each other out of notebookes until the sun came up…

I sat in the front row on finals night and heard some of the best work I’ve ever come across. Made eye contact a few times with saul williams, who was hosting, and shared multiple looks of “jesus christ. Are you hearing this?’

The competition that night ended with a team being in a position to win, and choosing instead to spontaneously invite every single youth poet in attendence onstage to chant ‘its not all about the competition’ and shut down the fucking show. Far and away the most incredible poetry show I’ve ever witnessed.

In the years since, I’ve watched the Brave New Voices festival be taken over by one of the organizations within it, Youthspeaks.

Youthspeaks’ annual budget is well over a million dollars at this point, and they’ve used the money and staff avaliable to them to completely take over BNV. The guy who runs Youthspeaks, James Kass, is literally Crackah Smiley. He sounds like Whitey McCEO talking to youth mentors and coaches about budgets in the backroom, then gets onstage in front of the youth on some “Yo yo yo you ready for some bomb ass poets or what yawl?”

Evil cocksucker. The result has been the introduction of big money into something that was meant to be about community and creating space for kids. Now it seems to have become another self contained creativity vacuum, where lame poets can get their ego stroked and play rockstar for an audience of equally deluded peers. Just like the “adult” slam.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Crackah Jimmy sold the whole show to Russel Simmons, who hasn’t let the fact that he barey understands what performance poetry is stop him from degrading it while banking off it for almost a decade.

The tragedy is that it becomes increasingly unlikely anyones going to have the kinds of exeriences that used to be found at those shows.

Jared and I have debated this within the past week actually, but I’m still pretty firm in my assertion that the good poets have all moved on from poetry slam, and any new good ones will do the same shortly. From where I’m standing, any poet that hangs around that scene is either delusional or addicted to having their ass patted. You win again, champ! 10!

So, felt the need to air that out. I have some friends in the community still, who I enjoy getting to see and talk to, but for the most part I’ll continue quietly hoping for the collapse of Poetry Slam International, Youthspeaks, and the sham national competitions they run.

May 05


if you forgot how to laugh you should watch this. forget about it.

Apr 28

SFR video interview from SXSW and pretty pictures

Here’s part 1 of an interview we did at this year’s SXSW, features me, B. Dolan, Prolyphic, Scroobius Pip, Jared Paul and Sleep.

As promised, here are some  pretty pictures:

Substance Event at 1st Ave. Photo by Jonathan Hoffner

Substance Event at 1st Ave. Photo by Jonathan Hoffner

Substance Event at 1st Ave. Photo by Jonathan Hoffner

Substance Event at 1st Ave. Photo by Jonathan Hoffner

Eyes like dead lights. Photo by Jonathan Hoffner

Eyes like dead lights. Photo by Jonathan Hoffner

Stange Fam gets personal. Photo by Jonathan Hoffner

Stange Fam gets personal. Photo by Jonathan Hoffner

Want vs. Do Not Want

Want vs. Do Not Want

Apr 20

Banks For Nothing

An email I sent to Bank of America

“Banks For Nothing”

I have been a loyal customer to Bank of America, which was Providence, RI based Fleet Bank before it was bought out in 2004, for almost 20 years. I am 27. Over the past 5 months I have had continuous problems with Bank of America. Problems caused by Bank of America employees, not by myself. In 2007, someone without my permission made a purchase with my credit card. Luckily, an employee of Bank of America saw the mysterious purchase and notified me. Thank you Bank of America. After canceling the purchase, the paranoid conspiracy theorist that I am, I wanted my Checking and Savings account numbers changed and I wanted to be issued a new credit card for my own protection. I want to know that no one else would have access to my money. Because I need my money, just like everyone in the US needs their money. Money has by default become our major natural resource for survival. At the time it seemed like the changing of account numbers went smoothly and uninterrupted. But, what ended up happening is when I asked an associate of BOA to change my Checking account number, instead of giving me the type of account I asked for, which is the one I had previously, the associate gave me a “My Access” account. But what they didn’t tell me is that my “My Access” account requires a minimum balance of $750 in the account at all times. And if I don’t keep that minimum balance I will get what is called a “Monthly Maintenance Fee”. Now, I didn’t know I had this minimum requirement because not all “My Access” accounts have it and I was not notified. If I was, I would have said “No I do not want a minimum balance, I want the same account I have had for 18 years. Also the “Monthly Maintenance Fee” only appears on the On-line banking statement. it does not appear on the paper/traditional mail statement, which is the one I check. So, for a year and a half I have been getting $18 a week taken from my Checking account. $18 a week starts to add up. So, when I explain this to the BOA associate over the phone he says “that there’s nothing he can do to change the account or help me”. Thanks for nothing. But it doesn’t end there.
When I asked Bank of America to issue me a new credit card they did, but they didn’t issue me a new credit card. I’ll explain.
BOA sent me a new card with a new number, but the number that was on the card did not match the number that was assigned to the card. So, when I swiped the card, the number that appeared on bills, statements, etc. did not match the number on the card itself. So, when I explain all of this I also came to find out that my credit card account that got “hacked” into and that I wanted closed forever, was never closed. After weeks of complaining and calling the issue was finally resolved. But you know what it still doesn’t end there.
In fall 2008, a simple transfer of money from my CD into my checking account turns into a nightmare. I wanted money from my CD to be transferred into my checking so I could pay off my credit card bill. I figured while I’m at BOA, why not pay the bill here? So, I go through the process of talking with the associate, showing ID and signing papers. I follow the associate to the teller and we go ahead and finalize the transfer from my CD to Checking account to Credit Card Account. I leave happy. A week later I check my account on-line and noticed that the money had transferred from my CD to my Checking, but did not transfer from my Checking to Credit Card account so my bill was never paid and now I have all kinds of fees and fleas. So, now I have to call customer service and fight with associates and then finally win my argument with the “person-in-charge” to get all of the fees and fleas waived, because it was Bank of America’s fault not mine. It was Bank of America’s fault not mine. Your fault and this is where it ends. It ends with me pulling my Green Natural Resource, money, out of all of my Bank of America accounts and closing them to put my money into another bank’s hands, a local bank’s hands. Banks for nothing. Thank you also for raising credit interest on loyal customers who pay their bills on time and who also helped bail your ass out from bankruptcy. FYI, you might find it tough to get new business when you double-dip from and treat good customers who have been loyal to you like they are expendable. Its actually the other way around. You’re expendable. Without our money, you don’t exist. You exist because people put their invisible money into your invisible bank hands. But I know the people at the top of BOA will be ok, they’ll find a job as an executive, CEO, etc. somewhere else. Its the worker bees, people like me, whose job security will be in jeopardy when Bank of America eventually gets bought out. And why would Bank of America the enitity care about that?

I hope 2007 “Banker of the Year” Kenneth D. Lewis (even though BOA’s profit was down 29% in 2007) and all of the other executives over at Bank of America enjoy the money they’ve stolen from the American people and I hope they live happily ever after forever and ever just like in Walt Disney’s propaganda movies.

Disgusted and taking my money and running,
Rhode Island

Apr 16

Movie Time with Benjamin II

Well, some folks have approached and messaged me saying they watched and enjoyed the movies I posted up last time, so that’s reason enough for a sequel I think …

If you still haven’t seen the first batch, stop being a tool. See those movies. See these movies too. I’m only recommending the best of the best here, and all of these are worth your time.

1.) Apocalypse Now

Marlon Brando, Apocalypse Now

I know, I know. Obvious suggestion. You’ve already seen Apocalypse Now. You’re so beyond this suggestion. Well, be quiet. I have a game plan here. I need to make sure you’ve seen Apocalypse Now. If you have, maybe watch it again or just skip to suggestion #2. If you haven’t, then I’m just going to say a list of names and then you’re going to go out and rent this movie tonight. Ready? Francis Ford Coppola. Marlon Brando. Martin Sheen. Dennis Hopper. Laurence Fishburn. Robert Duvall. You should have the movie in your hands by now. Watch that shet.

NOW, here comes the napalm:

2.) Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse

Francis Ford Coppola, The Failure

“We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane.” -Coppola

One of my favorite movies ever, for a lot of reasons. Using behind the scenes footage, and narrated by Eleanor Coppola, this movie chronicles the making of Apocalypse Now, and “illustrates how production problems including bad weather, actors’ health and other issues delayed the film, increasing costs and nearly destroying the life and career of Francis Ford Coppola.”  Marlon Brando shows up on the set 50 pounds overweight with none of his lines memorized.  Coppola can’t finish writing the script cause it doesn’t really express his ideas.   Dennis Hopper drops acid and improvises all his lines.  Martin Sheen has a nervous breakdown and heart attack in the middle of filming.  Shots are interrupted so that “Coppola’s helicopters” can go fight a civil war in the hills.

I mean… fucking hell.  This movie is one of the all time great studies of obsession, ego, and life’s mimicry of art on an epic scale.  So good.  See this movie.

Honorable Mention: ‘Tropic Thunder’ riffs on ‘Hearts of Darkness’ in a way that I found cool and entertaining, and I really dug the way ‘Tropic Thunder’ was continually pulling the rug out from under the viewer … but I’m bein stingy with these here recommendations.

3.)  Sweet and Lowdown

Sean Penn, Sweet and Lowdown

Sean Penn does it again boyee.  Sage actually recommended this movie to me, and lent me this VHS a year or two ago.  It’s easy to see why certain parts of this movie appealed to Francis, and you might find some recognizable themes from papa’s music in the character of the fictional jazz guitarist Emmet Ray.  Written and directed stunningly by Woody Allen, who I don’t always dig.  This one is sad and beautiful in all the right places.  I highly recommend it.

4.) The Taking of the Pelham One Two Three (1974)one two three

If you want a doo-doo rhyme then come see me!

Recently, I was in Reno, killing time before picking Francis up at the airport.  I decide to waste a couple hours seeing “Sunshine Cleaners” at a Reno movie theatre.  As it turns out, I should’ve just scored some ketamine and chased it with a bottle of Nyquil.  On the way into the theatre to see this 2 hour suicide ad, I started noticing that all the theater personnel were wearing shirts that say “The Taking of the Pelham 123.”

And I says to myself… “huh?  Are they celebrating an anniversary or something?  Are they showing it here on the big screen?”


Turns out fucking JOHN TRAVOLTA stars in a remake of this fucking classic that’s about to be re-released.  Hell. No.

See the original.  It’s got a 70s funk soundtrack that will kick your ass.  It’s where Quentin Tarantino stole his criminals with color names idea from (Mr. Blue, Mr. White, etc.)  See the original or the Scientologists have already won.

5.)  Jesus Camp


After seeing this movie, I sat down at my kitchen table and wrote “Joan of Arcadia” in one shot.  Recorded the song, as it appears on the album, within the hour.  I was effected by this flick.

The movie is a documentary about the “Kids On Fire School of Ministry” (heh.)  Which is run by Pastor Becky Fischer, who the entire first half of “Joan” describes.  “A smothering mother’s body, body like a black hole…”

Becky wants kids to be on fire for Christ like suicide bombers are on fire for Allah.  I’m not paraphrasing.  She states that directly in the course of this film.  It’s a well made, balanced documentary free of lame editorializing (ahem, Michael Moore.)  Lots of folks will have seen this one already, but for those who haven’t I recommend it strongly.

That’s all for now, suckas.

I’m trapped in fucking Humboldt County.

A cop just pulled me over and then told me all about his Grateful Dead cover band when I told him I was a traveling musician.

Get me outta hea before I turn into a hackey sack.



Apr 10

Record Store Day on April 18th

Apparently April 18th is “Record Store Day”
One of my favorite record stores, Twist & Shout in Denver, made me aware of this. They sent out a questionnaire and I feel like filling it out. So hurr it is.

1) Where did you buy your first record? What was it?

“The first album I bought with my own money was Run DMC’s ‘Raising Hell’ which remains to be one of my favorite hip-hop albums. I purchased it at a tape store in the Lincoln Mall. I can’t remember the name of it, but it isn’t a store that lasted very long. I remember they had a jukebox type thing that had a limited list of songs you could purchase and it would dispense a cassette tape with your mix. That was the original itunes. When I got home from the mall, I discovered my mom had gone and bought me Raising Hell already.  I was excited to have two copies of it.”

2 )What record have you wanted more than any other in your collecting career? Did you ever get it?

“Masta Ace had a song called ‘H-A-R-D-C-O-R-E’ as the b-side to a white-label 12″ back in the early 90’s. My friend Mig had it but I’ve never been able to get a copy of my own.”

3) What is it about records, or record stores that are different from downloading?

“Walking through aisles of artwork, flipping through classics and non-classics…letting your imagination and instinct run wild. Downloading can’t hold a candle to that experience.”

4) Any of the products for Record Store Day that you are particularly excited about?  Why?

“Not really, no. I’m not prepared. The ones I’m excited about come out in June. Until then, I can’t pretend I know of anything coming out before then. Don’t even let me know. Quiet now.”

Sleep Hesitation Wounds June 30th on SFR

Sleep "Hesitation Wounds" June 30th on SFR

Apr 10 Joins the Fight Against Justin!

Hell yessssss. It’s on baby! My poem has single-handedly turned the tide of public opinion! I’m bringin deadly back (go head b. dolan)


How Can Justin Timberlake Still Objectify Black Women And Get Away With It?

Someone please explain why Justin Timberlake continually gets a pass to fetishize and exploit the image of Black women. Right now. Because after watching him aggressively pulling on a chain wrapped around Ciara’s neck only to later use her bending body as a leaning post in her new video for “Love Sex Magic,”it’s getting ludicrously difficult to understand.

It been years since “Nipplegate” after which he distanced himself from Janet Jackson, cowardly allowing her to endure the overly harsh criticism alone. The outcry against his actions from those of us in the indignant minority was quickly overshadowed by an increase in album sales, multiple music awards and an increase in his Pop stardom miming Black music and culture. Instead of subjecting his next project with trepidation–let alone dismissal–nearly every “urban” club, radio station and music channel on the planet had the masses bumping to a song with a hook that’s about shackles, whipping and slavery.

From behind a wry smile and with his hair faded he actually tarnished a reigning, Black Pop star’s image arguably beyond repair by exposing her breast on national television and then built his street cred further by bringing sexy back, Middle Passage style. He’s transitioned from the post-racialist’s pop culture dream of somewhat harmlessly lusting after beautiful Black love interest in the video for “Like I Love You” into something more sinister. He uses the scapegoat of S&M edginess in which he is the aggressor, the dominant force, to subordinate his object of desire when she is Black.

He distanced himself from those undertones in using shackles (why not a different two syllable kinky word like handcuffs, Justin? Or latex, like the piece you tore off of Miss Jackson?) and whipping in the song by making himself the slave, and in the video by making lusty faces with a White woman. But all of the soft edginess and ambgious sexism and racism has become the central M.O. for him in the video for “Love Sex Magic.”

It’s not even his song but in the video he’s in the opening scene, pulling on a chained Ciara. Whenever the two are interacting she is doing all kinds of sexy acrobatics for him–crawling over him, stick out her ass for him to lean on, bumping him with her breasts–but he can barely be bothered to look her in the face half of the time…and he’s on screen a lot. She looks desparate, and he looks like a pimp. As the video progresses and their roles become more evident it gets more disgusting.

Yes, Ciara is grown and autonomous. So is Janet. But that just makes his ability to exploit their collaborations to the point that they are subjegated to his dominance, wittingly or not, more protestable. Additionally, it seems that at this point active defense, tacit approval, or even celebration of this behavior/persona is beyond ignorant and only subjegates women further. The “that’s capitalism” and “it’s just entertainment!” defenses also fall short because both are integral aspects of our shared culture and have impact beyond the superficialities of the music industry hustle and streaming videos online. Dig deeper than that.

So the question stands: Why does he still get a pass?

Here’s the video in question:


Apr 03

Evel Knievel’s last interview, given days before he died.

Someone gave this to me the other night in Dallas, and I hadn’t seen it previously.  Thought it was good enough to share here.
Evel Never Dies
Before anyone ever dreamed of the XGames, Evel Knievel bet his life on every performance
By Pat Jordan

The greatest daredevil who ever lived is half-lying in an easy chair in a track suit, like Fidel in his hospital bed, struggling to breathe through a nose tube that’s connected to an oxygen tank in the living room of his small condo in St. Petersburg, Florida. At 69, he is a gaunt man with a wispy puff of white hair and taut, shiny, pale skin stretched over his high cheekbones. But that doesn’t mean he’s about to take crap from his bookie, who’s on the phone. “You telling me I didn’t take the Patriots?” Evel Knievel rasps. “I know who I took!” Minutes later he takes another call, from a man who  wants to “give” him a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars—for $15,000. “Not if I have to pay for it,” he says firmly, then hangs up, exhausted. How preposterous that someone in Vegas would charge him for a star. This January, after all, marks the 40th anniversary of one of the city’s greatest spectacles, his daring and disastrous motorcycle jump over the Caesars Palace fountain, the event that propelled him to super­stardom. He would go on to become one of the most famous men in the world. His motorcycle and riding costume are enshrined in the Smithsonian. A river is named after him, as is a biker convention in his hometown of Butte, Montana. When ABC listed its most-watched Wide World of Sports episodes, Evel Knievel specials placed 1st, 3rd, 7th, and 12th. No wonder he thinks Las Vegas, like everybody else, should pay for the right to use his name.

He is most famous for his death-defying motorcycle jumps and crashes, but mostly he’s famous for being Evel Knievel, the man who invented a sport, and himself. At a time when extreme sports and reality TV are more popular than ever, few remember that he founded both and bled for it as he did so. He was one of the first self-promoted celebrities, the man who, like his friend Muhammad Ali, shamelessly pronounced himself “the Greatest.” He redefined celebrity not as a means to an end but as a goal in itself. He inspired generations of fathers to say to their reckless sons, “Who do you think you are, Evel Knievel?” His godlike status makes it surreal to see him like this now, sucking up oxygen in God’s Waiting Room. “I’m dying,” he rasps. “This may be the last interview I ever do.”

He’s been dying for 42 years, first from his career, then from liver failure in the ’90s, and now from a rare lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. “How much can a human body endure?” he asks. “My immune system’s shot. The doctors gave me three years four years ago. I got this disease that’s so rare there’s no cure. I don’t know of anybody else who had it except Marlon Brando.” Which was always the point with Evel Knievel. He was always unique, and still is, awaiting death with a rare disease few other mortals ever had.

He created his image, and his life, out of the clay of Robert Craig Knievel, a wild kid from Butte, Montana. He was a good high school skier and hockey player, then a motorcycle racer, a bank robber, and—is it true?—a safecracker.

“What do ya mean, ‘is it true?’” he snaps, “I can still crack a safe with one hand tied behind my back. I’m not proud of it. But I was always against society.”

He became Evel Knievel in the mid-’60s when he asked a Norton motorcycle distributor named Bob Blair to sponsor him. Blair said he would, but only if he changed his name to Evil. Not eager to tempt God, he changed the i to an e. From that point forward, not even he would think of himself as Robert anymore. “It’s who I am,” he says. “I am Evel Knievel.”

To help sell motorcycles, he began jumping over “weird things”—a box of snakes, a lion, a tank full of sharks. (For the record: The term “jump the shark” originated with him, not the Fonz.) “I was happy he’d finally found a job he liked to do,” his wife, Linda—surely the most understand­ing woman in America—once said. When they divorced years later, she said, “He always thought there was something better out there and never stopped looking for it.”

He began looking for longer and more dangerous jumps, too, until, by the late ’60s, he was Evel Knievel, the greatest motorcycle daredevil the world had ever known, a man who was willing to jump over 13 double-decker buses, a 1,500-foot-wide canyon, the moon if he could find a rocket-propelled motorcycle powerful enough. He had balls the size of watermelons, which is why his fans loved him.

“It’s easy to be famous today,” he says. “People pay a million dollars to be recognized, but nobody cares about them. They cared about me because I did things other men were afraid to do. That’s why my fans identified with me. They were mostly working-class.”

His fans were also drawn to him because of the possibility of a crash, broken bones, failure, and death. They sometimes booed when he succeeded, shouting out, “That was too easy!” and cheered when he crashed. “My failures had a lot to do with my fame,” he admits. He once famously said, “I created Evel Knievel, and then he sort of got away from me.”

He meant that he let his fans dictate what he did. “They always expected more,” he says. So he gave it to them. Longer and more dangerous jumps: two cars, then 22 cars. It was said that during the height of his fame, grown men admired him, young boys wanted to be like him, and women wanted to sleep with him. He was tall and handsome in the country way, with prominent cheekbones and a high, swept-back pompadour, like a ’70s lounge lizard. He wore a white leather costume with red-white-and-blue stars and stripes and a flowing cape—a little gay actually, but understandable since the idea came from his friend Liberace.

Evel was dangerous, hard-drinking (his poison: a beer, tomato juice, Wild Turkey concoction called a Montana Mary), and sexual, every women’s bad-boy fantasy, which he embellished. He carried a .44 magnum and a gold-and-ebony hollowed-out cane with a sword in it. People wondered: Who was Evel Knie­vel real­ly? A flimflam artist, a crazy man, or a man of monumental courage? Maybe a bit of each. By the early ’70s, he counted Elvis, Ali, and Steve McQueen as friends. Books were written about him. Three bad movies were made about his life. He’s been featured in countless TV specials, and, Lord have mercy, this year Evel Knievel: The Rock Opera opened in Los Angeles to rave reviews.

Today Evel owns the rights to his name and image and is willing to put them on anything he can sell. He claims to have made $10 million over the past few years. To show me, he laboriously rises from his chair. Trailing his oxygen tube behind him like a tether to life, he shuffles toward his office, then suddenly gasps for breath. “You’re standing on my tube,” he mutters.

The office is a mess. Clothes strewn on a chair. Boxes piled high. Toys. Dolls. Caps. Tchotchkes everywhere. He points to a photograph: Evel in his white leather costume on a motorcycle while a slacker-looking kid in baggy shorts sits behind him, making a funny face, as if this posed picture with this fossil is a joke. Evel looks back over his shoulder, his eyes half-lidded, dismissive, a little threatening.

“That’s Tony Hawk,” says Evel, “the skateboard champion. I know him and Mat Hoffman, the bicycle stunt kid. I’m the father to them all.” He means he is the progenitor of all the extreme sports kids of today, the skateboarders who leap off walls, the actors who crash into walls in the Jackass movies, the contestants on Fear Factor.

“He’s a legend to all of us,” says pro skateboarder Danny Way, who jumped the Great Wall of China in 2005. “We probably wouldn’t have the opportunities we do without him. There wasn’t a lot of history of people doing 100-foot jumps before him. The motorcycles weren’t made for it. The ramps weren’t made for it. And he went out and just did it.”

Breathing heavily in little gasps, Evel shuffles back to his chair. “Things ain’t easy, buddy,” he says, struggling for breath. “It’s a compli­ment to me that all those kids come up to me. I always knew how to draw a crowd.”

Evel drew his biggest crowds with three jumps, all of which failed spectacularly, beginning with his Caesars Palace fountain jump on New Year’s Day, 1968. He cleared the foun­tain, but then his back wheel caught on the landing ramp, sending  him tumbling over his motorcycle, which then rolled over him.

“It was my worst injury,” he recalls. “I had a compound fracture of my left hip, broke my right wrist and left ankle, and had a severe concussion. I was unconscious 30 days. You know, I had a couple hundred jumps in my career, and I made most of them, but the ones they show over and over are the ones when I crashed.”

Which is not quite the truth. His most famous jump, in 1974, was meant to be over a 1,500-foot-wide abyss known as the Snake River Canyon in Idaho. That day would be immortalized on film and in the press as one of the most hyped events in sports—and one of the biggest fiascos. Fifteen thousand people showed up for the jump. People went to theaters to watch it on closed-circuit television. Then three quarters of the way up his takeoff ramp, Evel’s parachute prematurely deployed. He fluttered to the canyon floor below like the white petal of a flower.

He wasn’t hurt, but his image as a fearless daredevil was. The headlines the following day read “Evel Knievel Fails to Die” (right alongside: “Ford Pardons Nixon”). The presumption was, if he was stupid enough to self-destruct, then he was obligated to go through with it.

“The engineer made a mistake, and the chute deployed too soon,” he says. “It was heartbreaking.” When asked about the event’s credibility, he fumes: “I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated! What more do you want?”

To redeem himself, Evel set up a jump over 13 buses in London’s Wembley Stadium before a crowd of more than 70,000, for which he was paid $1 million. Like the Caesars jump, he cleared the buses but crashed on landing and suffered devastating injuries, including a crushed vertebra. Yet he managed to stand up afterward, wave to his fans, and say into a mike, “I will never, ever, ever, ever jump again.”

“I never thought I was a failure unless I didn’t try to get up after a crash,” says Evel today. “Kids come up to me all the time and say, ‘Once I was going through a really bad time, and I saw you crash and get up, and it inspired me.’”

Despite his Wembley proclamation, Evel made one last big jump, then retired. “I was tired of getting beat to death,” he says. But why did he punish himself in the first place?

“You can’t ask a guy like me why,” Evel snaps. “I wanted to fly through the air. I was a dare­devil, a performer. I loved the thrill, the money, the whole macho thing. All those things made me Evel Knievel. Sure, I was scared. You gotta be an ass not to be scared. But I beat the hell out of death. It would all go by so fast, in a blur. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi. You’re in the air for four seconds, you’re part of the machine, and then if you make a mistake midair, you say to yourself, ‘Oh, boy. I’m gonna crash,’ and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

Evel spent the rest of the ’70s drinking, carousing, chasing women—in general living up to his wild-man rep, which he bolstered by taking a baseball bat to a former publicist to settle a vendetta. For that offense he served almost six months in prison.

“There were always 15 guys standing outside my cell for autographs,” he says. “I liked all of them. They were just them and I was just me.”

Once when Evel was on a work release detail with other cons, he hired 15 limousines to pick them all up in the morning and bring them back at night. When the warden saw cons getting into limousines, he had a fit.

“Boy, he was pissed off,” remembers Evel. “I told him, just because these guys were in jail didn’t mean they were bad. I was just trying to get them to feel part of the system. He understood then.” On the day of his release, inmates carried out Evel’s footlockers for him.

Evel took a financial hit from the prison episode when he lost endorsements, and he began making noises about resuming his career, about wanting to jump out of an airplane at 40,000 feet without a parachute. “The state of Nevada stopped me,” he says.

I ask Evel if he still thinks of himself as a tough guy. “Aw, I don’t know,” he responds. “I’m just me.” He still keeps a .44 magnum, and he gets up and shows it to me. “I’d rather have men fear me more than like me. Fear and respect go a long way. If a guy likes you, that comes with it.” He returns with a beer. “I was a bitter sunuvabitch when I was younger,” he says. Which brings us to his son Robbie.

In his 40s, Kaptain Robbie Knievel is the greatest motorcycle daredevil of his day, but  Evel and Robbie have a strained relationship. Robbie says his father is jealous because he’s successfully completed most of the jumps Evel failed at. He has not, however, attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon. “You don’t see no long line of guys trying to jump that canyon, do you?” Evel cackles like an old crone.

Robbie has said he was the only member of the family who had the guts to stand up to his irascible father. “That’s true,” Evel says. “I admire him for that. Robbie’s a better rider than I was. He started earlier, and he has better equipment. But I don’t think any daredevils today, including Robbie, had to bite the bullet like I did. It’s not so exciting to fans if there’s a 90 percent chance you’re gonna succeed.”

In fact, Evel’s publicity biography lists all his crashes proudly, while Robbie’s mentions only “three sprained ankles.” Robbie even pokes fun at his father in his recent Holiday Inn Express TV commercial. In it a motorcycle slams into a school bus. People come running, but the rider turns out to be a dummy. Robbie appears smiling, as if to say, “I wasn’t dumb enough to crash.” When a reporter asks if someone talked some sense into him, he says, “No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.” The subtext: Evel Knievel is that dummy.

“I got my own commercial,” says Evel. “For a lunch box. It was on in a recent NFL game.” No wonder the kid’s been battling his old man all these years; the sunuvabitch never quits.

Before Evel says goodbye, he talks about how he found God a few months ago, in a hotel room in Daytona Beach. “All my life I was an atheist,” he says. “I’d tell people I didn’t believe Jesus could walk on water. Then something happened in Daytona. God spoke to me. He said, ‘Robert, you got to stop tellin’ people you don’t believe in me. I been takin’ care of you for years, watchin’ over you. I done everything for you. And you go tell people you don’t believe in me. You gotta stop it.’”

Evel puts his hands over his face, then sobs, “I told God I’d never insult him again.” So did St. Augustine, who also asked God to send him chastity. But Evel’s not quite ready for that. Maybe later, when he’s an old man.

Mar 27

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