Miss Pop Rocks will admit she isn’t a huge fan of Evel Knievel. More of a child of the ‘80s than the ‘70s, she is too young to remember watching Evel attempt the jumps over Snake River Canyon or the fountains at Caesars Palace. But her significant other, Mr. Pop Rocks, who was born at the tail end of the `60s, is more than a bit broken up by the loss of America’s stuntman, who passed away last week.
“I remember when he would do a jump, and it was on television, and we would all just stop and watch it,” he said this past weekend after hearing the news. “It was like the Super Bowl, man.”
But even though I don’t remember much about Evel firsthand (although I do recall being slightly afraid of a man who would call himself Evel), after watching a documentary about him on cable and doing some reading up, I’ve decided that Evel is probably everything that is good about pop culture: silly, crazy, unnecessary yet somehow entirely necessary, and always over-the-top.
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Evel Knievel was, in every way that Miss Pop Rocks can figure out, something worth loving. When he did his first show, he promoted it himself, writing his own press releases and serving as his own MC. He was not above a little manipulating and maneuvering to get attention and publicity for his performances. When he became a Christian, he triggered mass baptisms at the Crystal Cathedral in California. (I shit you not.) He wore a white pantsuit and a cape. His numerous daredevil attempts resulted in 40 broken bones. Once, he attacked a man he felt had defamed him even though his own arms were in casts, and he beat the man so badly the man shattered his wrist.
He willingly and entirely on purpose risked his own life numerous times to bring Americans joy.
Earlier in this post, I stated that Evel Knievel was everything that is good about pop culture. Perhaps I should change that to read that Evel Knievel was everything that is good about America: larger-than-life, slightly arrogant, risk-taking, self-promoting, and full of a certainty that whatever he was doing would make everyone stand up and take notice. And my God, that white pantsuit.
RIP, Mr. Knievel. – Jennifer Mathieu