Being Evel

Like many unique Americans in history, Evel Knievel was complex. People know Robert Craig Knievel (1938-2007) as a daredevil, stuntman, con artist, crook, self-promoter, entrepreneur, huckster, showman, entertainer, merchandizer and/or the father of action sports.

I read a couple of books, watched videos and stopped in his hometown of Butte, Montana while I was on vacation in August (I missed their Evel Knievel Days celebration by three days). The documentary Being Evel is the best balanced, entertaining, funny and poignant source on the man and the legend I’ve found to date.

“A generation of Americans grew up worshipping self-styled hero: Evel Knievel, watching him every Saturday on Wide World of Sports and buying his Ideal toys. For producer/subject Johnny Knoxville and so many others, he was the ultimate antidote to the disenchantment of the 1970’s. But few knew the incredible and often complex aspects of his epic life, which, like his jumps, was sometimes glorious and sometimes disastrous. With an entire genre of sports ascending from his daring inventiveness, now is the time to look at the extreme man and his complicated legacy.” -Gravitas Ventures

The producers of Being Evel include George Hamilton, Mat Hoffman, Daniel Junge, Kelly Knievel, Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine. Being Evel is available on DVD in the Sports Neighborhood here at the library and it’s accessible on Hoopla.

You can also visit the Evel Knievel Museum in Topeka to see a collection of his motorcycles and other memorabilia from his life.

As material becomes available, the library will add to our Evel Knievel collection. There are books and other materials not widely available (some books and comics by and about him are prized collector’s items), but we’re working to add things as we run across them, so stay tuned.

Matt Pettit

Matt is a Public Service Specialist for the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. His areas of responsibility include outreach library services to nursing homes, senior, retirement and congregate living centers; service to homebound library users; the Kansas Talking Books service; Book Group in a Bag program and the history and sports neighborhoods of the library’s nonfiction collection.