Evel Knievel was once asked by a female reporter whether he had a death wish.
“I do, honey,” he replied. “I want to die in bed with a good-looking broad when I’m 110.”
He didn’t quite make it, dying Friday after 69 years, 40 broken bones, thousands of Olympia beers and uncountable sexist comments.
Over the years, Knievel spent a fair amount of time in Spokane, and once boasted that he had held the city’s arm-wrestling title until “one time when some guy beat me.” Here are some of his Northwest highlights, culled from newspaper archives.
Oct. 17, 1938 – Born Robert Craig Knievel in Butte, Mont.
1959 – Newly wed and broke, lives in Spokane for a time, working at a motorcycle store.
1965 – Begins touring with Evel Knievel’s Motorcycle Daredevils.
1968 – U.S. Interior Secretary Stewart Udall denies permission to jump the Grand Canyon, prompting Knievel to tell the lunch crowd at Spokane’s Shack restaurant that he’ll sue.
1968 – Comes to Spokane to jump 13 cars at the Fairgrounds Speedway, having recently suffered a concussion in Tacoma, a broken back in Seattle, and fractured hips and pelvis in Las Vegas.
June 1971 – Jumps 14 cars at Deer Park Raceway, four cars shy of his best effort. It is “light duty,” he acknowledges.
September 1974 – Attempts to jump mile-wide Snake River canyon in Southern Idaho after four years of promotions and planning. TV Guide had said he’d wind up as “a national hero or a dead ego-tripper. There is no in-between.” That prediction proves wrong when the parachute opens early, gently dropping the rocket-propelled Skycycle and its passenger to the river.
October 1974 – Buys two Tennessee walking horses from a Pullman stable. “Knievel rides Western and he rides well,” according to the stable owner.
June 1978 – Lesser-known brother Nic Knievel, a used-car dealer, jumps a mini-Indy race car over 13 small cars at Spokane’s Northwest Speedway.
1983 – Retires, leaving more time to fight the IRS over millions in back taxes and to play golf. He likes Spokane courses because the golfers here “believe practically everything I tell them.”
November 1983 – Knievel paintings are selling for tens of thousands of dollars apiece. Takes time out from a Davenport Hotel art show to visit children at Shriners Hospital.
March 1987 – Is involved in a “minor altercation” when another customer at a Moses Lake restaurant opines that he’s not the best rider in the land. Exactly who hit whom is in dispute.
November 1988 – Knievel, driving what’s described as “an Italian luxury car with Florida plates,” is pulled over by a Coeur d’Alene cop, and given warnings for an improper lane change and expired driver’s license. It makes the news.
February 1995 – Sues for negligence after the Ridpath Hotel gives a key to Knievel’s room to a jealous boyfriend who attacks the stuntman. Wins $500,000 and claims it’s the first time he’s been treated fairly in court.