LOS ANGELES – Of all the bones Evel Knievel broke over the years, the costliest may have been the left arm of a PR man named Shelly Saltman.
Saltman won $12.75 million in damages against Knievel after the motorcycle daredevil attacked him with a baseball bat in 1977 in a rage over a book Saltman had written about the showman.
With interest, the still-uncollected sum has grown to more than $100 million by Saltman’s estimate.
“We are going hot and heavy after his estate,” Saltman said after Knievel died Friday at 69.
Whether Knievel’s estate has that kind of money is unclear.
Knievel’s son Kelly would not discuss the size of his father’s estate or comment on the dispute. The daredevil’s longtime friend and promoter, Billy Rundle, declined to discuss the incident in detail. Knievel’s widow, Krystal, was not granting interviews.
Although little remembered today, the incident made headlines worldwide when the death-defying motorcyclist approached Saltman in the parking lot of 20th Century Fox on Sept. 21, 1977, and started swinging a bat.
Saltman’s arm was shattered and is still held together with a steel plate and screws.
Knievel, who broke nearly 40 of his own bones during his many motorcycle stunts, served six months in jail and would never again enjoy the public acclaim he had when he tried unsuccessfully to jump Idaho’s Snake River Canyon on a jet-powered motorcycle in 1974 – an event Saltman had promoted.
Knievel complained at the time that Saltman’s book, “Evel Knievel on Tour,” insulted his family and portrayed him as “an alcoholic, a pill addict, an anti-Semite and an immoral person.”