Evel Knievel: Addicted to Adrenaline

The Life of stuntman and legend Evel Knievel

ByABC News
February 19, 2009, 9:55 AM

Nov. 30, 2007— -- No one could dare the devil like Evel Knievel:

He didn't always make it -- but his American fans loved it: He was doing it to entertain and thrill them, after all.

When Evel Knievel said he would leap across the Snake River Canyon on his steam-powered rocket-slash-motorcycle, that got the world's attention. People said he must be crazy, but he meant it.

Evel Knievel shot out across the canyon but didn't make it. His parachute opened early, quite possibly saving his life.

But eight months later, there he was again -- leaping 13 buses. But he crashed again -- and he said that was it.

"You are the last people who will ever see me jump, because I will never ever ever jump again," he said. "There was just so much pain that I just could hardly stand it, just couldn't stand it."

He could hardly stand up, either. But only five months later, there he was again.

He jumped 14 buses -- successfully.

By the end of his career, 35 broken bones put him in the Guinness World Records. And he went through an estimated 200 units of blood to help bring him back to life after countless crashes.

His real name was Robert Craig Knievel. He was born in Butte, Mont., in 1938, where they still hold Evel Knievel festivals.

ABC Sports producer Doug Wilson said, "He came out of the mountains of Butte, Mont., with his star-spangled cape and diamonds and convinced it was important to watch him risk his life."

He put his own life together inventing a whole new artform -- the spectacle that's possible when the artist is addicted to high-octane adrenaline.

"Until I choose to take this red, white and blue number one off my shoulder, I'm going to try to jump as far as I can and keep going."

"When you hit the pavement at 100 miles an hour, it really smarts. And it gets tougher as you get older in life to get up and keep going," he said.

He died after a long illness at the age of 69, a remarkably long life for someone so attracted to risk.

"My life has been being a daredevil," the legendary stunt artist said. "I am Evel Knievel. I am a daredevil."