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Mike Patterson, owner of Historic Harley-Davidson and co-founder of the Evel Knievel Museum, saw Evel Knievel perform at the Kansas State Fair in September 1971. Patterson was 4 years old and can clearly recall the excitement of that day.

Topeka businessman driving force behind Knievel museum By Jan Biles

Mike Patterson, owner of Historic Harley-Davidson, took a leap of faith a couple of years ago when he decided to act upon an idea to build a museum in Topeka dedicated to legendary daredevil Evel Knievel. The risk paid off. The museum opened in late May and has drawn visitors from around the globe. Patterson, who co-founded the museum with actor-film producer Lathan McKay and Topeka lawyer Jim Caplinger, recently talked about how the idea for the museum came about and how the project has far exceeded his expectations.


Your introduction to Evel Knievel was at age 4 at the Kansas State Fair. What was that like? I don’t remember a lot about being 4 years old, except for that. That day at the state fair, we were sitting in the top row and I have the whole picture, the whole scene in my mind exactly how it all went down — waiting for him to come out of the truck, doing all the speed runs and the wheelies, all the anticipation and, you know, finally the jump. It’s interesting to me that I have that much of a recollection of it from 4 years old, but I think that’s the impact of Evel Knievel. … He was a unique character, PATTERSON continues on 7

What: A two-level museum commemorating the career of daredevil Evel Knievel through his jumps, motorcycles, clothing, products and restored Big Red Mack truck. Where: Inside Historic Harley-Davidson, 2047 S.W. Topeka Blvd. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday-Monday Admission: $15 for adults; $12 for seniors; $7 for students age 8 to 16; free for age 7 and younger. Information: (785) 215-6205;; evelknievelmuseum. com;;; evelknievelmuseum/ Museum director: Bruce Zimmerman Marketing director: Amanda Beach

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Big Red revived Historic Harley-Davidson restores Evel Knievel’s semi-truck, trailer By Jan Biles

Two years and the talents and skills of scores of Topeka businesses and individuals — that’s what it took for Historic HarleyDavidson to restore Big Red, the 1974 Mack semitruck and trailer that served as Evel Knievel’s living quarters and equipment transport during his years of criss-crossing the country to thrill crowds with his daredevil stunts. Evel Knievel collector and actor-film producer Lathan McKay asked Historic Harley-Davidson to restore Big Red after seeing a motorcycle the company had restored for rock ’n’ roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis. “Mike and I and the whole team were on the same page,” said McKay, who also is co-founder of the Evel Knievel Museum. “I just loved their honesty and attitude toward the project. Mike took the baton and ran with it.” Mike Patterson, owner of Historic Harley-Davidson and co-founder of the Evel Knievel Museum, said he tapped the restoration talents of Todd


It was a tough project, and it took every day of focusing on the next tiny, little thing ... down to the smallest of nuts and bolts.” MIKE PATTERSON, owner of Historic Harley-Davidson and co-founder of the Evel Knievel Museum

Williams, a retired Topeka firefighter, and Chuck Stover, of Kansas Powertrain and Equipment, to help lead the effort. More than 90 individuals and businesses also contributed in some way. “It was a tough project, and it took every day of focusing on the next tiny, little thing … down to the smallest of nuts and bolts,” Patterson said. “We had to make sure everything was right. … It became really evident that we couldn’t cut any corners on this, because it’s an American treasure. It’s a piece of 1970s cultural history.” Contact niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.


Big Red, the Mack truck that served as Evel Knievel’s living quarters and equipment transport, has been restored by Historic Harley-Davidson and is a popular item among visitors at the Evel Knievel Museum.

The interior of Big Red, a 1974 Mack semi-truck that served as Evel Knievel’s living quarters when he was touring, featured a dressing/wardrobe area, restroom, full bar with a beer tap, desk, color television and 1970s-era briefcase phone. The bar swivels to reveal a safe underneath.


H Knievel’s living quarters, which includes a dressing/wardrobe area, restroom, full bar with a beer tap, desk, color television and 1970s-era briefcase phone. The bar swivels to reveal a safe underneath. H The interior of the cab, with its red, white and blue stars-and-stripes vinyl design, AM radio, 8-track tape player and CB radio. H The trailer, which housed Knievel’s jump bikes, ramps and, at times, Cadillac Ranchero truck.

Big Red’s trailer opened to allow the transport of Evel Knievel’s jump bikes.

The cab of Big Red carries Evel Knievel’s favorite color scheme – red, white and blue – and is outfitted with an AM radio, 8-track tape player and CB radio.

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Topeka attorney secures Evel Knievel artifacts By Jan Biles

A few years ago, Topeka attorney Jim Caplinger purchased a sizable warehouse with heating, cooling, humidity control and good ventilation. So when he heard Historic Harley-Davidson needed a space like that for painters coming in to help with the restoration of Big Red, Evel Knievel’s Mack semi-truck and trailer, he handed over the warehouse key to the team before leaving town for a while. “I said, ‘Use this as long as you want.’ When I came back to town, I came down and I hung out … and you start hearing the stories,” Caplinger said, adding he talked with George Sedlak, the exclusive painter for Knievel’s helmets and bikes in the 1970s, among others. “So then, it’s more in my blood.” He spoke further with Mike


Most of it was the high-end stuff - the Caesars (Palace) helmet, the gold jewelry, this (Skycycle) rocket and many, many things that are in (the museum).”

JIM CAPLINGER, Topeka attorney and Evel Knievel Museum co-founder Patterson, owner of Historic Harley-Davidson, and Lathan McKay, actor-film producer and owner of Big Red, about their plans to establish an Evel Knievel museum, where Big Red would be displayed. Caplinger helped them in making business decisions regarding real estate and establishing the museum as a 501(3)c nonprofit organization. And when Patterson and McKay started talking about some key


Topeka attorney and Evel Knievel Museum co-founder Jim Caplinger was instrumental in obtaining artifacts for the museum. Among the items he acquired were the X-2 Skycycle and the helmet Knievel wore during his crash at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. artifacts that were still needed for the museum and how its budget was tapped out, Caplinger opened his wallet. “That’s where I stepped in and negotiated and bought a lot of Evel Knievel memorabilia,” he said. “Most of it was the high-end

stuff — the Caesars (Palace) helmet, the gold jewelry, this (Skycycle) rocket and many, many things that are in (the museum).” Caplinger said he believed the artifacts would soar in price and become unavailable once the museum opened.

Acquiring some of the artifacts and getting them to Topeka took quite a bit of effort. The X-2 Skycycle, for example, was found in Canada, stored on the second floor of a building by a man who CAPLINGER continues on 7

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Doug Danger launches his motorcycle over 15 police cars parked in downtown Topeka. Three 360-degree cameras mounted on his helmet filmed the jump.

By Jan Biles

Jeannie Chapman clinched her hands around the handlebars of the 1972 XR-750 Harley-Davidson motorcycle and steeled herself for the ride as Evel Knievel Museum staffer Jeff Handley adjusted the virtual-reality headset she was wearing. Chapman, 68, of Cotopaxi, Colo., squealed and leaned her body to the left and right as the virtual-reality motorcycle made U-turns and revved up for a jump over 15 police cars parked in downtown Topeka. She could feel the wind against her body and the rumble of the bike — and then the motorcycle launched into the air, soaring above the cars and landing safely to the cheers of onlookers. “It was a thrill ride,” a smiling Chapman said of the museum’s 4-D Jump Experience. “It felt like I had no control.” Chapman and her 64-year-old husband, Kevin, stopped at the Evel Knievel Museum as part of a two-week “retirement” tour that also took them to the Harley-Davidson Factory in Kansas City, Mo., Harley-Davison Museum in Milwaukee and Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve in Bartlesville, Okla. The video for the 4-D Jump Experience was filmed on Aug. 6, 2016, in downtown Topeka during the 17th Annual Harley-Davidson Party organized by the Boys & Girls Club of Topeka. Motorcycle daredevil Doug Senecal, known professionally as Doug Danger, traveled from Massachusetts to pilot the motorcycle for the stunt, wearing three 360-degree cameras mounted to his helmet. “There are only a couple of guys in the country who will do this on this type of motorcycle,” said Mike Patterson, co-founder of the Evel Knievel Museum and owner of Historic HarleyDavidson. Patterson said the museum worked with Dimensional Innovations, an experiential design firm in Overland Park, to create the virtual reality experience. “Who would have ever thought you could experience jumping like Evel did,” Patterson said. “The great thing is, nobody gets hurt. No broken bones. … We can get the same thrill without the risk.” Contact niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.



Jeannie Chapman, of Cotopaxi, Colo., gets ready to jump over 15 police cars as part of the 4-D Jump Experience, a virtual reality motorcycle ride at the Evel Knievel Museum, 2047 S.W. Topeka Blvd.

Chapman laughs after finishing the 4-D Jump Experience. The video for the ride was filmed during a motorcycle jump by daredevil Doug Danger over 15 police cars in downtown Topeka.

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Patterson: Co-owner says everyone asks, ‘Why Topeka?’ Continued from 2

and to a lot of people a superhero at times. … My family was in the motorcycle business so it was a natural person for me to have as a hero. … My bedroom was full of Evel Knievel posters and models and toys. I have pictures of me getting the toys at Christmas and unwrapping Evel Knievel items, like so many other young kids did, too. You mentioned your family is in the motorcycle business. Tell us about your connection to Historic Harley-Davidson. My grandfather purchased this dealership in 1949, and it was in downtown Topeka at that time. So the business in our family has been through three generations: my grandfather, Henry (Patterson), my uncle, Dennis Patterson, and then on to myself. So 68 years in Topeka. We’ve done our best to provide a good dealership for motorcyclists of northeast Kansas. You not only sell motorcycles, though, you restore them. Tell us about your restoration project with musician Jerry Lee Lewis and how that played a part in connecting you with skateboarder-turnedfilm producer Lathan McKay and his project to restore Big Red, Knievel’s semi-truck and trailer. Our dealership is a little unique from other HarleyDavidson dealerships where we work on anything Harley built.


Visitors study the exhibits at the Evel Knievel Museum, which chronicle the career and life of the legendary daredevil. In the first four months of its operation, the museum drew more than 16,000 visitors. … We’ve become known as one of the really premier HarleyDavidson dealerships that does restoration work in the country. And because of that, we get jobs from all over the country to do work on bikes. One of the jobs we got called on was for rock ’n’ roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis. We actually went to his house and picked up his bike in buckets, because it had been completely disassembled. We brought it back, and we not only reassembled it, but we restored it — every single piece of that bike — to museum quality. … He put it up for auction with Mecum Auctions, and the bike actually sold for $385,000.

(The motorcycle project brought Historic Harley-Davidson into contact with) Lathan McKay, who was connected to the Lewis family at that time and was one of the largest Evel Knievel collectors in the world. They asked us about the Mack truck Lathan had just purchased, Evel’s iconic Big Red. They needed help finding someone to restore it. … We jumped on the job. … They trusted us because of the work we’d done on the bike. How did the idea for the museum come about, and why did you think this was the right time and the right place for it? The first idea … we had was to

get Big Red running and actually take it on the road and put the artifacts in it and have a traveling museum. … When we got through (with Big Red’s restoration), the thing was so pristine, it was like, gosh, I don’t know if we really want to take this out and basically beat it up on the road. … (I thought,) “We have all the stuff right here in our hands. Let’s just build an Evel Knievel museum.” The first question people ask is, “Why Topeka?” It’s just because we decided to do it, and we had the opportunity. Part of the selling point to the Knievel family, which took a while to convince them Topeka was the right place for it, was we’re right in the middle of the country. We’re easy to get to with major highway systems and interstates. What has been the response to the museum? We hoped we were going to get a good response, naturally. But I think the thing that surprised us was, first, the national media attention that it received from coast to coast in newspapers, radio shows, TV local news. But it was just not nationally, it was internationally. We saw it in papers in China, Bulgaria, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom. We got calls from people from all over. So it’s kind of then that it hit us that (Evel Knievel) was a big deal. We knew he was a big deal, but it’s far-reaching and he hits people really deep. … Nearly 60 percent of the people attend-


The Reelz television channel will be at the Evel Knievel Museum in November to film a segment for its “Collison Course” series, which unravels the speculation behind car and airplane crashes. Earlier episodes have featured car accidents involving actor Paul Walker and comedian Tracy Morgan and plane crashes that killed lawyer-journalist John F. Kennedy Jr. and singer John Denver.

ing the museum are from out of state. In the first four months, we had visitors from all 50 states … and right now, it’s sitting at about 20 countries. What are some of the things visitors are saying about the museum? The expectation is they will see a display with some items, but the thing they always say at the end is, “Wow, this is so much more than I expected” and “It’s an actual museum.” … We’re compared a lot to Graceland. We’re compared a lot to the Smithsonian and some other amazing museums. Contact niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.

Caplinger: Evel Knievel’s X-2 Skycycle was found in Canada Continued from 5

purchased it with the intention of starting an Evel Knievel museum. “To retrieve this, you had to have a crane and take part of the roof off,” he said. As McKay and others retrieved the Skycycle and prepared it for shipment back to the United States, Caplinger remained in Topeka to oversee the paperwork needed to bring the artifact across the border, including documentation to prove the Skycycle was constructed

in the United States in order to avoid paying import duty. Among Caplinger’s Knievel acquisitions were checks signed by Robert Truax, the rocket engineer who built the Skycycle, which proved when and where the skyrocket was built. Additional items collected by Caplinger include Knievel’s passport, driver’s license and death certificate, which lists “daredevil” as his occupation. Contact niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.


Topeka attorney and Evel Knievel Museum co-founder Jim Caplinger was instrumental in obtaining artifacts for the museum. Among the items he acquired were the X-2 Skycycle and the helmet Knievel wore during his crash at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.


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Knievel crew members recall working for legend By Jan Biles

Daredevil Evel Knievel didn’t launch any new records or crash any bikes when he performed at the Kansas State Fair in September 1971. But he was introduced to a pair of Wichita men who would become two of his most trusted crew members. Lee Ratliff, 80, who now lives in Coventry, R.I., and Mike Draper, 65, of Wichita, worked at the fair setting up ramps for Knievel’s stunts. When Knievel let it be known he needed another truck driver, Ratliff, who was 34 at the time, signed on. Draper, who was 19, returned to his job at Hugo Shea, a company that owned Harley-Davidson dealerships in Kansas and Oklahoma. About six months later, Knievel stopped in Wichita for a promotional event and Ratliff asked Draper if he wanted to join the crew, too. Both men piloted Knievel’s Kenworth semi-truck and trailer, which had a custom-made Post Coach living quarters bolted to its chassis. “We went back and forth across the country,” Ratliff said, describing how the crew tuned Knievel’s motorcycles, set up the ramps for his launches and landings and parked the vehicles over which he’d jump. “We did five shows on the weekend for a winter indoor show. The summer shows were outdoor shows, and there would be one or two jumps per show.” Ratliff, a retired Boeing tooling inspector, said working for Knievel could be exhausting. “It was kind of like he owned you. You were on call 24 hours a day,” he said. “If he didn’t sleep, you didn’t sleep.” Still, Draper said, being part of Knievel’s entourage was exciting, especially for a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. “I traveled all over the country, and I got to meet a lot of people,” Draper said, explaining how he rubbed elbows with actors Telly Savalas, Leslie Nielsen, Tony Randall and Jamie Farr and was on the set when Knievel played himself in an episode of “The Bionic Woman.” Draper was thrilled when Knievel mentioned his name during a guest appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. Knievel and Ratliff parted ways after about three years, the result of an argument. “The last time I saw Evel was when I got fired,” he said. Before Knievel’s failed jump across Snake River Canyon in September 1974, Draper returned to Wichita and began working for the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office. However, when Knievel


Knievel talks with body guard Jack Swank and crew member Lee Ratliff, far right, before a performance. Approaching them is racing promoter J.C. Agajanian.


Lee Ratliff readies one of Evel Knievel’s motorcycles before a show in Oklahoma City.

Evel Kniev e in front of l and crew member the Kenw Lee Ratliff o living qua , rters and rth semi-truck that right, stand e s Knievel’s q e u rved as ip m e nt transpo tours. rt during Evel called and asked him to join his new tour in Japan, Draper took a leave of absence and reunited with the crew. “Then Evel got into trouble, and so we never went to Japan,” he said, referring to Knievel’s six-month jail sentence for using a baseball bat to beat a man who had written an unflattering book about him. Draper said he chauffeured Knievel back and forth from the Los Angeles County jail to a work release site and ran errands for him while he was incarcerated. One day, Knievel asked Draper to deliver a handwritten apology and a dozen white roses to Delores Hope, wife of comedian Bob Hope, at their Toluca Lake home in Los Angeles. Knievel had cursed on a golf course in the presence of the celebrity’s wife and felt badly about it. Draper and Carl Green, a legendary car customizer, jumped in Knievel’s Cadillac pickup to deliver the items. When they got to the Hopes’ home, they learned they were in Palm Springs, Calif. So they extended their trip, arriving at Palm

Top left, Mike Draper, left, and Lee Ratliff were part of the crew who helped set up the ramps for stunts performed by daredevil Evel Knievel. Both men were from Wichita.

Springs about midnight. A housekeeper came out to the car and agreed to deliver the apology and flowers to Delores Hope. Draper said he stayed in contact with Knievel over the years; they talked two weeks before his death. By that time, Knievel — whose body had been broken and ravaged by his stunts — had undergone a liver transplant and was being treated for diabetes and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. “He was in a lot of pain, and he said he was ready to meet his maker,” Draper recalled. Knievel came along during a time when Americans were feeling down and needed something to pick them up. The Vietnam War was raging, and protests filled the streets. Draper said Knievel diverted their attention with his bigger-than-life personality and daredevil stunts. “He mesmerized people,” he said. Contact niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.

During his career, legendary motorcyclist Evel Knievel rubbed elbows with a multitude of celebrities. Perhaps he met them on a movie set or television show, competed against them at a celebrity golf tournament or shot the breeze - and a few drinks - with them at a Las Vegas bar. Celebrity-related memorabilia displayed at the Evel Knievel Museum include the following: H Leathers autographed on the lapels by actor George Hamilton and Knievel. The outfit was worn by Knievel in the 1977 movie “Viva Knievel.” Hamilton portrayed the daredevil in the 1971 movie “Evel Knievel.” H Boxing gloves signed by heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. H A hockey suit worn by Knievel during an appearance on the “Donny and Marie Osmond” television show. H An Evel Knievel slot machine from a Trump hotel/casino. SOURCE: EVEL KNIEVEL MUSEUM

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Rick Bender, a volunteer at the Evel Knievel Museum, explains how the museum’s “Bad to the Bones” interactive display works. By maneuvering a viewer on its screen, visitors can learn about the injuries Knievel sustained during his crashes through a series of Knievel’s actual x-rays and other displays.







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The godfather of Xtreme sports By Jan Biles

Evel Knievel’s stunts and swagger inspired a new generation of risk-tak-

ers: young tricksters on skateboards; BMX riders conquering berms, rollers and step-downs; and stunt performers seeking thrills regardless of probable injury.


The “Viva Knievel” movie starred Evel Knievel, as himself, Gene Kelly, Lauren Hutton, Red Buttons and Leslie Nielsen.

Knievel cashes in on fame By Jan Biles

Evel Knievel gained international fame from his risky motorcycle jumps — and crashes. And while those live appearances were lucrative, he made far more money from royalties of the products he licensed and endorsed. Knievel was the first person to have an action figure made in his likeness. His AMF bicycle and Ideal toy line were his largest revenue sources. Jim Caplinger, Topeka attorney and co-founder of the Evel Knievel Museum, was among the youngsters who wanted the daredevil-endorsed toys. “We all wanted those toys — the car that you crank up and flies across the room, and the bikes,” he said. “Who didn’t know Evel Knievel? Who didn’t know his toys?” In addition to a number of action figures and other toys, the products connected to the Evel Knievel brand included transistor radios, cigarettes, True Evel Daredevil beer, wine, barbecue sauce, Evel Eyes sunglasses, underwear, Skycycle electric toothbrushes, watches, video games, pain relief gel and muscle rub. Several books were written about Knievel, and he made numerous television appearances, from performing stunts on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” to being a guest on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson to portraying himself in an episode of “The Bionic Woman.” He also was the subject of two movies, “Evel Knievel,” starring George Hamilton as Knievel, and “Viva Knievel,” starring Knievel as himself, Lauren Hutton, Gene Kelly and Red Buttons, as well as two documentaries, “I Am Evel Knievel” and Johnny Knoxville’s “Being Evel.” Caplinger said he respects Knievel

“You know, there would not be an X Games without Evel. No one ever went for it, laid it all on the line, like Evel Knievel. You watch the X Games, and they are laying it all on the line. And that spirit came from Evel, I believe.” — JOHNNY KNOXVILLE, ACTOR, FILM PRODUCER AND STUNT PERFORMER (JANUARY 2015 ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY)


“Evel is the forefather of dreaming the impossible and making it happen.” — MAT HOFFMAN, BMX STUNT RIDER (MAY 2014 KTVM INTERVIEW)


Evel Knievel was the first person to have a toy action figure fashioned in his likeness. Knievel made most of his money from royalties of the products he licensed and endorsed, such as these toy figures and lunch box.

“I was a huge fan of Evel Knievel, obviously, mostly because we liked to watch him crash as much as we liked to watch him succeed. … I loved the do-it-yourself aspect to what he did - the fact that he created challenges and then people would follow him and document it. His tricks became events. I just thought it was cool that he was breaking the rules.” — TONY HAWK, SKATEBOARDER, ACTOR AND OWNER OF BIRDHOUSE SKATEBOARD COMPANY (JUNE 2014 MEN’S JOURNAL)

“I think a lot of us started in some subconscious way because of Evel Knievel. You’re on your Huffy or Schwinn or whatever it was, fantasizing that you were Evel Knievel.” — SPIKE JONZE, FILMMAKER AND ACTOR, ON HIS BMX DAYS (JULY 2010 GQ) Contact niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.


Evel Knievel made a lot of money endorsing products, including cereal. for his business savvy. “He did it by himself,” he said. “He was a self-made promoter. That’s what made him unique.” Contact niche editor Jan Biles at (785) 295-1292.

HH TESTIMONIALS: WHAT VISITORS ARE SAYING “I’m remembering things (about Evel Knievel) by going through the museum. It’s a one-and-only, just like he was.” —Billy Edson, 68, Independence, Mo. HHH “I did not expect there to be this much — the original parts and the cycles, Big Red. You get to do the (4-D) Jump Experience. The volume of collectibles.” —Bryan Herrman, 53, Overland Park, who stopped into the museum on his way to Hays HHH “It’s like a kind of timeline. (I liked) seeing all the different jumps and the technology as compared to what they have today.” —Charles Jessup, 49, Milwaukee, Wisc. HHH “The most interesting thing is the bonebreaking. Usually you do something until you mess up, and the first time you (do), you learn your lesson.” —Nathan Sharpino, 19, University of Kansas student, on Knievel’s injuries

“I like the fella at the entrance. He was positive and gave information. It’s well-organized, and I liked the detail (of the exhibits).” —Judy Hagen, 71, Cedar Falls, Iowa HHH “I’m amazed by all of it. I can’t believe anyone had collected it all, and it wasn’t (being displayed) any place (until now).” —Carol Wegman, 72, Panama, Iowa HHH “All the memorabilia — and they’re put together in this beautiful building. It’s very impressive. I’m glad Topeka has it.” —Kevin McConnaughey, 61, Troy HHH “The Big Red restoration video was well worth the watch.” —Melissa McConnaughey, 46, Troy, adding she also liked Knievel’s chickadee-themed overalls on display

HH TRIVIA: DID YOU KNOW? H Evel Knievel’s real name was Robert Craig Knievel Jr. In 1956, after a police chase and crashing his motorcycle, he was taken to jail on a reckless driving charge. Also in the slammer was William Knofel (pronounced “Ka-naw-ful”). The night jailer noted “Awful Knofel” and “Evil Knievel” were in jail that night. Knievel liked the nickname, but changed the spelling to “Evel.” H Before his daredevil career, Knievel participated in rodeos and ski jumping contests, competed as a pole vaulter while in the Army, originated the Butte Bombers semi-pro hockey team and raced motorcycles. H On Jan. 23, 1966, Evel Knievel & His Motorcycle Daredevils debuted at the National Date Festival in Indio, Calif. He performed wheelies, crashed through plywood fire walls and jumped over two pickup trucks. The next year, Knievel kicked off his solo act. H In the late 1960s, Knievel’s household included a trailer home, 1/2-ton truck and several motorcycles. By the mid-1970s, he

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owned a 9.8-acre estate; Lear jet; helicopter; several luxury cars; 58foot, 87-foot and 124-foot yachts; gold, ivory and diamond-encrusted jewelry; and a stable of horses. Knievel later filed for bankruptcy. “Bobby Knievel never made me a dime,” he said. “Evel Knievel made me about 33 million dollars, but I spent about 35 million.”

H The Evel Knievel Museum acquired more than 300 unopened letters that were sent to the daredevil when he was hospitalized following an attempt to jump over a tank of sharks in January 1977 in Chicago. The museum opened the letters and contacted several of the authors. Some of the letters are on display in the museum.

H Evel Knievel reportedly was a real-life bionic man. Legend has it he had from 10 to 12 pounds of metal rods and screws in his body to support bones that had been broken or fractured during his daredevil feats.

H Two jump bike parachutes used by Knievel are known to still exist. The Evel Knievel Museum has both.

H Knievel’s longest consecutive jump streak was between June 17, 1972, and Aug. 20, 1974. He made 60 jumps without crashing. H Among the entertainers performing before Knievel’s X-2 Skycycle launch in September 1974 across the Snake River Canyon in Idaho were the Great Wallendas, who performed tightrope acts along the canyon’s rim, and psychic Gil Eagles, who was blindfolded and rode a motorcycle through an obstacle course of burning torches.

H During a 1971 interview with television talk show host Dick Cavett, Knievel said he had trouble securing life, hospital, vehicle and accident insurance and had been turned down 37 times by Lloyds of London. H When he was traveling in Big Red, Evel Knievel was often stopped by Highway Patrol troopers so they could get his autograph and take a look at the semi-truck and trailer. H Knievel died of pulmonary disease on Nov. 30, 2007, in Clearwater, Fla. He was 69. SOURCE: EVEL KNIEVEL MUSEUM

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Evel Knievel special section  
Evel Knievel special section