A Night with Evel

by Evelly Philly…

Evel Knievel was one of a kind.  During the 1970s, there was no one on planet Earth more famous than Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel Jr., not even Chairman Mao.  All pimped out in his iconic red, white, and blue jump suit, he was more than just a star, he was a real-life superhero.  He even wore a cape.

So to think that my friend Graham Kraker and I would hook up with Evel one night in 1992 was nothing short of a dream come true.  Graham and I grew up in the 70s, and if you were a boy growing up in the 70s, Evel Knievel was your hero.  He even had his own action figure.

Evel Knievel would jump anything: cars, trucks, buses.  You name it, he jumped it: fountains, rattlesnakes, mountain lions too.   Once he even jumped a tank full of sharks.  He was the ultimate showman.  After the Caesars Palace jump, he even convinced everyone he was in a coma.

In his off time, he enjoyed jumping women.  But the one thing Evel liked most, even more than jumping things, was drinking Wild Turkey whiskey.  And that’s where our story begins, on a hot summer night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in August of 1992.  The whole thing started, like all my Graham Kraker stories do, with the two of us sitting there on the couch, just minding our own business.

So there we were, just minding our own business, when Graham’s girlfriend, Susie, calls from Ivan’s, the bar where she works.  She tells him to grab his camera and get the hell over as fast as he can.  When he asks her why, she tells him that Evel Knievel is there.  Evel Knievel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana?  Apparently he had relatives there.

So we get on over to Ivan’s lickety-split and sure enough there he is, Evel Knievel, just sitting at the bar.  He’s a bit older now, maybe in his eighties, but it’s him all right: no mistake. (Truth is, he was really only in his fifties; but man, did he look old.)

We sit down next to him trying to think of what to say, and for once in our lives both Graham and I are tongue-tied.  What do you say, anyway, when you finally run into God himself?  Evel orders a Wild Turkey, neat, and Graham says “Same here.”  I follow suit.

“Good choice,” Evel says to Graham.  “You don’t find a lot of youngsters drinking the Bird these days.  Especially not 101.”

Truth is, neither Graham nor I drank Wild Turkey.  Especially not 101.  We were Bushmills men.  But this was a special occasion.  We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into; but then again, we seemed to thrive on not knowing what we were getting ourselves into.

It wasn’t long until the three of us, Graham, Evel, and yours truly, were the best of friends.  Trading war stories, even.  What happened exactly, what we actually talked about; well, I’d be lying if I told you I remember.  But we seemed to be getting along like long-lost cousins when all of a sudden we realize we’re out of money.  Graham and I were in college at the time, and running out of money was a pretty regular occurrence.

On top of that, it was getting near closing time and Susie, who basically kept us alive with booze during those lean college years, had gone home for the night.  We weren’t about to ask Evel to pay (and anyway, he wasn’t offering), when all of a sudden our superhero from the 70s spies a bottle of Wild Turkey just sitting there behind the bar.

“How will you get it?” I ask him, noticing that the bartender was down at the other end of the bar, blocking the only entrance.

“I’ll jump it,” says Evel.  “By God, I’ll jump the goddamn bar itself.”

By this time, we’re game for just about anything.  And anyway, we didn’t really have a choice.  We were all screaming alcoholics, all completely out of money, and it was just about closing time.  He was our only hope.  It was Evel, Evel Knievel, our boyhood hero, to the rescue.

So Evel jumps up and into action, kicking his barstool back behind him.  Then he just stands there, holding his cane, like he’s playing to the crowd.  The cane: his famous, diamond-studded walking stick.  Who could ever forget his legendary cane?

Next thing we know, he starts acting like he’s revving his engine.  But there’s no one except Graham and I watching.  It’s audience enough.

Then, just like in the old days, he does it.  He jumps it.  He actually jumps the thing.  From a complete standstill he jumps up over that bar like some kind of leap frog, cane and all.  It’s like Snake River Canyon all over again, only this time he makes it.  He’s so happy, you’d think he’d just jumped the Atlantic Ocean.

He grabs hold of the bottle and that’s when the bartender sees him.  Evel Knievel or not, he isn’t going to let some old man steal a bottle of whiskey from behind his bar.  But when the bartender comes over to confront him, that’s when Evel brings his cane down on him.  Splits his head wide open.  Knocks him out cold.

“Just like old times,” says Evel, and man is he happy.  Just like a little kid.  He then leaps back over the bar, and we get the hell out of there.

Wow!  What a night.  We went down by the river and drank that whole bottle.  We went in Evel’s car, and No, he did not have a motorcycle.  Seems he had traded in his Harley for an old, beat-up Ford Grenada with one of the windows busted out.  His motorcycle days were way behind him now.

When we woke up the next morning, Evel was gone.  Graham had a black eye and a fat lip.  He asked me, “Did that really happen?  Did we really meet Evel Knievel?”

I told him I did not know.  That I couldn’t be sure.  One thing I was sure of, however: I had a splitting headache.  Way more than just the average hangover.

Then, Graham pulled a photo out of his pocket that apparently we had taken the night before.  Imagine that.  Evel Knievel.  You couldn’t make up a story like that if you tried.
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Graham and Evel, Ivar’s Bar & Grill, Baton Rouge, LA, ca. 1992. As always, I am behind the camera.

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About the Author
Philip Loyd loves fat chicks and cheap beer, though not necessarily in that order. His first novel, You Lucky Bastard, is represented by New York Literary Agent Jan Kardys. Loyd lives in Dumbass, Texas.  Find out more about Loyd at http://PhilipLoyd.com


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2 thoughts on “A Night with Evel

  1. Great story and photo! When I was a little girl, I used to pretend I was Evel Knievel. I built little ramps to ride my bike on and do pop-a-wheelies. He sure was an original — and an inspiration!

    Like

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