Jim Rohrer reports:
On a late October day in 1975, a seconds-long event at Kings Island captured the peak of a bizarre mania – and more than half of all televisions in use across the nation tuned to it.
It scored the highest share rating ever for ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” – a 52.
- Photos: Evel Knievel’s great jump
Evel Knievel jumped 14 Greyhound buses in the Kings Island parking lot that day, executing the jump flawlessly, touching down lightly on his Harley’s rear wheel and jostling not one of his oft-jostled bones.
It probably wasn’t what the 55 million TV viewers or the 40,000 on hand expected. Many assumed the motorcycle daredevil would splat in the parking lot.
Knievel’s two previous mega-hyped jumps – the Snake River Canyon “sky cycle” jump in Idaho in 1974 and one over 13 double-tiered buses in May 1975 at Wembley Stadium in London – were disasters.
In London, Evel was launched over his handlebars.
“You’re the last people in the world who will ever see me jump,” he said moments after landing that day, having grabbed a microphone despite his many injuries.
He hobbled unassisted out of the stadium, too – a fitting end. Except it wasn’t the end.
Five months later, he rolled into Kings Island as defiant as ever, his red, white and blue jumpsuit and cape flourished gaudily, his jeweled walking stick again filled with bourbon.
Kings Island would prove his high point and the peak of Knievel-mania. He broke more than 40 bones in his lifetime and in 1977 was convicted of beating his former press agent, spending six months in jail. Financial mismanagement took his earnings.
In 1980, his health forced him to retire. In 1999, he had a liver transplant after nearly dying of hepatitis C.
In 2007, he died at age 69.