Evel Knievel

"I’m not mortal like the rest of you,"

Memo to the Editor:

Evel was in full form. He gave me an anatomical assessment of himself in full detail, which I won’t pass on. When I left he kissed me on the cheek. “How come you’re suddenly being nice?” I asked, “Ahhh, you ain’t so bad,” he said. “Don’t kid yourself!” I said, and walked bravely out to my car ... and collapsed!

Joan Wixen

An excerpt from an interview that was published in the Sunday Magazine, October 10, 1976

By Joan Wixen, Sunday Magazine Contributing Correspondent

There is something a little bullyish about him, something that says: Watch out! If you go one step in the wrong direction I’ll really make it miserable for you.

Yet, when you talk to Evel Knievel, the world’s most famous stunt man, who continually defies death with his motorcycle jumps, you aren’t sure whether his tough talk is a big act or he really believes what he says.

His face is rugged. His 185-pound frame is solid and sturdy. But in person he seems much smaller than he appears in pictures. He says emphatically he’s 6-feet-one-inch tall.

“Put that down, put that down,” he all but orders me, and he watches closely while I write it down.

“Height is not any indication of one’s masculinity,” I say.

“Hey, what kind of crack is that? A good interviewer never makes statments, she justs asks questions.”

“Look, I’m not going to tell you how to do your jumps, and you’re not going to tell me how to do my interview,” I say.

“Tell me, have you ever been thrown out of a dressing room?” he asks.

“Let’s get this straight right in the beginning. You’re not going to tell me how I do this interview, or else I’m going to end it right now.”

So that’s how it begins.

I don’t say a word. I just sit there facing him across a tiny table in his personal trailer on the set of “Viva Knievel,” a movie in which he is playing himself, and I wonder what is going to come next.

“Now make it snappy and go ahead and ask me what you want,” he says. “I don’t have all the time in the world.”

“How do you get along with people?” I say.

“With some of them good, and some bad. I don’t get along with those who try to tell me what to do. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things, and my way is always the right way.”

“Where did you develop that philosophy? In your safecrackers days? Or are those stories about your once being a safecracker just a bunch of silly publicity?”

“You don’t believe it?” he says.

“Look, I can still crack any safe in the world faster than you can eat your lunch. I can blow it, I can peel it and I can punch it. Even today I’m as good a safecracker as anyone in the business.”

“Where did you develop this talent?”

To read the entire interview, please contact the Detroit Free Press.

Photos