It's a sunny day in June in the San Fernando
Valley. This is the heart of Knievel Country in Southern California.
And if the showroom at Galpin Ford looks like a hangar for
a new NASA test craft, it's thanks to the custom truck dedicated
to the guest of honor: the Evel Knievel Galpinized Ford F-150
Inside the showroom, fathers place their toddlers on the
table to play gimme five with the original American Gladiator.
The first thing you notice is his weight, a sturdy 178 pounds,
25 better than the lean years. Evel
has his color back. He's in a positive state of mind, at ease
and simpatico with his fans while his bodyguards stay vigilant.
He's feeling good and it feels good to be back in business.
There's a reverb of excitement as the faithful from San Diego
to Las Vegas to San Jose prepare to shake his hand and break
out a photo, toy, helmet, bicycle, comic book or record album
for their hero's mark. Most have no idea how close they recently
came to looking up over a bowl of cereal to find the King
of the Daredevils headlining the obituary columns of every
paper in the nation.
Instead, in an astonishing reversal, their man is making
news on the business page. He's in the driver's seat for a
commercial renaissance, working the American highways with
his dog Rocket, his RV and his trailer. He's got his new Galpin
truck, and he's partnering with the folks who control the
MGM casino group to open the massive new Evel Knievel Experience
at Primm, Nevada for Spring 2003.
Evel and his partners are betting you'll stop an hour short
of Vegas at the California state line and plug in at the new
casino, sports bar and entertainment center. That's where
the cycle legend will be showcasing 35 years of machinery
and archives and putting his fans inside advanced motion simulator
rides that recreate his most famous jumps and crashes.
Evel's a rich man now, improbably healthy, independent, divorced
- basically everything he wasn't only a few short years ago.
So now the question hangs over the heads of his friends and
foes alike. Why jump again, Evel? Why now, after a miracle
turnaround, a biblical deliverance, a gift from God, would
you tempt fate and put yourself right back in the firing line?
It's the return of an unkind word that dogs a daredevil all
his born days: "Why?"