Ten years ago, I worked for what was known then as the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) as a person-to-person sales representative. It was a nice way of saying that you’re a telemarketer. I didn’t mind the job and working there, because the product was well known, not a product likely to be introduced to you based on what the person on the other end of the phone was saying.
One Friday afternoon in the spring, I wound up calling one Robert Knievel. He was better known as Evel Knievel, a daredevil who jumped over various things with (mainly) his motorcycle back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was probably better known for the stunts that failed, like the rocket he tried to soar over the Snake River Canyon.
I didn’t immediately put two and two together that this was Evel I was about to speak to, but I didn’t get the chance. I did get Evel’s answering machine, later made famous by the Bubba The Love Sponge radio show. Profanity masked, it went like this:
“This is Evel Knievel and if I ever see you, you motherf****r, I’ll rip your f***ing head off! Stop calling me on the phone, you motherf****r!”
Well Evel, how else was I going to call you? With tin cans and wires?
Needless to say, I was a bit shocked hearing that, let alone what would possess anybody, even a celebrity, to have such a profane message for a greeting. He would pass away in Clearwater the following year of 2007, having suffered from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis.
I always admired him as a kid, though. I could only imagine that all those jumps that went bad took a significant toll on his body and mind, and I know from personal experience that if you’re in pain, it sometimes makes you crazy.