Ever wonder about that massive scar on my throat and chest? It’s from setting myself on fire onstage with the Disco Biscuits in Las Vegas in 1999. Seriously. You can read all about that here. Curious to know more about that time I was the victim of an attempted murder at the Gathering of the Juggalos n 2012? We cover that as well! Puzzled as to how I Just laugh all these things of and keep moving forward? Get all the dirt, the skinny, and the lowdown in this here deep dive of a back and forth with the Toronto Thunderbolt himself, Larry LeBlanc!
Every week I love reading Larry’s exhaustive interviews in the Encore Newsletter. Even when I have no idea who the subject was, Larry’s deep and thorough research makes sure that each and every piece is completely captivating. I’m honored to be in the Hot Seat this week.
Happy 4th of July from Butte, Montana, home of Evel Knievel. I couldn’t think of a more fitting place to celebrate America. Evel was an icon. Is an icon. His is the story of taking a hard scrabble life in a go nowhere mining town and transforming himself into a super hero of sorts. Millions of Americans, and even foreign ladies and gentlemen around the world would tune in to watch his death defying feats of motorcycle madness. Jumping over cars and trucks and buses. Even the iconic water fountains at Caesar’s Palace in the glitz and showiness capital of the world, Las Vegas. He’s the reason that, as a child, I dreamed of riding a motorcycle when I grew up. And I did. And I finally made the pilgrimage to the pay my respects to the king of two wheeled Kings!
I rolled into town and my first stop was his grave site, and when I entered the cemetery there was a faded old sign that directed me to “Evel’s Grave” It was right on the edge of the cemetery road, I guess for easy access by his throngs of admirers. But it was nesteled behind a tree, which felt curious to me. His tombstone itself, while larger than those around It, was not exactly what you would call a monument. And The occasion certainly didn’t feel momentous. I sat there for a few minutes, contemplated the Evel one, and then headed into town to buy some souvenirs. But a funny thing happened. Of the few souvenir shops I could even find, none of them were selling any Even Knievel memorabilia. Not even a postcard. So I started asking around. I asked the desk lady at the local motor lodge. And the old fella sitting on a crate just sort of observing the farmers market. Both of whom had the same similar stories. First, that they had lived their whole lives in Butte. And second, they confirmed what I had initially suspected, and then quickly feared. That Evel Knievel was an asshole. He was a bad, bad man, they said. And not the kind of bad man that you love to hate. But just an asshole. To his wife, to his kids, and to his hometown.
So i guess it’s no surprise that there’s no mural of him. And no postcards or T-shirt’s in the souvenir shops. His kids are all still fighting over who has the rights to what, and various folks with claims to his estate have sued, or threatened to sue, anyone who uses his image to sell any trinkets that the town has pretty much turned it’s back on him. And this is a town that from looking around wouldn’t seem like it should turn it’s back on anyone or anything g that could give it a little shine. But even the old festival that celebrated his life “Evel Knievel Days” crashed and burned like his SkyCycle rocket did over the Snake River Canyon some 46 years ago. But they are healing. Healing their own wounds that this man inflicted upon the town and it’s citizens. To do so they have chosen to erase his memory, not to celebrate it.
So what’s left for the tourists who do roll through town? Well, there’s the Berkeley Pit, a former mine site that is now home to one of the most toxic pools of water in America. Over 40 BILLION gallons of toxic sludge, bubbling up from the depths of hell. They charge you $3 to walk through a 100 foot tunnel and stand on a viewing platform and look at it. And then on the far side of the “pit” there’s a water treatment plant which processes 5 million gallons a minute, that makes that water clean and releases it into a creek. That’s progress. And THAT’s what the people Of Butte are are proud of. And the other big attraction is the third largest statue in America. A carving of the Virgin Mary standing almost 100 feet tall high up in the Rockies on the Continental Divide. “Our lady of the Rockies”
For a little bit there I was sad that there was no Evel Knievel crap around town. But now I’m proud of Butte, and it’s people. And I realized the whole entire place is just a metaphor for America. So today, on the 244th birthday of this teeteringly great nation that we were born into, as the wind blows through my motorcycle hair, and I imagine blowing out the candles on a birthday cake shaped like the 50 states (and Puerto Rico!) I’ll be wishing that we can collectively agree to say “Fuck the pain of our past, and fuck the problems it’s given us, and let’s work on some solutions and some progress, and celebrate that!” America – fuck yeah!
The New Deal are an amazing band. When they busted onto the scene in 1999 with their Live-Progressive-Breakbeat-House they were the first band I championed HARD as the booker at Wetlands in NYC. I made it my personal mission ot break that band and it worked. Because they were undeniable, and all I had to do was make sure they got in front of the right audiences. And all they had to do was drive from Toronto to NYC on a weekly basis for six or seven months, and then VOILA – they were an overnight sensation!
At a recent board meeting at the New Deal HQ the directors Dan and Jamie voted unanimously to spice up their podcast with some manic NC17 energy and thought “We only have to make one call. Just like the olden days. THE SZUF.” But rather than have me drive to Toronto, I beamed in remotely from Butte, Montana birthplace of Evel Knievel.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a bunch of stories written about me and my exploits over the years. Sometimes I’ve even managed to sneak some truth into interviews! But this one takes the cake. I didn’t do an interview for this one. Didn’t even know it was coming. The writer has been a friend for a bunch of years and just dropped it on me the other day when he published it. I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was shocked. Then I read it and began to well up with pride. And a few tears. And lots of laughing out loud. Sometimes you need a reminder of how much you love being alive. And how much of a privilege it is to be able to lead such a wild life. This did that for me. In spades. I hope you enjoy it too. Also, WEAR A DAMN MASK!!!