Evel Knievel Had a Surprisingly Tame Side Job
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Evel Knievel certainly was no ordinary man. His name conjures up images of over-the-top daredevil stunts too outrageous to ignore. He spent years entertaining the masses with his bone-breaking, life-risking performances during which he often crashed. It was something no one ever wanted to miss.
Knievel's knack for absurdly dangerous theatrics had his fans cringing even as they cheered him on. Flying over a rattlesnake-infested pit or jumping over parked delivery trucks on the back of a motorcycle was his schtick. Whether it was bravery or foolhardiness is hard to say.
Who is Evel Knievel?
Evel Knievel was born as Robert Craig Knievel, Jr. in the copper-mining town of Butte, Montana in 1938. He was a decent athlete in school but struggled with book learning. He eventually dropped out of school and was soon getting in trouble for vandalism and petty robbery.
Knievel joined the U.S. Army Reserves in the 1950s where he volunteered for paratrooper training. He returned home to Butte at the age of 19 after his stint in the Reserves. Knievel found himself drifting again, playing semi-pro hockey for a while and taking up motorcycle racing.
It wasn't until he settled down and married Linda Bork in 1959 that Knievel started thinking about going straight. He was still recovering from injuries sustained from his motorcycle racing. He also feared the authorities were getting wise to some of his most recent schemes. It was at this point he decided to turn his life around, at least for a little while.
Evel Knievel becomes a top insurance salesman
Evel Knievel was never afraid to make changes or try something new. He realized he had to support his family despite his devil-may-care, thrill-seeking attitude. It was in the summer of 1962 when he chose to try his hand at selling insurance for the Combined Insurance Company of America.
Knievel's natural charisma and innate confidence worked well for him. He easily adopted the positive reinforcement theories and sales tactics he learned about in his initial training. Before long, Knievel established himself as one of the company's most successful salesmen in the Montana area. But Robert Knievel had his eye on bigger things.
According to Mental Floss, Knievel's ultimate goal was to become the vice president of the insurance company. When he was overlooked for the promotion, he quickly quit his job.
The more sedate life of being a traveling salesman had finally lost its appeal to him. Though Knievel remained adrift for a while, he eventually found his way back to the daredevil motorcycle world he seemed destined to conquer.
Earning his legendary daredevil moniker
It all started while Knievel was working in a motorcycle shop in Wyoming and got an idea for a car-jumping stunt. The stunt failed but the gathered crowd went wild. Knievel saw a career opportunity and started planning for longer-distance and more spectacular motorcycle jumps. It was a bone-breaking decision the public happily embraced.
In 1967, Knievel attempted a 150-foot jump over the fountains at the entrance of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. He didn't make it, but watched in fascination as his popularity soared while he recovered in the hospital. Evel Knievel became a household name in the 1970s as he continued to push his brand as well as his airborne feats.
Knievel took advantage of television coverage and publicity to launch a spectacular jump across the Snake River Canyon. It was a daring feat and a sight to behold. Knievel's unflinching optimism helped him successfully sell insurance. It also may be why he never doubted he could accomplish his next big jump.
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