PODCAST: Evel Knievel

Evel Knievel Direct Download the MP3

Listen to this week’s Final Taxi podcast as I talk about one of my childhood heroes. I interview several fans about how he touched their lives.

Read Full Blog on Evel:
Evel Knievel Jumps The River Styx

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Sex and lingerie models selling coffins?

Over the past two decades, the use of increasingly explicit sexual appeals in consumer-oriented print advertising has become almost commonplace. Sexuality is considered one of the most powerful tools of marketing and particularly advertising. Post-advertising sales response studies have shown it can be very effective for attracting immediate interest, holding that interest, and, in the context of that interest, introducing a product that somehow correlates with that interest.

So what is the correlation between lingerie models and caskets?

Half naked women and their coffins

“Coffins are consumer goods like any other things, so I sell in the same way as any other consumer goods are sold.” says  Maurizio Matteucci, owner of the Cofanifunebri undertakers in Rome, Italy.

What Matteucci has done is to produce a calendar that shows women in sexy underwear posing with his coffins. Pictures of 12 pouting women showing off the caskets are on the firm’s website.

He said: “The calendar is very popular. It is good marketing but it is also but also a way to play down such a serious subject and to smile.”

On the other side of the scale the new 2008 Men of Mortuaries calendar is out now. This is a spin-off of the traditional “hunks” calendars, it features funeral directors and morticians from across the country. I had wrote about them in an earlier blog.

Favorite Christmas Movies – Thank You Very Much, Anton Rodgers !

There are thousands of Christmas movies out there and everyone seems to have a favorite.
It’s one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit by dusting off your favorite Christmas films and watching Rudolph, Charlie Brown, Ralphie, Clark Griswold, Ebenezer Scrooge, and other classic characters as they celebrate the yuletide season.

Among the top holiday classics includes that one that we see every year on TV for 24 hours straight. It does not have Jack Bauer, but it does have Ralphie and his family along with at leg lamp. “A Christmas Story” had been around since 1983 and has become a must see every year for many families. The director of that movie Bob Clark took his Final Taxi earlier this year. ( Look for the Bob Clark podcast on Finaltaxi.com) “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”

Another favorite is the James Stewart and Donna Reed movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. This is my wife’s favorite Christmas movie but I can watch it anytime of the year. It tells that each of our lives are important and without one of us the whole world can change.

Other Christmas favorites include Miracle On 34th Street, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Bells Of St. Marys , Ill Be Home For Christmas , Scrooged, Earnest Saves Christmas , White Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation to name just a few.

TV shows get into the season as well. What is Christmas without a few Rankin-Bass animagic cartoons? Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer is a must see classic every year as well as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. I love the Charlie Brown’s Christmas and Frosty the Snowman. How many TV series have done Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol? I remember the Flintstones, The Simpsons, Mr. Magoo and even BlackAdder meeting the three spirits of Christmas.

All this talk about Christmas movies is to tell you that my all time favorite Christmas movie is called Scrooge.

Scrooge was a 1970 musical film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic 1843 story, A Christmas Carol. It was filmed in London, directed by Ronald Neame, and starred Albert Finney in the title role. The film’s musical score was composed by Leslie Bricusse and Ian Fraser. With eleven musical arrangements interspersed throughout, the award-winning motion picture is a faithful musical retelling of the original, with one exception. That one departure from the novel takes place during the visit of The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. In a nightmarish scene, Scrooge falls, screaming, through his own open grave, through a seemingly bottomless shaft, and into the very bowels of hell, where Marley tells him of his appointment as Lucifer’s personal clerk. The frightened Scrooge’s massive chain arrives on the backs of several burly, hooded “demons” who wrap it around him, fairly crushing him to the floor, amid his futile cries to Marley for help. This scene is so intense that it is often edited or censored from television airings. I was a very small child when I saw it and it scared me silly.

One musical number received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. The piece was called Thank You Very Much. During it Scrooge is unaware that he is seeing his own funeral in the future. He finds everyone singing and dancing on his coffin. The ring leader and main singer is Tom Jenkins, played by actor Anton Rodgers .

Anton Rodgers has taken his Final Taxi at the age of 74 on December 1 2007.

Anton was known for his television performances, specifically his long-running roles in the television sitcoms Fresh Fields and May to December. However, he has also had a long career as an actor on both stage and film. Onstage he ranged from contemporary comedy and satirical farce to Restoration comedy, Ibsen, Shaw and Wilde, and Peter Nichols. He appeared in films such as The Fourth Protocol (1987), The Day of the Jackal (1973), and Son of the Pink Panther (1993). He was also in the Frank Oz film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) where he played Inspector Andre along side Steve Martin and Michael Cane.
He was married to the actress Elizabeth Garvie, whom he met while filming the 1982 drama series, Something in Disguise.

Thank you very much, Anton Rodgers.

I am sure there are several other Christmas movies or TV shows that I have missed. What is you favorite holiday film? What movie or show gets you in the Christmas mood?

Evel Knievel Jumps The River Styx

Alabama is the home of the best in college football and NASCAR’s Talladega Superspeedway, but nestled in the middle of the state is the Barber Motorsports Park and the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. The 144,000-square foot, four-story museum, which is just a few miles outside of Birmingham, includes the world’s largest collection of vintage and modern day motorcycles and the largest collection of Lotus race cars.

The museum and collection is the brainchild of George Barber, a resident of Birmingham and the former owner of Barber Dairy one of the largest dairies in Alabama. Barber who raced sports cars in the early 1960s, started out collecting cars, but soon turned his attention to motorcycles in 1989. In the intervening years, he has gathered examples of some of the most significant bikes in existence. Barber began to purchase entire collections, housing them in a nondescript old building that had once been used for the maintenance of milk delivery trucks. As the number of motorcycles grew, the exhibit was opened to the general public. Eventually, almost ten thousand visitors a week were coming to see “that dairy farmer’s motorcycle collection.”

Barber built the current museum at The Barber Motorsports Park which opened September 19, 2003 with a collection that now has over 900 vintage and modern motorcycles.

A few years after it opened Barber met someone who is considered a legend in the field of motorsports, Evel Knievel. Knievel is the flamboyant motorcycle stuntman whose thrilling triumphs and spectacular failures enshrined him as America’s consummate daredevil.

Evel Knievel survived at least 38 broken bones, multiple concussions and countless abrasions acquired in daring jumps that ended in unplanned crashes, but he did not escape the Final Taxi at 69.

He was born Robert Craig Knievel in Butte, Montana, on Oct. 17, 1938. He was always getting into trouble and once after one particular police chase in 1956 in which he crashed his motorcycle, Knievel was taken to jail on a charge of reckless driving. When the night jailer came around to check the roll, he noted Robert Knievel in one cell and William Knofel in the other. Knofel was well known as “Awful Knofel” (“Awful” rhyming with “Knofel”) so Knievel began to be referred to as Evel Knievel. He chose this misspelling both because of his last name and because he didn’t want to be considered “evil”.

Knievel opened a Honda motorcycle dealership in Moses Lake, Wash., in 1965, hyping sales by offering a $100 discount to anyone who could beat him at arm wrestling. That same year, he started Evel Knievel’s Motorcycle Daredevils. They toured the Western states as a latter-day mechanized rodeo. However, one by one the riders dropped out, unwilling to keep up with someone whose idea of crowd-pleasing was being strapped to a parachute and then towed behind a drag-racer at 200 miles per hour.

Knievel made his name in America with a single jump in Las Vegas in 1968. Accelerating up a ramp, he soared his motorcycle upwards 141 feet over the ornamental fountains outside the Caesar’s Palace hotel. On landing, he pulverized his spine and pelvis and had to walk with crutches for the next year. His gained popularity led Knievel to tell people he would one day jump the Grand Canyon.

In February 1971, still not fully recovered, he broke his own distance record by jumping 150 feet to clear 19 cars placed side-to-side. On the flight back to Butte, he was told the US government would not allow a Grand Canyon jump. Knievel looked out the window and saw Snake River Canyon and decided to jump it instead. Knievel then hired former NASA engineer Robert Truax to design and build the X-2 Skycycle. During two test jumps, the rocket failed to make it all the way across the canyon. Knievel said that there would be no more tests and that he would go ahead with the scheduled jump on September 8, 1974.

The event was only available through pay-per-view. During the jump the parachute accidentally deployed when the three 1/4 inch bolts holding the cover for the chute sheared off with the force of the skycycle blast. The wind began to cause it to drift back as the skycycle turned on its side and started to descend into the canyon. Knievel survived the failed jump with only minor injuries.

Knievel decided to retire after a jump in the winter of 1976 in which he was again seriously injured. He suffered a concussion and broke both arms in an attempt to jump a tank full of live sharks in the Chicago Amphitheater. By 1981, Knievel’s son Robbie had taken over the daredevil act.

Knievel made somewhat of a marketing comeback in the 1990s, representing Maxim Casino, Little Caesar’s and Harley-Davidson among other companies. In 1999, Knievel was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

While on tour with the Evel Knievel rolling museum he came to Alabama and visited George Barber’s Vintage Motorsports Museum. Knievel and Barber hit it off immediately.
I talked with Lee Woehle, librarian of Barber’s Vintage Motorsports Museum, who is a self professed Evel Knievel fan. She remembers that day when he toured the museum. She said “It was like meeting an icon. I was surprised by the how fragile he looked at the time. He looked all of his age when he came to meet with us. You could see all the crashes and breaks had taken a toll on him.”

Woehle said she believes that Knievel helped to get motorsports a name and helped get it noticed on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and other programs.

Others visitors at the museum when I visited agreed with her. Kent Landerdale from Opelika said he not only helped the sport, but Harley Davidson. “I don’t think that company would have survived if Evel Knievel not used them. He had that big number 1 on the side. Most people didn’t know the abuse they could take or the extra springs that they had.”

Ty Bragg from Jemison brought his boys out for the day to Barber’s. When I asked the youngsters if they knew who Evel Knievel was they could not tell me, but Ty knew. “I remember being their age and watching the Snake River jump. My friends and I would take our bikes and do jumps to try and be like him. He was a hero and we wanted to be like him. I had toys and action figures and I wish I still had them today.”

Everyone agreed on one thing, Knievel showed the true American spirit. Lee Woehle said “The crashes we saw were pretty bad, but what was cool is that he came back every time. He was a survivor. We all received an inspiration from Evel Knievel.”