This summer, Evel Knievel told Lane DeGregory, a St. Pete reporter, he wanted to go back for Evel Knievel Days in Butte. And then die.
As if promoting his final appearances ever, Evel once again delivered.
On Sunday, I drove the 13 hours from Portland to Butte for this, arriving at 2 a.m. MDT. During that stretch, I listened to 18 podcasts of Fresh Air while my back molded into my driver’s seat. Thanks, Terry, for keeping me focused and awake.
Once in my hotel, I read online that they expected so many people at the public viewing of Evel that they were going to open doors at 7 a.m. Monday instead of 8. So, I got only about 4 hours of rest before arriving at the Butte Civic Center.
Like many of Evel’s shows, the hype was greater than reality. Here’s the packed parking lot.
Things did progress as the morning went along. I realized, though, that sometimes time is not helpful for photo ops. Evel wasn’t going anywhere, doing anything different. I felt like I was trying to find the best way to photograph still art in photo class.
(the blur was an accident, btw)
There were some restrictions on access (nothing from the stage or more importantly from the catwalk above the casket). What was the photo?
I was trying for something that kind of summed up all aspects of this weird scene, which included Christmas trees, American flags, Evel’s pickup truck and intermittent foot traffic. Oh, and Evel himself.
I did what I could to get out of my way, simply photograph whatever summed up the event.
The uber creepy Rev. Robert Schuler was there. He hosted Evel recently on the TV. Also there, surprisingly, was actor Matthew McConaughey, a devout fan of Evel. Random, very random.
“Being on the earth is sometimes a lot harder than being in the air,” McConaughey said. “Coming back down could be living hell sometimes. But he’s forever in flight now and he doesn’t have to come back down.”
I bumped into Butte native Holly Pickett. She’s leaving the Spokesman-Review to explore freelance photography in Egypt.
I could tell that she’s pretty nervous about this decision. Recently turning 30 (welcome to the group), Holly said she had been thinking about it for awhile and didn’t want to have any regrets in her life.
Sounds like a Slam Fucking Dunk (TM) decision to me.
Shit, Egypt sounds pretty awesome, in fact.
I told her that all great life-defining decisions are ones like this, that she’ll look back on it as a no-brainer. I realized I was also trying to reassure myself. I know all too well that while in the present, it’s a hard decision to pass on stability.
I’m quite certain that Evel had many regrets in his life. But he also took many, many chances and believed in himself. Did he ever!
So maybe there was some good in Evel after all.
Holly, after you arrive in Cairo, find out how to say “Slam Fucking Dunk” for me in Arabic, OK??