When Evel Knievel came to town…


Evel Knievel has an almost mystical significance for many.

We’re not sure why. There’s something in the period of time in which the mentalist motorbike jumper was operating in – could it have been an extended comedown from the sixties? And could it have been the ridiculously balls-out Americana of it all?


This was at a time of course, when the horror of Vietnam was coming home to roost and California culture, in the form of skateboarding and custom cars and drag racing, was reaching its first apogee of popularity. All that was star spangled and Disney tainted and fundamentally OTHER than the humdrum workadayitude of life was good.


And boy was Evel Knievel other than that.

Whatever caused it, Evel Knievel’s otherworldly status was unassailable. To think of actually meeting the man was ridiculous – it would have been the equivalent today of what….. We’re not sure that celebrity status draws on the same mythic roots as those that nourished the Knievel myth.


So when Evel Knievel came to Cooperville, Oklahoma to jump the cars at Jackie Cooper’s Oldsmobile dealership – the whole state turned up to witness it – and local amateur lenswoman Patty Roloff photographed it all. The pictures are compiled in a rare and unique book compiled by Patty’s grandson Garrett Colton.

The process of Evel’s transmogrification into totem can be traced – probably most coherently – by looking at the documents. It’s a valuable and important piece of material culture.

pics: Garrett Colson