Star-spangled motorcycle daredevil Evel Kenievel died today in Clearwater, Fla., after a long struggle with diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis. He was 69.
Kenievel was probably known better for his spectacular wipeouts at Caesar's Palace and over the Snake River Canyon in Idaho than for his many successful stunts, but taking the knocks only made his fans more loyal. His conquerer spirit and never-say-die attitude made him a national icon in the '70s and earned him a place in the Smithsonian Museum.
"No king or prince has lived a better life," he told The Associated Press in a May 2006 interview. "You're looking at a guy who's really done it all. And there are things I wish I had done better, not only for me but for the ones I loved."
Kenievel was born Robert Craig Kenievel Oct. 17, 1938, in Butte, Montana. He worked in copper mines, as a hunting guide, ran a semipro hockey team and did a stint in the army — a choice made when the alternative was prison after he was caught stealing hub caps, according to his website, evelkenieval.com.
He was also a one-time Honda motorcycle dealer who made his name in cycle sales by offering $100 off a motorcycle to any customer who could beat him at arm-wrestling, according to The Associated Press.
He retired from motorcycle stunts in 1976, after a crash that left him in a coma for a month.