Prior to Star Wars, from the ages of 4 to 6, I was obsessed with Evel Knievel. First lunchbox? Evel Knievel lunchbox. First watch? Evel Knievel watch (white patent leather strap with blue stars, Evel popping a wheelie on the watch face). First major toy that I specifically requested and received for my birthday? Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle & Gyro Rev-Booster (see below).
Love the claim: "Jumps your set of Encyclopedias Volumes A through W." Because while Evel is a daredevil, he's not foolhardy enough to try to jump X, Y and Z. Mostly, he jumped Hot Wheels and Matchbox Cars in my bedroom on Old Hickory Road. Though it was mid-70s suburbia, I was fortunate to have hardwood floors in my bedroom instead of carpet. Like most of my toys from that era, I'm pretty sure it was eventually broken by Kevin from across the street. Stupid Kevin.
I never saw myself as a daredevil, even when I was a kid, but the thought that I too might grow up to wear red, white and blue jumpsuits seemed reasonable.
This article, originally from 1998, republished recently on HiLoBrow, reminded me of the bizarre, unique place held by Evel Knievel in my childhood and in American culture. I wish the biopic movie staring Matthew McConaughey had been made.