I heard a passing reference to the late motorcycle stunt impresario Evel Knievel last week that brought back a lot of memories. In a way that would perhaps boggle the mind of younger people, Knievel was a significant pop culture presence in my youth; it seemed that he was forever on the brink of some motorcycle-jumping grand feat or another.
For reasons I cannot explain, I have a very strong memory of seeing the 1977 film Viva Knievel! in the Empire Theatre in Cochrane, Ontario shortly after it was released.
With the help of my brothers and my parents I was able to narrow down the timing of our 1977 visit to Cochrane, to my maternal grandparents, to the middle of August, and then, with the help of the excellent Cochrane Public Library, I was able to request a scan of the movie listings from The Northland Post for that week. And, sure enough:
I am fascinated by films like this that bridge the generations: Viva Knievel! starred not only the eponymous Knievel, but also Gene Kelly, Laurent Hutton and Red Buttons, actors who seem like they should exist in a different time stream than Evel Knievel but clearly don’t (see also Ethel Merman on The Love Boat, playing the role of Gopher’s mother and singing a song from A Chorus Line).
That 1977 trip to Cochrane saw us continue on from Cochrane to Winnipeg; I was 11 years old, and it was perhaps the most of epic of the family camping trips we took when I was a kid. Perhaps that’s why I remember Viva Knievel! so strongly.