Sunday, November 30, 2008

Evel Dead III: Army of Darkness

It was one year ago today that Evel Knievel died. Here's what's happened since.

For a guy who supposedly lived like a king, his finances were a disaster. At the time of his death, an outstanding liability to Evel's beating victim Sheldon Saltman had reached an estimated $64 million, while another $5 million forgery and breach-of-contract claim was being sought by R. Gary Schreiber, the guy who financed Evel's phony painting career. However, Evel's assets amounted to a measly $12,500, all of which he left to second wife Krystal Kennedy-Knievel (they divorced in 2002, yet remained a couple 'til his death, and she is generally considered his "widow"). Nothing was left to his four children, ten grandchildren, or great-grandchild, and it's unlikely that Saltman or Schreiber will get anything either, as Evel's estate has no financial incentive to promote his image.

Less than a year after burying Evel, Krystal reportedly married a Butte bartender, and is currently auctioning off many of her inherited items. It's mostly clothing and household stuff from their motorhome, but there's also a pair of breathing machines, an oxygen tote bag ("with accessories and hose"), purple crutches, a back brace ("worn after his last back fusion surgery"), a glucose monitoring system, a stethoscope, sunglasses ("some broken"), an electric shaver, a hairbrush, and a case of Evel Knievel hot sauce. Item I'd most want: "Large box of Evel Knievel fan mail -- mostly unopened."

Krystal recently denied knowledge that Evel had been investigated by the FBI, even though he wrote about it in his 1999 autobiography, Evel Ways: "I got a lot of help from the so-called Chicago mob... the FBI investigated my friendship with (Joey) Lombardo, (Tony) Accardo and (Jackie) Cerone." According to Evel's 290-page FBI file, made public in October, investigators believed he was involved in various threats and beatings carried out by his associates in San Francisco and Kansas City during the '70s. The feds supposedly came close to charging Evel, to which Evel threatened with a countersuit, though neither sides followed through.

On a lighter note, a couple of projects planned before his death came to fruition: a creepy wax figure was unveiled at Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas, and the Evel Knievel roller coaster opened at Six Flags St. Louis.

The Knievel spoofs continue apace, faster than I've been able to update my Knievel Comedy page, including Sweet Johnny, a daredevil played by David Arquette on a recent My Name is Earl, Johnny Vegas, a BBC promotional character, and Jackass Johnny Knoxville, who suffered a torn urethra while playing Evel as host of Mat Hoffman's Tribute to Evel Knievel... In the upcoming movie Bedtime Stories, Adam Sandler plays a chariot driver in ancient Rome who jumps ramp-to-ramp over a line of elephants (trailer)... A SkyCycle flugtag crashed into the River Thames (video)... Another Evel (rock?) opera was staged, this time in Minnesota... In April, on David Letterman's "Top Ten Ways George W. Bush Can Improve His Approval Rating" list, number five was "Jump Snake River in rocket powered 'SkyCycle'" (number seven was "Change name to Barack W. Obusha")... Say, that reminds me -- did you hear the one about Ku Klux Knievel? It's a racist joke that made the rounds in the '70s, and a variation reared its ugly head in several of my Google "Knievel" news alerts during the recent presidential campaign. The updated punchline? "He's going to try to jump 2,000 Obama supporters with a steamroller." Then these jerks fleshed it out into a faux news story. Not funny, but I'd also not be doing my job if I didn't report it.

So, what's next? Robbie has safely done six jumping performances in the last year, and now the 46-year-old plans a New Year's Eve jump over an erupting "volcano" at the Mirage hotel/casino on the Vegas strip for a FOX TV special. Otherwise, I'm curious to see how that $5 million Schreiber suit plays out.

Final note: The occupation listed on Evel's death certificate? "Daredevil." And now he's with baby Jesus!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Tenth, Powerpuff Girls!

Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup hit the big one-oh today.

The very first Powerpuff Girls episode aired on the Cartoon Network on November 18, 1998. The series lasted six seasons, and at its best was as clever and smart as its more successful contemporaries, including King of the Hill, South Park, and the mighty Simpsons. (Certainly it's the cutest cartoon of all time.) However, it just hasn't had as lasting an impact. Maybe if they had rocked more tunes, like in the bitchin' video above...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cool Connections #1: The Simpsons Do the New York Times Crossword

As I've said before, I love it when cool pop-culture worlds collide -- Ichiro meets Bigfoot, Batman meets Bartman, etc. -- so I'm gonna make this a semi-regular feature, joining the Bubblegum Cards of the Week, the Now I've Seen Everythings, the We Hardly Knew Yes, and various Happy Birthdays.

So I read here that Merle Reagle created today's Will Shortz-edited New York Times crossword puzzle, with tonight's Simpsons episode in mind. Lisa enters a crossword tournament, but Homer bets against her. Later, after the two "cross words," Homer asks Reagle and Shortz (who appear as themselves) help him make amends.

Spoiler alert!

After solving today's puzzle (with a little outside help), and then reading here that "Homer puts a secret message to Lisa in the diagonals, which you see at the end of the episode," I uncovered this: DUMB DAD SORRY FOR HIS BET.

The answers also include a BART and a DOH ("d'oh" sans apostrophe), which could be referenced in tonight's episode too. Hopefully there'll be some other crossword-themed surprises in the show, or better yet, The Simpsons will surprise me with an overall quality episode, something that's long overdue.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bubblegum Card of the Week: Obama Redux

Lookin' good, Mr. President-Elect!

He's the first BCOTW repeat offender -- here's his initial entry.

Gleaned from this list of fifty things you might not know about Barack Obama, it turns out we both like Spider-Man, Muhammad Ali, Mac laptops (his has a Pac-Man sticker!), Moby-Dick, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (the movie), Bob Dylan, hybrids, and Scrabble. We also have the same shoe size (11), but sadly, I've never had a pet ape.

This design is based on the 1952 Topps baseball card.

Read more here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote Early, Vote Obama!

The Southside southpaw's already taken Dixville Notch!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pants, Ducks, Valued Squirrel

A bunch of stuff from the last few days...

Here's the CCTV HQ under construction. Aptly nicknamed "The Pants," it was designed by Rem Koolhaus, architect of the Seattle Central Library. I find the library's spiral layout confusing -- hopefully the Pants'll be easier to navigate.

And here I am on the floor of the Olympic stadium, standing in front of an inflatable likeness of Huanhuan, one of the five Olympic mascots. Cute, but they got nothin' on Quatchi. We also looked inside the Water Cube next door, where Michael Phelps won all his medals.

We spent some time shopping, both in shopping malls and flea markets...

Here's Eliza, taking a noodle and beer break. Pretty much everything we've eaten has been great -- wonton soup, noodle soup, these pancake things, these crepe things, fried fish, dumplings, Milk Chewy, Japan Boat, Beard Papas, bean sprout burrito things, corn, and a bunch of other stuff I don't quite know how to describe. We passed on the sea horses, starfish, and scorpions.

By far the best thing we've eaten is the famous Peking duck. Eliza poses outside the alleyway sign for the restaurant. It was killer.

Alright. It's 10 a.m. Monday -- a few more hours here before our flight home. We should be in Seattle by midnight.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008


Ni hao!

Yesterday we took a three-hour drive out of town and a 17-minute ride up a gondola lift to the Great Wall of China -- the Chinese call it El Wall Grande. For a few hours we walked across and around an approximate two-mile stretch of its 4,000-mile length. It's pretty big.

On the way back to the gondola, Eliza found this funny button.

Last night I tracked down that bowling alley I mentioned yesterday. It was part of this larger nightlife mall -- a big block of nightclubs and karaoke spots and so forth all under one roof. The bowling house was pretty much like any other, except for the Chinese ads, the Goofy sculptures, and next to the pro shop, a lingerie store (?!). I didn't actually bowl -- I was alone, I didn't have my own gear, and I was pretty beat after a long day.

Okay, we're gonna do more stuff today.

Xie xie!