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Evel Knievel Exhibition, Gateshead Metrocentre. 4/12/10


You probably don’t need me to tell you, that the Metrocentre can be the worst kind of hell, at the best of times. Throw in, December and then sprinkle with, eight days of continuous snow, to really snarl up the traffic and you’ve created the perfect, “Nightmare before Christmas.” So why the hell am I advocating that you go there?… because dear reader, in a non-descript upper floor, corner shop of the Red Mall, next to the ineptly named “Town Centre,” something very, very special has appeared, and not only that, but it’s only going to be there for a few weeks and you will never see the likes of it again! It is quite literally… the stuff of legend.

During the 70’s, we had celebrities, superstars and an elite group of what can only be described as phenomenon… mega stars, with larger than life personalities, that lived such incredibly, outrageous lives that we wondered if they were actually real at all! Real life super heroes. I’m talking about the holy trinity of Elvis, Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel of course, and in this hideous corner of lesser Wickham we can now, (for a limited period,) get a little glimpse into the utterly fascinating life of one of them. Mr Danger himself, Evel Knievel.

When I was a kid, I was completely nuts about this bloke and I wasn’t alone. There can’t be many kids to make it out of the 70’s without a broken bone, missing tooth or a scar as a direct result of having, launched their push bikes, off ill-conceived ramps made of block-board and house bricks, and it was all down to this guy. The original daredevil, stunt man, and Godfather of extreme sports, famed the world over for his incredible motorbike leaps and spectacular crashes. Add to this, a smattering of urban myth and a must have toy in the form of IDEAL’s, Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle,  and his mega star status was secured.

The exhibition is really quite incredible, for a start there’s a Dragster… a real full size Evel Knievel, paint job, Dragster, parked right outside and inside there’s the X-2 Skycycle,  a one man rocket, for want of a better description, that Evel spectacularly attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon in, after being refused permission to jump the Grand Canyon, it’s still bashed in, at the front too, where it hit the Canyon wall on the way down. Just to remind you… this isn’t a Hollywood prop… the guy actually launched himself over a canyon in that thing!

But there’s even more…  another rocket bike and two more Harley’s are on show, one of which is the actual XR-750 that he attempted to jump over a tank of sharks with. But the thing that got me, the thing that really makes this exhibition special is the suits… real super heroes stuff, one even has a cape! There’s even the blue suit from the spectacular Wembley Stadium bus jump (and crash), not that I knew it was blue at the time, since I watched it on a black and white telly. I can still recall, after that horrendous landing, and despite breaking his pelvis, he refused to be carried out on a stretcher and wanted to walk off!!! And to reinforce that, just to the left of these iconic suits, there stands a model skeleton, covered in red stripes, each stripe indicating a break… the school boy rumour was that Evel Knievel had broke every bone in his body, well it’s not far from the truth, it was a record breaking 37 bones, what I didn’t realise until today, however, was that he’d broken those bones so many times in so many different places… harrowing stuff. But the point was… he got back up! Fixed himself up and then went out and did it all over again!

The rest of the shop and walls are filled with posters and photographs and helmets, magazines, clippings and models, there’s even a wall mounted TV screen, replaying interviews and his (still) spectacular jumps. And of course it wouldn’t quite be Evel Knievel, without the gift shop, mostly T-shirts, though I did buy a mini-stunt cycle, just for old times’ sake.

So… a fascinating collection of extreme sports memorabilia that you really have to try and make the effort to go and see. It’s on, right through December, before it heads off in a spectacular, Evel Knievel truck to Europe. It’s in the Red Mall on the first floor; I recommend you go very early to avoid the Christmas crowds and the hideous traffic.

The bonus was, we met and grabbed an interview with Kelly Knievel, Evel’s eldest son, who had flown in for the opening, which you can read in this post here,


We’ve also got a little COMPETITION, with some Evel Knievel, T-shirt prizes up for grabs, (medium) So if you’d like to be the lucky recipient,  just tell us how may buses Evel Knievel jumped at Wembley Stadium in 1975  and then e-mail your answer to us at mail@thenorthernline, before 12 Noon on Saturday 11th December, when we’ll pull out 3 lucky names at random. We’ll also chuck in some Northern Line goodies too.


By Dave on December 6, 2010

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