The King's scepter!Evel Knievel's Famous Diamond-Studded Walking Stick with Hidden Liquor Compartment. The star-spangled jumpsuit will always be the most identifiable relic of Evel Knievel's larger-than-life persona, but the presented memento finishes just a half a bike length behind in that race. This perfect synthesis of form and function was Knievel's constant companion throughout most of his public life, held in his grip in just about any photograph in which his hands were not wrapped around the handlebars of a Harley. It was unquestionably a showman's tool, a nod to the Gilded Age that perfectly suited Knievel's celebrated bravado, but it was far more than simple affectation.
The walking stick served purposes both structural and pharmaceutical, each a necessity for a man for whom serious injury was the cost of doing business. While medical science was skilled in reassembling the jigsaw puzzle of Knievel's skeleton after his bone-jarring crashes, pain was a constant companion of the famed daredevil. When not needed for support, the top of the stick could be unscrewed to reveal a hollow interior just large enough for liquor-laden glass flasks to help douse the flames of Knievel's angry nerve endings, or to steady them before the next jump.
Knievel famously revealed the walking stick's secondary function to a national television audience during a February 1973 appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, coincidentally filmed during the same visit to Los Angeles for the Coliseum fifty-car jump in which he wore the motorcycle leathers likewise presented in this auction. We provide a link to that video in our online listing.
Making light of Carson sidekick Ed McMahon's reputation for boozing, Knievel unscrews the top of the cane as he explains to Johnny, "Well, it's for getting around, but I didn't want to come on the show and be second class, and since I heard that Ed was such a lush, I thought I'd bring him a little drink," handing him a corked glass flask of whiskey.
"A couple of canes of that," Carson quips, "and I'll go over fifty cars!"
The walking stick again makes a prominent national appearance on the cover of the September 2, 1974 of Sports Illustrated magazine, hyping the forthcoming Snake River Canyon jump that even Knievel himself doubted he would survive.
In that image we can see the diamond-studded top (3.90 carats in total), set into the gold-plated grip in the shape of a motorcyclist. An inch-wide collar just below, and the heel at the bottom of the shaft, are likewise gold-plated. The shaft itself is crafted from smooth black enamel, and contains three empty glass flasks with clear plastic caps, identical to the one handed to Ed McMahon.
The cane measures thirty-five and a half inches (35.5") in length and weighs twenty-two ounces (22 oz.). It exhibits the degree of handling wear one would expect from its long service to its iconic owner, but no flaws of any significant distraction. Like the motorcycle leathers, the walking stick is consigned to auction by the Knievel family directly, and will be accompanied by their personal letter of provenance. Letter of provenance from Knievel family.
The Evel Knievel Collection
Surely Death must have been surprised to find Evel Knievel waiting for him where he was, a white-haired sixty-nine-year old in a hospital bed in Clearwater, a sleepy town on the Gulf coast of Florida where retirees play golf and collect seashells on the beach. No roar of a XR-750 Harley-Davidson engine. No adoration of an anxious crowd. "All my life people have been waiting around to watch me die," Knievel once said, and throughout his career he kept his word with millions about just that possibility. On November 30, 2007, the end came far more "human" than anybody could have imagined.
Between 1965 and 1977, Evel Knievel attempted one hundred seventy-five ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps, and an unsuccessful crossing of Snake River Canyon in a steam-powered rocket. It's widely claimed that Knievel broke every bone in his body during the course of his perilous career, but the actual number is closer to thirty- five, still enough to earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
There are three great icons of American sport: Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Evel Knievel - each in his own way the embodiment of the country he transfixed. Each one of them was swollen to larger-than-life proportion with entirely justified confidence in his own, singular greatness. Each was as talented with his words as he was with showmanship, bravado and athleticism. Ruth had been universally loved, Ali far less so. Evel Knievel inhabited the complicated middle ground-a rebel, a gunslinger, and yet also a deeply generous person whose greatest fear was not injury or death, but rather failing to deliver on a promise. "The finest compliment you can pay a man," he said, "is that his word was as good as gold."
Certainly that was true for Knievel, who never looked out over the distances he would attempt to hurtle his motorcycle with absolute confidence that he would land safely on the other side. No matter the odds--ski jump ramps built up the sides of stadiums, sharks, rattlesnakes, canyons and buses--Evel Knievel would honor his appointment with destiny. The people had come out to watch him jump, dammit, and they were going to get their money's worth. Ask any main America over the age of forty the identity of the greatest daredevil that ever lived, and there is invariably only a single answer. It was Knievel's determination and imagination that truly set him apart as a one of a kind legend that has never been rivaled.
We are proud and incredibly privileged to celebrate one of the most extraordinary and risked lives in American history in this Platinum Night auction with Knievel's instantly recognizable, battle-borne red, white and blue leathers, and his famous walking cane needed to assist him from his many injuries. Each is consigned to auction by the Knievel family directly, and will be accompanied with their signed letter of provenance.
--Written by Kelly Knievel, Evel's son
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