Evel Knievel's Life May Jump Into Opera

Evel Knievel is shown in his rocket before his failed attempt at a highly promoted 3/4-mile leap across Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho, on Sept. 8, 1974. The jump failed when the parachute on his rocket malfunctioned, opening prematurely. Knievel was uninjured. AP

Former professional daredevil Evel Knievel has signed over exclusive rights to allow the production of "Evel Knievel: the Rock Opera."

Jef Bek, a musical director and composer with the small Los Angeles theater company Zoo District, recently flew to Clearwater, Florida, to gain Knievel's blessings after working for two years on the project.

Knievel, 64, said he instantly liked Bek and his seven-song demo and signed over rights to stage his story.

"I think it's a wonderful compliment," said Knievel, who gained fame in the 1970s by jumping his motorcycle over cars and canyons. His daredevil career left him with 37 fractures, including broken bones in both legs, before he retired in 1980.

Bek, 40, said he envisions the rock opera as an homage to Knievel and to the musical spirit of 1970s bands such as The Who, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Knievel inspired a 12-year-old Bek to become a stunt rider while he was growing up in Des Plaines, Illinois, but Bek said he abandoned that dream after riding his bicycle into a tree stump.

"He was a living superhero," Bek said. "He knows I get him, and he knows I understand what's really significant about his legacy."
  • Lloyd Vries

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