Michael Deeds: Evel Knievel re-enactment looks like a face plant

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comMay 9, 2014 

Michael Deeds

With practice, it is possible to read news updates about this summer's rocket-powered motorcycle jump over the Snake River Canyon without rolling your eyes.

It is an impressive feat - the eyeball control, not the Twin Falls stunt. The planned event on the 40th anniversary of Evel Knievel's dying seagull imitation already feels like a Texas-sized face plant.

Make that a face palm.

If Lone Star State loony "Big" Ed Beckley hadn't paid the state nearly $1 million for a two-year lease on the canyon's edge in 2013, it would be easy to ignore. But the determined daredevil ponied up the dough. He keeps plowing through red tape from city and county government, which threatens not just to slow his momentum, but send his dream to the scrap heap.

This week, the Jerome County Commission finally approved the Sept. 7 event for 10,000 people, contingent upon complicated plans Beckley must quickly provide, along with a $50,000 bond. This comes after the Twin Falls City Council yanked the carpet out from under him and decided that no jump will occur this year from Knievel's original site.

The (Twin Falls) Times-News has covered the soap opera diligently. It summed up Big Ed's outlook May 6: "Despite the time crunch, not having a broadcast contract, having four broken ribs on the mend from a March crash, and with no rocket motorcycle yet to train on, Beckley said he is still ready to jump."

Of course he is. He should hire Eddie Van Halen to play keyboards, too.

It's hard not to cringe and cover your eyes. Big Ed, who seems like a bona fide character, will turn 64 this summer. Branding himself "the world's largest motorcycle jumper," he reportedly used to weigh more than 300 pounds, making him heavier than bikes he's straddled.

Big Ed doesn't look that elephantine now. He lost weight recovering from the crash in March, when he failed to clear nine cars during a New Mexico monster truck show.

Dude, if you can't get your rear in the air far enough to jump the drive-thru line at your local Taco Cabana, how are you going to get 2,860 feet across the Snake River Canyon? Not to mention touch down in one piece?

Maybe someone else should try the jump. A group of hopefuls with a local tie has been planning to use a steam-powered rocket to hurdle the Snake River Canyon exactly one weekend before Big Ed.

What? You didn't realize that there was a thunder-stealing jump scenario nearby, and that it, too, was approved by county commissioners - much to the city council's chagrin?

Welcome to Twin, baby.

A recent Times-News article about this seemingly dysfunctional team included the words and phrases "in-fighting," "name-calling," "blackmail," "hostile takeover," "Charlie Sheen" and "Slash, former lead guitarist of Guns N' Roses."

Um, I wouldn't hold my breath on that rocket launching. If you want an Evel Knievel re-enactment, I'd say it looks more like Big Ed or bust.

The bust part is what ought to make Idahoans wince, and not just at the thought of Big Ed's Geritol-age bones. This Snake River Canyon fiasco, including the Twin Falls and Jerome County governments guiding its flight path, has appeared fractured, if not broken, from the start.

Here's an idea, Big Ed: Move the stunt to Boise. Park officials won't allow beer sales on the site, but I'm pretty sure you could win approval to rope swing across the Boise River. Because whatever direction this thing goes - Snake River, Boise River, no jump at all - I have a feeling that you're going to wind up all wet, bud.


• If you haven't done it yet, time is running out to vote in Best of Treasure Valley. The Idaho Statesman's annual readers poll, going strong since 1988 (when it was launched as Best of Boise), runs through Tuesday, May 13, at IdahoStatesman.com/BOTV.

• The new Whiskey Bar, 509 Main St. in Boise, was supposed to open May 1. Construction delays have pushed it to May 15 May 22.

• Concert update: Conor Oberst has been booked Sept. 27 at the Knitting Factory; The Pimps of Joytime are headed to Visual Arts Collective on June 20.

• I'm firing up giveaways on my blog again. Current contest: Free tickets to the Old 97's at the Knit on May 14. Next up: Chris Robinson Band on May 20 at the Knit.

Michael Deeds' column runs Fridays in Scene. He co-hosts "The Other Studio" at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News.

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