'Factor' TV Icon: Evel Knievel

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 25, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

Watch "The O'Reilly Factor" weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the "Radio Factor!"

LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: We wrap things up tonight with a very special "Factor TV Icon" for you.

Daredevil Evel Knievel rocketed onto the scene in the 1960s, performing death-defying stunts on his motorcycle that mesmerized the American public and inspired an entire generation of stuntmen. Late last year the legend died after years of suffering from a lung ailment. He was only 69 years old.

Bill spoke with Evel Knievel a few years before his death.



EVEL KNIEVEL, DAREDEVIL: My name is Evel Knievel. I'm a professional daredevil.


O'REILLY: I noticed you were walking very gingerly as you came in here. You're really in a lot of pain constantly.

KNIEVEL: I've kind of learned to live with the pain through the years.

O'REILLY: Was it worth it?

KNIEVEL: Well, I don't think I'd do anything different.

O'REILLY: Really?

KNIEVEL: Maybe go a little faster for some of the jumps.

O'REILLY: Now, did you do this for the money? You made an awful lot of money in your life. Is that the primary motivation for all the stunts that you did?

KNIEVEL: No. I don't think anyone would want to go through what I went through and get up and continue on for the money. It was something I wanted to do.

O'REILLY: Well, what drove you?

KNIEVEL: Well, that's a hard question to ask. What you're asking is why we do what we do in life. And that's one of the toughest things in the world to answer.

O'REILLY: I know why I do this. D you know why you did that?

KNIEVEL: Well, I don't...


KNIEVEL: I wasn't looking for anything but just a way to make a living.


KNIEVEL: I decided to fly through the air and live in the sunlight and enjoy life as much as I could.


O'REILLY: And why did you do that dopey thing over the grand — the Snake River? I remember that.

KNIEVEL: Why would you call it dopey?

O'REILLY: Because you knew you weren't going to make it.

KNIEVEL: No, that's not so. I thought I was going to make it.

O'REILLY: In that rocket thing?

KNIEVEL: I was tied into it. They thought I'd make it across very easily. I had a malfunction on blastoff.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a good one. Evel, stay with the bird. He looks like he's — whoa, there's been a mistake. He looks like he's going into the canyon.


O'REILLY: But you really felt that you were going to make it?

KNIEVEL: I waited seven years, and it cost me $2 million. You don't think I did it just to go in the middle of the canyon, do you?

O'REILLY: No, but you made a lot of money on that, didn't you?

KNIEVEL: Maybe that was guilty... I made about $20 million on it.

O'REILLY: Twenty million bucks on that?

KNIEVEL: My business, all you need to do is be alive to collect when it was over.

O'REILLY: That's right. But see, when I saw you doing the — I can understand the motorcycle jumps in Vegas. I've been to the Hell's Canyon. I said, you don't put him in a rocket. He's never going to make it over there. And then the thing malfunctioned and you got out with the parachute. I said, "Ah."

But you made 20 million bucks doing that?

KNIEVEL: Probably more. The toys, the Evel Knievel toys and the pinball machines and the bicycles and everything were going very well at that time. And it just skyrocketed.

O'REILLY: And that was the thing that catapulted you in the fame category?

KNIEVEL: Royalties from that. I think the toys did over $200 million in 1970.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at him jump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the Evel Knievel stunt and crash car. Just unlock the catch, and it's set for the big crash.


O'REILLY: Now, is there anything that you did in your career that was actually fun to do? Or was it all tension and, I mean — obviously with your liver, you were drinking, you know.

KNIEVEL: I did that after I got done performing most of it.

O'REILLY: Right.

KNIEVEL: I went through a tough time after I got out of the arena.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here he goes and he will go.


O'REILLY: Would you say you were an alcoholic?

KNIEVEL: For a time period I was, yes.

O'REILLY: How did you get out of it?

KNIEVEL: I just made up my mind to quit drinking, completely.

O'REILLY: AA or anything like that?


O'REILLY: So you just stopped it?

KNIEVEL: I did it at one time for a couple of years, and I decided just to completely do it again.

O'REILLY: You know, it's funny, because now you're a marketing guy. And you're making money, still, off your name, which of course, Evel Knievel, everybody knows Evel Knievel.

KNIEVEL: That just came along. It's just come along accidentally. I mean, for years there was a dry spell. And all of a sudden between the endorsements, the commercials, and all of the products that have come along, it's just all of a sudden, it's just happening all over again.

O'REILLY: But you're still a legend. Even though when you went out of the arena and you couldn't do it anymore. You're almost like a guy like Jim Brown, the football player, and Mickey Mantle, the baseball player. When they stopped their career they were still a legend. If you sign your registry in a hotel Evel Knievel, everybody knows who you are.


O'REILLY: So why was the adjustment? Was it the action that you missed?

KNIEVEL: It was. It was the knot in my stomach and the lump in my throat that I wanted.

O'REILLY: That adrenaline thing, huh?


O'REILLY: OK. Evel, it's good to see you. And good luck to you. We appreciate you coming in to talk.

KNIEVEL: Good to be on your show. Thank you.


KNIEVEL: I've got to tell you that you are the last people in the world who will ever see me jump, because I will never, ever, ever jump again.



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