Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Night I met Bobby Knievel

I have been getting flashbacks recently,  sitting in a quiet dark room, thoughts from days gone by, enter, vivid recollections of the place, time etc.

 I have started a listing and have so far scribbled down about a dozen or so of them.

I enjoyed thinking about them, perhaps you will enjoy getting a taste of how life was in the City back  in then 50's,60's and 70's.

Here is one story.

We use to hang around in a few places in the city waiting for stuff to happen.  Our car was equipment with several police radios, fire radio, two way radio that we could talk to one of the radio stations and do on the air new stories along with a mobile telephone.
The car phone that I had was a 3 channel mobile phone, which meant  only 3people could use the mobile phone at a time in a city the size of San Francisco. Unlike cellular phones, it was a neat system that very few people had. I was one of the lucky ones.  It also was that those channels were constantly busy and you had dto wait your turn sometimes to make a call. You did that by taking the phone off hook and see if anyone was talking. ( kind of like partly line phones were)

Anyway,  The system was analog and I had mine set up to monitor the channels. Which meant that anytime any of the 3 channels became active we could "monitor" or listen into the conversations. Of course it was illegal to divulge or use for profit any information that you obtained from those calls. Cellular when it first came out was the same, prior to digital you could easily monitor cell phones calls.

By monitoring the channel that allowed me to listen to the 3 channels that were used in the city. One night there was a user who was talking to the operator about directions in the city. The operators for the mobile phone were actually located in Oakland and had no idea of anything in the city.

Well one night I heard this person asking for where all the motels were and he had mentioned that he had been driving all day and just needed to find a place to park, go to sleep, and have a secure place for his trailer.

She had no idea.

Being the know it all, my partner and I were, and helpful we decided to barge into the phone call and provide some assistance to the person who we talked to on that channel.

 We told him we would meet him and show him were motel row was.

At that time my partner was kind of new to being a on camera reporter and had been promoted from being a film cameraman which was why I got stuck with him. They would assign the newbie talent to do the 8 to 4 am shifts and that is how we wound up together.  He was an ok guy, rode motorcycles and enjoyed some of the same hobbies that I did so we got along well.  His wife had inherited some money somehow so he was doing this job, just to have fun doing it, whereas for me it was my only source of income at the time.

(I had looked up his name about 5 years ago and found out that he had been convicted of an attempted murder of his wife, tying to set his house on fire by dousing it with gasoline one night) Needless to say I  didn't call him up and see how he was doing.....

Back to the story.   The lost caller had described where he was, which was  a few blocks away from where we happened to be parked.
 He was parked on Market and 6th street.

 It was obvious that he had just come off the Oakland Bay Bridge, because 6th street was the off-ramp and he was about 4 blocks from there.

My partner and I pulled up behind him on Market street and parked. He was driving a 2 door red Ford with a white strip, I think it may have been a Torino or something like that pulling one of those short covered trailers, which later we would see had two motorcycles inside.

Along with his wife in the car were two children obviously cranky from being on the road for awhile. The back of the trailer had Evel Knievel written all over it.

My reporter partner, turned to me and said " Who the hell is Evel Knievel?"  I said , hell if I know, and we approached the car, he got out , we exchanged a few pleasantries and we told him to follow us to Lombard Street which is the area where most of the motels would be found.

 With that he followed us for about 7 or 8 minutes to where we finally waved him over and he saw all the motels. Because of the trailer he was towing the only place he could pull over was in a Bus Zone parking space.. We had arrived on busy Lombard street.

He thanked us for escorting him and his family and told us that we was doing a motorcycle jump at the Cow Palace in the next few days and told us that if we wanted to come and see the show, we would be his guests.
( He must have thought that he was a lot more popular than he was, since neither of us had ever heard of him prior to that night)

We said thank you and both went back to our area that we hung out at.  We would generally park at Van Ness and Golden Gate streets right next to the Doggie Diner. It was a decent place that had great coffee, chili hot dogs and best yet, we could get on the freeways within a minute should some story develop or we overheard something interesting on the 3 or 4 police and fire channels we monitored all the time in the car.
(Doggie Diners was a chain of about 20 hot dog stands in the 60's and 70's all of which are torn down since)

It was only a few days later than we started hearing about this guy named Evel Knievel being in town for some motorcycle show. We both forgot about the invitation to the event and it wasn't until a few days later after he had left town that  there was all kinds of publicity on this Evel Knievel guy.

He then became  a stunt-man's stuntman  doing all kinds of things, crossing the Snake River canyon stunt and other more famous stunts.

He was the one that started or at least popularized the jumping over cars, trucks, school buses etc, events  which has now turned out to be popular attraction in all kind of event venues.

In the following years he kept becoming more popular and was a common story of how many broken bones he had and how many times he had cheated death...
For years later , I kept looking in the mail for some free tickets and a charter airplane ride ticket to go see one of his shows, but it never came.

One night on the streets of San Francisco....

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