Former PR Man Seeking $100 Million from Late Evel Knievel
By Mike Stetzer
In life, Evel Knievel was known as a wild man. In death, that image continues to grow, in both complimentary and uncomplimentary lights.
The infamous stuntman who broke nearly 40 bones during his career of motorcycle stunts - including the unsuccessful attempt to jump Idaho's Snake River Canyon in 1974 - died on November 30th in Clearwater, Florida. Knievel had suffered from pulmonary fibrosis and diabetes for years.
While Knievel's death summoned up tributes from many fans who were captivated by the daredevil's reckless abandon, it also brought back sadness and anger to Shelly Saltman, a former PR man who was nearly killed by the very craziness that made Knievel a star.
At one point, Saltman worked closely with Knievel, promoting his failed jump over the Snake River Canyon. However, the relationship soured after Saltman wrote a book on Knievel.
What Saltman thought was a tribute to the stuntman, "Evel Knievel on Tour" was interpreted much differently by Knievel, who thought the book made fun of his family and painted him as "an alcoholic, a pill addict, an anti-Semite and an immoral person."
Knievel was so upset with the book that he attacked Saltman with a baseball bat in a parking lot outside 20th Century Fox on September 21, 1977. As Knievel swung the bat, Saltman raised his arm to protect himself from head injuries.
While a doctor later said that taking this action likely saved Saltman's life, the baseball bat ultimately shattered the promoter's left arm, which is still held together today by a steel plate and screws. Saltman's injury lawyer helped with the case.
Following the attack, Knievel would spend six months in jail and later be ordered to pay Saltman $12.75 million in damages.
While this incident was much publicized when it happened, it had been largely forgotten in recent years. That is until Knievel's death.
It turns out that Saltman did not receive one penny of the $12.75 million from Knievel. The former PR man is still seeking the personal injury settlement, which he says is worth more than $100 million with interest.
It is unknown whether Knievel's estate even has that type of money. Those closest to Knievel - including his daughter, widow and another promoter - have declined to discuss the matter.
While the two men never talked again following the incident, Saltman indicated that third parties on behalf of Knievel expressed remorse and attempted to settle with him on several different occasions throughout the years. However, he said that such efforts were more about pity and thus rejected such overtures.
While restating that he's owed the money, Saltman also expressed sadness over Knievel's death. Saltman said the attack ruined Knievel's career and hoped that the daredevil is finally at peace.
Unfortunately, peace has not yet reigned in the settlement of this personal injury lawsuit.
Rather, the settlement continues to hang in the air, just like Knievel so often did during his career of dangerous stunts.