One of My Biggest Influences: Tony Erba (9 Shocks Terror, Face Value, H100s) on Evel Knievel

When the No Echo brass reached out to me for a story regarding an influential person on my life, it was explained to me that they wanted disparate opinions from hardcore scene people from all backgrounds and walks of life.

So I said, “So you came to me for the day laborer/fetal alcohol syndrome/loanshark viewpoint?,” and Carlos said "Precisely." Unsure whether this was a moment of brotherhood or an acknowledgment of a life unburdened by achievement, I simply nodded and got to work. 

It took me a few minutes to think about this, but not much longer than that. I grew up around older people, tagging along with my dad to his barbershop, to the Number One Lounge across the street from the shop, watching him exchange mysterious envelopes from guys with names like "Charlie Back," "Eugene the Ax," and "Mr. D" as I played the bowling machine and drank 7-Ups.

The neighborhood kids were ok, I guess, but I didn’t connect with them on a deep level outside of neighborhood baseball games and jumping our bikes over shit.

Being undersized and pudgy, and not what you'd call "classically handsome" (although I know it's hard to believe that now, looking at this heart-shaped ass and supple, pouting lips), I wasn't particularly great at sports and believe you me, the ladies weren't throwing the pre-pubescent vajayjay my way, that's for goddamm sure.

My siblings were younger than me and two of them were girls so I mostly escaped into a world of beer can and baseball card collecting, early '70s AM pop music and talk show radio, fast food, and watching Godzilla movies, professional wrestling, TV evangelists, and roller derby. 

Then, one Saturday afternoon, after I got home from baseball practice, finished my lawnmowing chores, and kicked back with an ice-cold bottle of O-So Grape pop, i saw something on Wide World of Sports that completely enraptured me.

There, in a bitchen white suit with a cape was a grown man with a mean scowl who spoke rather brusquely to reporters, preparing to jump a shitload of school buses on an unmodified stock Harley Davidson motorcycle.

This guy's name was Evil something. Although there was no way I could utter the word "fuck" in my parent's house, I'm pretty sure it slipped out as I drooled at the sight of a clearly unbalanced man about to haul ass down a rather shoddy looking ramp and jump over a bunch of school buses in a parking lot of a random grocery store.

My dad walked in and i asked him if he knew this guy Evil. My dad said "Oh yeah. Thats Evel Knievel. World's craziest daredevil." I asked him if this guy gets like a million dollars for doing this stunt. My dad laughed and said "Hell no, Anthony. He does it because he's got balls." 

I was in awe. "Is there like a league or something, like the NFL, of these people? Can I learn to do this? You've seen me and Tommy Divoky on our bikes, dad." 

My dad put his paper down and peered over the top of it. "Anthony, I thought I told you to use the bag when you mowed the lawn. Get me another Stroh's, huh?"

Undeterred, I set about learning everything I could about Evel Knievel. I watched all of his jumps. I learned that he drove a stock Harley that anyone could buy off the showroom floor. I learned that he broke almost every bone in his body. I discovered that he didn't make a million dollars a jump.

I watched him jump the fountains at Caesar's Palace. I watched his aborted infamous prime-time Snake River Canyon rocket jump, which he bitterly went to his grave complaining that he would have made it if not for the dumbass engineer who set up the bike wrong.

I learned that he was a flamboyant, alcoholic, short-tempered tough guy from Montana—of all places—that was good friends with Bob Gimlin, the man who shot one of the most famous films of all time, the Patterson Film of the Bigfoot walking in Northern California that stunned the world.

Evel was a man that insisted on doing things his way, a streak of stubbornness that typically defines the victories and failures of great men and women.

I bought the Evel Knievel motorcycle toy and jumped that sumbitch over sewer culverts, my sister's Barbies, the cat litter box, and one time we even set my brother's Castle Greyskull on fire and jumped ol' Evel right into it, just because it was a Wednesday. Fuck that castle!

I made my Evel action figure have unprotected relations with Skipper, the looser, more "spirited" of my sister's Barbies.

I made him repeatedly beat the hell out of dumbass Action Jackson, just because I hated stupid Action Jackson and his weird elastic body with it's compromised bone density.

The sad end to my Evel Knievel action figure came when he did an amazing triple-lindy jump off my neighbor Scott's picnic table right into the backyard lair of Adolph, the meanest goddamm doberman Edgehill Drive has ever seen. Sorry to leave you stranded behind enemy lines, Evel. Sucks to be you, bro. Give 'em hell!

As time went by, I learned that Evel once went to the front door of an author that wrote an unflattering unauthorized biography of him and beat his ass with a baseball bat. I also learned that Evel could unscrew the huge diamond tip of his ever-present cane and swill bourbon from it.

I learned that this man might not be a guy that treated waitstaff well. Basically, he was Jerry Lee Lewis with a motorcycle, a bit of a one-trick pony. But man, he did that one trick so damn well.

As I grew up and devolved into the People's Bassist ® that I am today, I realized that I had subconsciously internalized and absorbed the flamboyant, stubbornly uncompromising approach to life that Evel Knievel wore so well.

I was always the smallest, least athletic, most homely guy in the class, at the job, or in the bar. But the first time I ever held a microphone in my hand and heard my already-loud voice through a decent PA, I realized that the room now had to pay attention to me. I had some shit to say, goddammit, and you people are going to listen and you will respect me.

I suddenly had a confidence, a swagger, and some balls. It is all about revenge.

And with my other influences that had solidified themselves in my young mind years earlier, like the all-time scariest wrestler, The Sheik (that's the Detroit wrestling's Sheik, not the Iron Sheik), and wild southern TV preachers along with the subversive The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends cartoons I loved, I had developed a real amalgamation of megalomania just bursting at the seams.

But I never forgot my prime mover and #1 inspiration to get up on stage, or go after a job that I had no business getting, or talk to a pretty girl that's 10,000 miles out of my league, or overcome a heart attack, or gut out a cruel divorce. Because I know what Evel would say if I hesitated. 

A few years before he died, Evel was interviewed by nationally syndicated sports yakker Jim Rome, a particularly grating, cloying man. He asked "Evel, when you're at the top of that ramp, staring out into the abyss, ready to commit to a jump that almost surely will go horribly wrong, do you ever ask yourself: "What am I doing this for?'"

And Evel Knievel paused for a bit too long before answering. It was a mean, hateful pause, filled with contempt for the interviewer.

Finally, he replied: "Do you know who the hell I am?"

That encapsulates perfectly my version of a mother fucking hero. And I got a mulching lawnmower so I don't have to use the bag, Dad.


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Tagged: 9 shocks terror, face value, gordon solid motherfuckers, h100s, one of my biggest influences