Vintage Daredevil Stunts
CULTURE | February 22, 2017
Entertainment has always featured risky behavior, the riskier, the better and the more enthralled the audience seemed to be. Daredevils represent a certain need in all of us to push the boundaries of the extreme. As human beings we often crave the knowledge of ascertaining how far we can exert our minds our bodies. Being a daredevil and performing risky stunts happened to be one of the things that satisfies those cravings for both the daredevil and his audience.
Vintage motorcycles encompassed speed and quality and was the driving force behind many daring stunts. One such stunt involving motorcycles, carts and lions was called “the wall of death”. A barrel shaped cylinder made of wooden planks provided the roadway for motorcyclists to perform their jaw dropping stunts. The audience had a birds-eye view of the daredevil riding along the vertical wall being held up by friction and centrifugal force. The use of animals and lady riders added to the fanfare and amusement of this gravity defying stunt.
Female daredevils did not shy away from the death defying acts and added another level of excitement to the stunts they performed. One such female daredevil Lillian La France “the girl who flirts with death” as she was known, made a name for herself by riding “the wall of death” using both four wheel vehicles and motorcycles. The ladies were among the most daring even performing stunts that had never been done before by their male counterparts.
Mrs. Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to ride over Niagara falls inside a barrel. At the age of 63 years old, Annie utilized a special harness inside the barrel to perform her stunt. The barrel went down the Niagara Falls through the rapids and steep drops until it came close to the Canadian shore where it was fished out, making Annie the first person to conquer Niagara Falls. After her stunt many more tried, some successfully while others met their demise.
The Niagara Falls is no stranger to high risk activity by daring daredevils. Jean Francois Gravelot, better known as ‘Blondin’ was a tight rope walker who decided to leave his mark in history by tight rope walking across the Niagara Falls. Blondin’s first successful walk came on June 30th, 1859 after which he crossed a total of eight more times. Blondin performed many zany antics while crossing the Falls, like carrying his manager on his back and also pushing a wheelbarrow along the rope while he crossed.
High flying motorcycles will always have a place in the hearts of audiences and Evil Knievel, the most legendary daredevil to have lived, catapulted the stunt and himself into fame. Riding his motorcycle at breakneck speeds and flying over canyons, fountains, greyhound buses and stacked cars kept onlookers terrified and fascinated to see these magnificent feats.
There is an insatiable need to be entertained and because of this need death defying stunts by awe inspiring daredevils will always have a place in history, will never lose its appeal and will always have an audience eager to see the next great stunt.
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Kennita Leon Rose