It’s January 23, 1970, and the atmosphere inside the Bay Area’s Cow Palace venue is extremely tense. The hotshot daredevil Evel Knievel is about to make a massive, life-threatening jump on his motorcycle, but that’s not the only source of anxiety tonight. In the crowd are some Hells Angels who despise Knievel and would love nothing more than to see him get hurt. The night is teetering on a knife-edge as a drunken announcer takes to the microphone to address the crowd. What this person says next sends the Hells Angels into a fury, and absolute pandemonium ensues. Yep, the wheels are in motion now. And this night is doomed to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Well before the events of this fateful night, the Hells Angels and Knievel had developed a fierce hatred of one another. The stuntman used to characterize the gang as motorcycling’s “dark side,” which obviously didn’t sit too well with them. So, when they eventually met one another it was always going to be hostile.
Cow Palace Incident
Yet the chaos on that night in 1970 was far more intense than you might have expected. Certainly, the public had increasingly come to associate the Hells Angels with acts of violence around this time. But if the drunken announcer had just kept his mouth shut, then things inside Cow Palace may have worked out differently.
A Violent Turn
Alas, that’s not what happened. The announcer reportedly grabbed the mic and mouthed off – seemingly unaware of the tension bubbling away throughout the venue. And these words did not go down well! Accounts of what exactly happened next get a little hazy from this point on, but we can say for sure that things took a violent turn.
Landing The Stunt
How exactly things turned so nasty isn’t clear. Some people say the Hells Angels started it, while others claim that Knievel himself was responsible. What we do know is that the stuntman actually completed his huge jump without injuring himself. Though it was only after that dangerous moment that things really went south.