Going Big with 'Big' Ed

Out-sized 'Big' Ed Beckley pleads his case for Snake River jump in Twin Falls


UPDATE: November 22, 2013

Following a series of presentations before the Twin Falls City Council and Mayor on November 21, "Big" Ed Beckley and a group of other would-be daredevils are still awaiting a decision from Twin Falls officials on who will secure permission to use a parcel of city-owned land on the south side of the Snake River Canyon as a presumptive launching site for a 2014 leap over the span.

Twin Falls city officials indicated that they were still in the "fact-finding process" and needed to hear more feedback from their community.

But the original list of six daredevils, including Beckley, was pared down to five November 21 when one team stepped rescinded its bid and offered public support of Beckley's effort.

Meanwhile, Beckley told Boise Weekly that his team of engineers was anxiously awaiting a formal decision so that they could get underway with their design and construction of a rocket-fueled vehicle.

"Every week that goes by without a decision from Twin Falls is another week that my engineering team isn't testing a bike," Beckley told BW. "My engineers and designers are all waiting; but not patiently. Let's say that the city of Twin Falls said 'OK' tomorrow. It would still be another 60 to 90 days before my builders turned their first bolt."

ORIGINAL STORY: November 20, 2013

"Big" Ed Beckley was in a pretty good mood. Who knows? It might have had something to do with the amount of chocolate he was inhaling from a pumpkin-shaped plastic bucket that he had commandeered from the waiting room in his lawyer's office.

"Poke me," he insisted to Boise Weekly, to which we responded with an appropriate, "Huh?"

BW had just asked him about his health and how he might drop anywhere from 50 to 60 pounds from his nearly 300-pound frame.

"Put your finger right there and poke me," he said again, this time pointing to the right side of his chest, "and then poke me again here," he added pointing to the left side. "I'm bench-pressin' 270, maybe 280 pounds."

Instead of a simple answer to BW's question, it was more of "Big" Ed's style to challenge us to try to push him away. Rest assured, he didn't budge.

Poking "Big" Ed was entertaining enough; but spending an hour with the 63-year-old daredevil was flat out surreal. There isn't much about Ed Begley that isn't oversized: not the least of which is his dream to jump over the Snake River Canyon on the September 2014 anniversary of Evel Knievel's 1974 ill-fated jump (Knievel's faulty parachute deployed too early, sending him to the canyon floor). Equally big was an October wire transfer of $943,000 from Beckley to the state of Idaho to secure the right to clear air space over the canyon land on the north side of the ridge, which happens to belong to the state.

Beckley has yet another administrative hurdle to jump: convincing the city of Twin Falls that he's the only serious contender to make such a leap (Twin Falls owns the south side of the canyon).

"You know something? In December 2012, Twin Falls officials told us, 'Deal with the state first, and we'll go along with it,'" Beckley said.

That was then. Now, Twin Falls officials are requiring Beckley to make a formal presentation of his plans at a special Thursday, Nov. 21, meeting, where he'll have 15 minutes to convince the city to grant him rights to the south side of the canyon.

"But we're experiencing some frustration right now, based on the fact that the city of Twin Falls has opened up this meeting to multiple applicants, not just 'Big' Ed," said Jon Simmons, Beckley's attorney and partner at Boise's Kelly, Talboy & Simmons. "It adds to a circus-, almost carnival-like feel to this whole process. It's incredibly frustrating."

Simply put, in spite of securing Idaho's OK to fly over the Snake River Canyon, the city of Twin Falls sees Beckley as only one of seven daredevils who will each be given 15 minutes at the Nov. 21 meeting. No decision on granting the use of canyon's south side is expected at the meeting.

"Every week that goes by without a decision from Twin Falls is another week that my engineering team isn't testing a bike," Beckley told BW.

Testing is the least of it. Beckley's team hasn't even started building the bike.

"My engineers and designers are all waiting; but not patiently," said Beckley. "Let's say that the city of Twin Falls said 'OK' tomorrow. It would still be another 60 to 90 days before my builders turned their first bolt."

Simmons said local officials harbor some bad memories from the '74 Knievel jump.

"Some of those stories were second- or third-hand, but we've heard that there were some financial issues," said Beckley's attorney. "Look, we're committed to partnering with the community. We certainly don't want issues like the ones we heard about in the 1970s."

Beckley, always ready to go big, took it a step further.

"I want to be elected mayor of Twin Falls when I'm done, not burned at the stake. I want those people to be happy," said Beckley.

"Big" Ed said all of his events--he has jumped "a ton," Beckley said when we asked how many times he had leapt over cars, buses or trucks--have been unqualified successes. When BW met with Beckley in early November, he had just come from a monster truck show he had put together in Billings, Mont., and was on his way to Cheyenne, Wyo., where he was putting on another spectacle.

"Get a load of this: We'll have mud bog racing, a demolition derby and professional wrestling, including women and midgets, all going on at once," he said. "I call it the 'Red Neck Nationals.' It's wreckin', racin' and wrasslin'."

But a 2014 Snake River Canyon jump would be the defining moment of a career that began in 1973, after Beckley saw Knievel jump at the Kansas State Fair. Beckley said the media attention swirling around his Snake jump is considerable, and he's nearing a deal for exclusive broadcast rights.

"Right now, we don't know what our TV money is," he said (BW confirmed in October that a minimum bidding price would be near $10 million). "I can tell you that we're negotiating with a number of networks and ABC/ESPN, CBS and the Discovery Channel have all asked for the right to counter-offer any top offer."

Just in case Beckley's negotiations with Twin Falls get bogged down or face insurmountable delays, he said there is a "Plan B."

"Look, we've got the big pea in the pod. We've got the right to jump over the canyon and we have the north side of the canyon from the state of Idaho," said Beckley, adding that he may reverse his original plan and jump from state land on the north side and find somewhere on the south side to land, other than the parcel owned by the city of Twin Falls.

"If we were just one applicant making a presentation to the city of Twin Falls, we wouldn't be facing this level of uncertainty. And, in all honesty, we wouldn't even be talking about switching sides," said Simmons.

But Beckley and Simmons are more than ready for their Nov. 21 presentation. They've already submitted a huge packet of information about Big Ed's plans. Perhaps the most important section begins on Page 8, which is entitled "Probability of Success: Very High."

"Look here, I'm going to tell you right now: My hands are going to be on a set of handlebars on Sept. 7, 2014," said Beckley."We're jumping that sucker."