In the mid-’70s, Chesebro, donning a colorful cape and helmet, stunned crowds when he jumped over cars on his motorbike — often landing in a lake — to the oohs and aahs of hundreds of spectators.
Now, two filmmakers hope to remind Boulder of the mythical man who still garners attention and fond memories from fans today. Chris Leising, a 26-year-old University of Colorado Boulder alum with a film degree, and 36-year-old Jack Hanley, currently completing his master’s in English, have taken on the task of bringing local Boulder history to life with their upcoming documentary Evil Cheesey Rides Again.
“It’s an important story to tell,” Leising says. “Not very many people know about Cheesey, but those who do have never forgotten him or his jumps.”
In the past, Leising and Hanley have worked together on school film projects and will be co-producing and co-directing their new film together.
“I’ve got film and screenwriting experience, so we’re splitting the duties down the middle between us,” Hanley says.
While trying to earn money to pay his way through grad school, Hanley took a job as a bartender at the Lazy Dog Sports Bar & Grill, where he first met Chesebro.
“It was during that stint that this lone, stoic bearded guy always shuffled in,” Hanley says. “It struck my curiosity because everyone in the bar knew who he was, no matter what time of day, and told all kinds of stories about him. Inevitably he’d always get 86ed out of every bar he was at, but that’s how I first learned about him and the local history surrounding his stunts.”
Some of those stunts included illegally jumping six cars lined up on Pearl Street.
“He’d literally sit in a bar on Pearl and then decide to [jump cars], and within an hour people would start lining up cars and blocking off sections,” Hanley says.
“Police did try to stop him, but he wasn’t arrested,” Leising says. “He did a few jumps on Pearl and as soon as he landed, a bunch of the bars and owners who were supportive and drunkenly cheering him on would surround him and his bike and hide Cheesey in a bar before the cops could find him.”
April Mitchell, Cheesey’s 30-year-old daughter and Boulder resident, says her father has always had a rebellious spirit.
“He didn’t finish high school and was doing a lot of partying,” Mitchell says. “My dad could never really hold a job down; he always went out and drank and did his own thing and borrowed money from everybody. But he’s always had a fascination with dirt bikes and speed; he’s always loved doing that kind of stuff. That, and breaking rules.”
Scott “Messyman” Mess, 45, who owns the local taxi service Messyman Transportation, says he started giving rides to Evil Cheesey in 1997. Throughout his time driving around to old Boulder dive bars, Mess developed a friendship with Chesebro.
“Cheesey was part of a crew that used to call for rides back and forth from the bars,” Mess says.
Although Mess never got to see Chesebro perform his infamous stunts, he says Evil Cheesey and his exploits were lore all around Boulder.
“When Rich’s Roadhouse was still around, they used to have his cape hanging on the wall. If you prodded Cheesey long enough, he’d pull out a scrapbook of his jumps and the book would circulate throughout the crew.”
Mess says he enjoyed listening to the stories of Chesebro’s old biking days, even if it sometimes took a bit of convincing.
“He’d always tell you a few stories if you were patient enough to listen,” he says. “He’s definitely one of those people you could define as an odd character who has a lot of personality.”
Today, Cheesey’s life of partying and breaking the rules has settled down significantly, as he suffers from dementia, a condition that has severely impaired his memory and speech and which has recently forced him to join an assisted living program where he can be taken care of.
“He started to become very odd in his behaviors,” Mitchell, Chesebro’s daughter, says. “He’d go in a market, grab a soda and walk out without paying, so he’d go to jail for that. He’d go to the bar and drink and come home and fall off the porch and cut his head open. Over the years he’d be very forgetful and repeat a lot of words.”
“He says a couple words here and there, but he’s not an oracle or conversationalist, so the footage really helps,” Leising says.
Part of that footage includes Super 8 mm films of Evil Cheesey’s daredevil stunts taken by local Boulder residents over the years.
“Since the inception of getting into production just a few months ago, we’ve gotten a lot of phone calls from people saying they have footage of him jumping,” Hanley says.
While the film is mostly self-funded by Hanley and Leising, with a few donations on the side, the filmmakers stress the importance of getting Boulder locals to share their stories about Evil Cheesey.
“We want people to come forward to send us emails, and then we can go and just interview people to tell a story and then put together all the stories,” Leising says.
Mitchell says that while she doesn’t see her dad jumping cars any time soon, she hopes he’ll one day get to ride his bike again.
“I bet he could get on a bike, knowing my dad,” she says. “He’s looking pretty good and healthy. He was under 100 pounds for a while, but he’s getting real strong. He couldn’t jump, but he could take a little ride around the block. That would be something at least, but I’d still be nervous.”
The filmmakers encourage anyone with footage, photos or stories of Evil Cheesey to contact them at evilcheeseyridesagainmovie[at]gmail.com. Visit http://on.fb.me/evilcheesey for more information.