Butch Laswell — United States
Butch Laswell was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and grew up in Overton, Nevada. Inspired by Evel Knievel, Butch built ramps and began jumping his bicycle over the family car at the age of 12! His parents finally gave in to this "motorcycle obsessed" boy and bought him his first motorcycle at the age of 15. Two years later he was one of Nevada's top desert racers and by the age of 19 "professional", competing in California and Utah as well.
But for Butch,the desire of his heart was jumping. He found himself once again constructing a set of ramps and he began doing small town shows. He jumped Cameros, school buses, 18 wheeler trucks (end-to-end) and gave a great "wheelie" show! By 1980 Butch was seeking a bigger challenge... breaking the World's Long Distance Jump Record of 176 feet! On a late afternoon in April 1981, on the Mormon Mesa in Nevada, Butch took his 440 Maico full throttle to 80 mph and jumped 180 feet! Soon after, Butch quit his "day job" to pursue his motorcycle career full-time and found himself taking motorcycle stunts and ramp-to-ramp jumping to startling new heights. His dreams were not about riding motorcycles — he dreamed of flying through the air mounted on them!
All through the 80's Butch established jump records, created stunt innovations and performed death-defying show stunts. He teamed up with Johnny Airtime as "Donnie Airtime/The Airtime Brothers", filmed a TV commercial for the US Coast Guard, filmed a World Record Wheelie demo for the TV show, "That's Incredible" and at some point gained the nickname "Leap 'in Laswell"! He then spent several years working for the Globe of Death tours where he was an overnight superstar in Aruba, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan and Hawaii. He performed a variety of motorcycle illusions and stunts never before attempted. When he tired from traveling, Butch found the bright lights of Las Vegas centered on him, as he starred in the award winning show at the Riviera Hotel, "SPLASH". He also continued to do small shows where he jumped over the Globe of Death and jumped buses no-handed!
The 90's brought feelings of making a new start. Butch was serious about his career. He built and maintained his own equipment, even studied the flight pattern of eagles and carefully calculated every aspect of his business. Butch began to approach motorcycle jumping with a new and revolutionary concept. Long distance jumping had been around since the beginning of time, he had broken the world's record twice for distance... why not pioneer high jumping? In january 1992, at Vacation Village Hotel in Las Vegas, Butch Laswell, "The Original Motorcycle HIgh Jumper" established the world's highest motorcycle ramp-to-ramp aerial jump EVER! The record was now set at 41 feet from the bottom of the lowest point on the motorcycle to the ground.
It was now 1996 and time for something very special. Butch had 5,000 successful jumps under his belt. By successful, I mean - he had NEVER crashed while jumping! Unbelievable, I know- but true. He was very careful, very precise; everything carefully planned, studied and calculated. After a year of preparation, it was time to call Guinness Book of World Records to town, contact two movie production companies and the media to announce that history would be made and documented on March 10, 1996 in Mesquite, Nevada.
It was a stunt that would launch Butch into the movie business and celebration of the "Grand Opening" of the Oasis Casino! Butch would jump the Skywalk Bridge, which crossed above the street that separated the parking garage from the casino. He would officially set the word's record for height. Now, in front of 10,000 spectators, the Guinness World Record officials and all kinds of movie and media personnel, Butch had a problem he could not control - the weather. The wind was gusting and was unpredictable this day. Butch stalled for quite some time, performing extra "wheelie" demonstrations, waiting and praying. He had canceled shows in the pat due to wind, but after such intense planning to gather everyone together; he decided to proceed with the jump.
He accelerated his bike to 70 mph, hit the ramp and was launched 55 feet high - into the heavens it seemed. Then, while in the air, a crosswind caught and pushed him from the side. He was now able to see over the walkway to his landing ramp on the other side - the wind had moved him several feet away from his ramp and there was no way to get back. Butch's landing ramp was now the pavement, a crash landing, witnessed by our nation as they watched the nightly news. His first crash was his last- his life was lost at the age of 37. Butch was laid to rest at the Paradise Memorial Gardens in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is survived by his mom and dad, his sister Marilynn and his three brothers, Greg, Nathan and Steve. He left behind no children.
A special thanks to the Laswell family for sharing Butch's biography and photos with CycleJumpers.com and the cycle jumping fans throughout the world.