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* Bob Dylan © 1966 M. Whitmark & Sons
** © 1966 Arc Music, BMI.

Funny looks at intersections, or out of side windows as I pass. Anywhere else in the world people wouldn't even turn around. But then nobody's ever ridden through Europe forty at a time on chopped Harleys with full leathers and swastikas. Maybe somebody should. Right through Germany, helmets and iron crosses, right down the Autobahn to Berlin with flags and signs like "Buy American"; wheelies through Checkpoint Charlie, and rock & roll street dances in East Berlin with tapes of The Mamas & Papas "California Dreamin'", declare the place Sister City to Hollister.

But my friend says it's not true everyone on two wheels has something in common, even after I show him Life's spread on Russia, with that fantastic color shot of Sunday afternoon dirt-track scrambles in Siberia. Maybe he's right. You don't always meet the nicest people on a Triumph.

But people freak-out over nothing—grease, cigars, hair, noise. Tattoos. Dew-rags. "HATE" is a freak put-on. Amphetamine and "ripple".

Bob Dylan bumped his head and Richard Farina burned, so Time says motorcycles are status symbols. Funny kind of status; I'll never get trapped inside a car again waiting single-file in endless lines of four-wheeled houses too awkward to do anything but sit there sniffing the other guy's exhaust pipe listening to FM, thinking I'm not here it doesn't exist or both. Ten lanes of concrete crawling at twenty mph, and still everybody thinks more pavement is the way out. McLuhan says the automobile is obsolescent and people gasp. Four wheels and booze, job and marriage, horse and carriage.

"The old men don't realize, but the little girls understand."** They're the ones that smile at intersections. Little kids and sometimes grandmothers, fascination, envy; in small towns in Nevada maybe a broken-down man pumping gas tells me of travelling on vintage Harleys with a stunt-rider show while local kids on Hondas check out my rig. Farm kid in Utah chases me down outside of town to find out where I'm going and where I've been. Motel owner's daughter talks vaguely of Reno, mythically of San Francisco.

Am I that free?

Powering up, bouncing over rocks, spinning, sliding through ruts, gravel, working the slope, skiing uphill, standing on the pegs, hanging on to full throttle. Ride through open fields of tall grass, jumping half-sunken boulders, fanning out in all directions. Fast and in tight together through the woods, trees flashing past, branches overhead. Out into open meadows of alpine flowers, sky, clouds, sun. Rain and mud, deep puddles with feet up for the splash. Wheelie-jumps out of an old mine pit into the air and then down fast, stay tight with the man ahead, follow his line, never mind what's over the edge, power on. Back to town, wet and steaming, machine thick with mud, a piece of green weed and purple flower caught in the forks.

— Bob Chamberlain


Cal from So. Cal...


You know what I dig, man? I dig them beautiful customized jobs. You know why? Cause I look at a scooter, man, that's completely chopped, man, and every part on it, he either made himself, man, or bought special for it, you know. Now, you look at that chopper, man, and that dude's an outlaw. Whenever he rides, man, part of that scooter is him, because it's got his ideas and it's just him, you know. Every scooter, see? Say you take a guy that buys a brand new Harley-Davidson, fully equipped. There'll always be someone else coming along and say, "Well, I got one exactly like yours." But all choppers are different. No matter how much alike you build. Cause everybody's melon's different. Cause they think different, you know. I look at a chopper, man, I respect the dude because he made his. This other guy, he bought his. Never done a lick of work on it, but maybe tighten bolts, you know? That's the difference.

See, I was born in Canada originally, you hip to it? And then I went up to the fourth grade. The fourth grade, man, in school, in French, no English. I come to the United States and they put me in with all those dudes that speak English and I'm hassling it myself, just tryin' to learn the language. Let alone read fourth-grade books. Like when I was getting up into high school, I could never catch up with the people, see. I couldn't read a goddam comic book, man, until I was in almost seventh grade. So anyhow, I joined the service, see, later on. And, I got a undesirable discharge in there because I was always salty, see. But, since I was in the service, I learned how to read. I can read and write. I can read any handbook I want now. And I got more education than really a lot of people because I've been to 18 different countries. I've seen what most people have read about. And like take the United States, man, I've traveled it back and forth, man, about 15 or 20 times. And I've seen what people are reading about. So therefore, I figure I've got more knowledge stored up than half the college kids my age. Sure, they know all about it, but they never experienced or seen it.


Danny Lyon was a member of the Chicago Outlaws for a year. The Outlaw photographs and taped conversations reproduced here were made during that time, and are from his forthcoming book, The Bikeriders, to be published by The MacMillan Co.

So much has been written about outlaw bike riders recently, that the published material long ago surpassed the reality it claimed to deal with.

Outlaw bike clubs are not new. Ten years ago their members already were living imitations of themselves on television. What is "new" is that lately everything about motorcycles has become commercially valuable, including talk, so we have been experiencing a great deal of it. The talk has not been directly fabricated, but it falls on ears so anxious to hear it that it becomes in effect the cause of the subject portrayed.

Interest in my book, "The Bikeriders," often centers on the question of Hell's Angels type riders. The H.A. style, while once genuine, so thrived on the publicity it received that eventually it was murdered by it. To me, the only phenomenon left about the H.A.'s is how much the communications industry loves them. Feeding the intellectual's search for the noble savage, they cavort in the national spotlight.

I was interested in bike riders as people, not actors, and I believe there is something more and very rich in the people of the outlaw bike world, and even in the H.A.'s who haven't given everything over to their acting careers.



People have been taken with motorcycles since they first appeared in America over fifty years ago. From this fascination developed the motorcycle legend — a legend that crystallized during the July 4, 1947 weekend at Hollister, Calif., at the first gypsy tour held after the war.

What actually happened that weekend was probably never very clear to most of the participants, but at some point the bonanza business in the taverns (stools had been removed so cyclists could ride in for drinks) erupted into trouble with the police. Here is one participant's version which is as interesting and unreliable as any.

Jack Halferty, a Chicago motorcycle mechanic in Hollister that weekend, remembers that the bars were making lots of money and most everyone was having a good time when the "incident" occurred that started the "riot." Jack remembers that a rider was tuning his machine on somebody's front lawn when a volunteer officer insisted he move his bike (auxiliaries had been added to Hollister's seven-man police force). The rider refused "and the yoyo drew his gun." The cyclist swept his chick from the back of his bike, drove at the cop, and throwing his machine into a slide, ran the cop down. Within minutes, an out-of-town police car arrived (with a bulletproof grill over the radiator) and soon police were grabbing everything that moved. They raced through Hollister arresting everyone in sight and throwing motorcycles into the backs of trucks. "After that you saw nothing but riot guns and goodby Charlie. There were bike tracks everywhere. Everyone was trying to get out. One guy went right through a white wood fence."

Two weeks later, Life magazine covered "The Sack of Hollister" with a 110-word caption and a full-page picture of a bike rider with a beer in his hand ("Cyclist's Holiday — He and friends terrorize a town"). Then Frank Rooney used the incident for a short story. And that became the basis for Stanley Kramer's movie, "The Wild One," with Marlon Brando as Johnny, leader of the B.R.M.C. (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club). The eternal popularity of the movie is seen in its constant repetition on television, and to this day it sets the image of the danger lurking in outlaw motorcycle bands.




I have some nice friends — one of them is the head of a large corporation in Peoria. And I like this guy. But when I go visit him at his house, I'm bored to tears. Just like when I go to anybody else's house, you know, just like me — married, children. They talk about ball games, they talk about their car. They talk about things that just don't mean nothin' to me. And I just don't fit. I never have fit. Everywhere I've ever went, I don't fit. I'm basically an outlaw. That's why I am one. It's not that I'm against people. It's just that they don't seem to know what's happenin'. It's hard for me to put it in words because I don't hate people. They're dense. They live in such a narrow world they don't know what's happenin' around them. All the big shots, you know, that run things, they got everybody stilled into thinkin' that things is straight — nothin' to worry about, you know. Well, I know better. And as far as I'm concerned, there is no tomorrow — just today. You're livin' today, so live. And don't worry about tomorrow, cause tomorrow's goin' to have to take care of itself. Why should I go out and pretend I'm somethin' I'm not? All these squares — they're no different from me. They do behind the shades and behind closed doors what we do out in the open. The only difference is we're not ashamed. My wife and I are split up now and she says: "The people I run around with now has got class." Well I know about their class because they ain't no different from me.


Funny Sonny...


Gail says, well what do the Angels look like in California? And Bruce turned around and pointed at me. He says, figure about 150, 200 of him, and you got that point made out right away. And I was lookin' bad. .. I was at my best, at my best. I was greasy, grimy, I hadn't taken a bath in about a week, you know, smellin' good and everything.... So they offered me a fork to eat with. Well, I was drunk and I was gonna show a little class, so I didn't eat with a fork. I ate with my hands, and scooped it up and shoved it in. It was dripping off my chin and down my chest and I was rubbin' it in, and everythin', drinkin' wine....






When I was about 15 years old, my father bought me a Indian four-cylinder motorcycle. I fell down many times, hurt myself a few times, but got to like it. I was clean until I hit the age of about 19 or 20. I saw the motorcycle riders — filthy as pigs, you know, but they had a ball. I rode around by myself, knew nothing, figured maybe I'd get dirty. I like to be dirty. I'll go outa my way to put filth on my clothes, dirt on my face, mess up my hair, and eat bugs. Bugs aren't really bad to eat. It's all in a person's mind. If you will eat a raw beef sandwich or you will eat a rare steak, a bug won't hurt you any more. A good grasshopper won't hurt you. It's nothing but meat. It's a delicacy as a matter of fact. Myself, I prefer to eat 'em alive.

I saw you eat that piece of string before.

It wasn't as good as bug, but it'll do, you know, for a snack.

A caterpillar, for instance, is a bitter son of a bitch. Yeah, very bitter. Flies and grasshoppers are the same way. Cockroaches, beetles, other bugs you find around the house — waterbugs and stuff like that — they don't taste too bad. You chew it up, wash it down with a little beer. You never know the difference. People look at you: they think you're crazy. But if you don't think about it, it don't bother you.


While Brando rode the movie theater screens, the radio kept playing the Cheers recording of "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots." In it, the hero (whose arm is tattooed with an eagle saying "Mother I love you") tries to beat a freight train to a crossing on his bike and is never heard from again. Ten years ago, the song celebrated the bike rider that had already been on the road for years.

It is often a surprise to the viewers of these pictures that outlaw motorcyclists do such things as have meetings, live in houses, and on occasion, get married and have children. Bike riders, being people, do all these things. But you can't categorize them accurately about anything. Some have jobs, and some don't. Corky worked at R. R. Donnelley for a long time, drove a cab, and worked at a Jewish cemetery until he was fired for laughing during services. Some, like Johnny (who has two teen-age daughters) and Big Jim, live in comfortable middle-class homes. Others like Cal and Funny Sonny have left wives and children in California and usually have to borrow money to put gasoline in their motorcycles. One bike rider is different from another, and their bond is that for each of them, the motorcycle has been important in their lives.

I now realize that there are no motorcycle gangs, just different kinds of clubs. Most clubs receive their sanction from the A.M.A. (American Motorcycle Assn.), the organization that oversees most of the racing and motorcycling activity (field meets, rodeos, gypsy tours, and a few motorcycle blessings). The organization, whose motto is "Put your best wheel forward," urges its members to be good citizens, obey all traffic laws, and use legal mufflers, among other things. Its membership cards carry a quote by J. Edgar Hoover, introduced as "famed head of the F.B.I.," reminding cyclists to be careful on the highway.



Some clubs fail to receive the A.M.A. sanction because their attitude is not in keeping with the spirit of the A.M.A. These are known as outlaw clubs. Wives and girl friends of the members of outlaw clubs have been known to sew the A.M.A. emblem on the seat of their pants.


I joined the Outlaws with a girl (my swinger) and we were accepted by the members with an affection that we returned and which still goes on. Eddie, Johnny, Kathy, and all of them were our friends and more than that we all lived within the bond of being Chicago Outlaws. Cal wears a ring that my old lady gave him, and I still wear a leather jacket that Cal's father gave to him. Cal and I share a set of earrings. When I first met Kid from the Pagans we spent a whole day together and got on very well. Later he gave me a small imitation Nazi war medal. That meant he liked me.

To me, the Outlaws were people and bike riders, and nothing else about them impressed me to the extent that those things did. The ideology of Obnoxiousness in a chrome Nazi helmet is not very meaningful when you see it close up; and had I been only interested in that, I might have better spent the time infiltrating high-school fraternities. If someone like Sonny or Cockroach could refine bug eating to the high art they did, then I could only dig them for it. But if the antics were obviously bad copies of bad magazine stories, or the ideology only appeared when a reporter asked for a statement of purpose, I failed to be moved by it.

Racers are not outlaws. Many racers are openly hostile to outlaws because of the kind of publicity outlaws bring to motorcycling and the fact that their activity occasionally disrupts races. (The big events for the outlaw clubs are the runs to the national championship races — $10 fine if you don't show and $5 if you come by car — but nobody cares too much about the races, but much more about partying with their friends from other outlaw clubs.)

Johnny Goodpaster is not an outlaw but one of the best scrambles racers in the Midwest. An ex-paratrooper, Goodpaster runs a motorcycle shop in Hobart, Indiana, with his wife. Of his five kids, the two oldest boys race and the eight-year-old is already riding his own motorcycle. Goodpaster has won over 500 trophies in the last ten years and on occasion forgets to pick them up after a race.




Sam was the type of person, you could walk in any bar and you'd expect to see him settin' there in a corner drinkin' beer. He's that type of person. And he was standing there drinkin' beer and a hot rod club jumped him. They said it was one to one, but who fights one to one nowadays? It wasn't one to one, they beat the hell out of him.

The police department and everybody said he was capable to leave, walk to the station. I don't know what the terminology may be. They say, well, he can walk out of here and he wasn't crawlin', so let him go. This is really not right, you know? If the guy needs medical attention, you should see that he gets it. No matter who he is, you don't care. And then he got on his motorcycle and he was headin' back to DC and they say he run in the back of a truck. Killed himself...

The guys that jumped him were the Avengers from Arlington, it's in Virginia. And they say the reason why they banded together was because someone burned the president's car. And they were tryin' to protect themselves from the Pagans. Well, we never did go there anyway. We just never did. I mean, everything's in Maryland that we want, slot machines, beer, women. I mean, why should we go to Virginia? They milk cows there.

I guess they just formed the club together, you know. It wasn't a motorcycle club. They'd let anyone in. A 16-year-old kid was with them when they got arrested that night, 16 years old. So you can see that they didn't have very many mature people, they recruited just anybody. It was a car club, it wasn't a motorcycle club. They only had two motorcycles in the whole club. There was 40, 50 guys...

Of course when we got back and found out about Sam, we went over and looked over where they were, where they hung out that night, Monday night. And then spent the next day gettin' all our members together, playin' it out. The Pagans don't act on a moment's spur unless it's somethin' like one of our boys being snuffed. And then we'll act right there. But we went home and planned it, we saw the police there with them that night. We knew the police were just wishin' for something to start. So Tuesday night we come down out of the woods. I got there late. And I seen all the police there, there was 160, the papers said 160 police there within three minutes. So they knew they were waitin' for somethin'. What blew their minds was that they didn't get any Pagans at all. They did not arrest one Pagan that was involved in that gun fight, until fifteen hours later. We come down out of the woods and ambushed 'em, just opened fire right on 'em. A couple police, I understand, got wounded. Got some pellets in the face. Just shotgun pellets is all. And the police roared in and arrested all the Avengers. They just arrested all of 'em, caught 'em with the guns. Well, you can tell by that it's kind of a jerky club. There they are at eleven o'clock in a parking lot beside a Safeway store with guns in their cars and all. You know, there's no theory, there's nothing to base the club on. This is their hangout. I mean, this is where they go to have fun. I sleep in parking lots. I don't go there to have fun, you know. The asphalt catches all the warmth from the sun during the day. And at night, it's warm. And they're in there, I don't know, just standing in the parking lot.

The Avengers knew that they couldn't go beat the hell out of one of our members without retaliation. And they knew that we knew where they hung out. And that's why they all come there on Monday night. And they were all there again on Tuesday night when we hit. They were waitin' for a quick hit. They said themselves they expected the Pagans to roar in, in cars, and jump out and fight and then they'd shoot us all. They never did expect us to ambush them from the woods. But that's the way we are. We take care of our members. If one member gets arrested in a fight, or gets the hell beat out of him, we all go or we all stay.






Last year, my girl friend called me up and she asked me to come down to Grand and Division. She needed some money. And she said it was a bar. She says that the guys were havin' a meeting there. Well, I didn't know the guys or anythin', so I went there and I never felt so out of place in all my life. I walked in there and I had white levis on, I had a sweater on. And I looked, and the first guy I seen was Corky, with an earring hangin' out of his ear, his belly button showing, like half naked. To me, it was like half naked, you know? And here he's hootin' and hollerin' and he scared the livin' daylights out of me. So I sees my girl friend and I goes over to her and I sits down there, and I'm takin' everythin' in. And all these guys kept comin' up to me sayin', you know, different stuff like you need a man ? Or you want to come live with me? And I was just about ready to just run. So I says to my girl friend, well, I gotta go. And she says, oh, they're not that bad. Just sit here. So then she introduced me to some of them, and Pete asked me if I wanted to go out and I took one look at him and I says no. And I was so scared I couldn't even talk.. . and I says, no thank you. I says, I have a date at 12 o'clock, I have to get home. So then they starts — Cinderella's got a date, she's got to be home at 12 o'clock. And they're scarin' me cause they're sayin', we ain't gonna let her go, and the more they said that, they kept gettin' into a huddle. And I knew they were talkin' about me, and I says to my girl friend, see, they're plannin' something. I says, I'm gonna go. So I was gettin' ready to get up, and all of a sudden I seen Benny and he was standin' at the end of the bar. And I says to my girl friend, boy, who's that good-lookin' blond guy. I says, he doesn't look like the rest of these guys. She says, Oh Kathy, you don't want to go out with him. She says, because nobody wants to go out with him. And I says why? And she says, because he cracks up on his bike. Everytime he gets up on his bike, he has an accident. I says, oh, okay. So she ordered me a coke and I sat there and was shootin' the breeze with her, and all of a sudden Benny came up behind me and he started talkie' to me. And I says, well, I gotta go home. So I walks out the front door real nice, bein' grabbed about five times, that when I got outside, all I could see on my slacks were just hand prints all over me. So I'm standin' on the bus corner almost in tears, thinkin' oh my God, something's gonna happen to me yet. And they all come chargin' out of the front door. They grabbed me and they took my purse and put me on Benny's bike, and they told him to take off. He takes off, he goes through the stoplights and everythin', so that I wouldn't jump off. And I wouldn't have jumped off anyway, cause I was so scared — I never was on a motorcycle in all my life. So finally we gets out on the expressway, and all the guys come, and they're laughin' and laughin'. So we went to that Green Duck place. By that time I wasn't scared no more, cause Johnny was real nice to me. He says, don't worry. He says, I'm president of this club, and I wouldn't want nothin' to happen to you. He says, they're only havin' fun, and this one guy wanted to go out with ya. So I says okay...

So I pays for my own drinks and everythin'. That's how chivalrous those guys are. But at least I wasn't obligated to 'em. But that meant I didn't get home till four in the mornin'. And I swore I'd never go with them guys again. Never. Because they're just like animals. You know, they didn't talk the same way I did, it was everything, f this and f that. By the time the night was over, my ears were ringin', from listenin' to 'em all braggin'. So Benny brought me home and my boy friend was sittin' on the front porch. So I says good night, you know adios, and I says I never want to see them guys again. They're idiots.

So the next day, Benny calls up and asks me if I want to go to a race. I says no. He called me up all durin' the week. I says, no, I'm not goin' with ya. So finally one night he planted himself here all night and wouldn't go home. So then my boy friend would still come over and Benny would still sit here and I'd tell him, you better go home. And he wouldn't go. So finally my boy friend left and Benny was still around. So, he says, let me take you to the meetin'. Everything'll be real nice. So I went to the meetin'. After that, I started goin' out with him. I only went out with him, never with any of the other guys in the club. And five weeks later I married him.


Cockroach was one of the first Outlaws to befriend me when I joined the club, which meant he talked to me right away while some of the others waited until they had seen me twice. He was delighted that I was a photographer, disclosing that his great ambition was to have his picture in a book captioned as a barbarian. He wanted to be able to show it to his son. "If you look at history," Cockroach said, "the barbarians always come out on top."

Cockroach is no longer with the club with conflicting reasons given. The official story is that he fired a shotgun in his house (accidently) and his wife and mother tried to have him committed so he ran away. But I remember one night when one of the Outlaws came up to me very drunk and sad and told me that Cockroach was a big phoney, and ate bugs only after Sonny and others showed him how, and that the story about the shotgun story was invented so Cockroach could get out of the club. Leaving the club is often a sensitive issue, so the circumstances of a departure often are clouded in confusion.

Eddie also is no longer with the club. He had the misfortune of being caught in a police raid on the Coach House, one of the club's hang-outs, and becoming the subject of a newspaper story headlined, "Dope, Nazi Flags Seized."

Funny Sonny was a Hell's Angel for a number of years before he moved to the Midwest, and he organized a small outlaw club of his own before he joined the Chicago Outlaws.

Sonny is a kind of an independent and something of a club-hopper. You're not supposed to leave California with your Angel patch, but Sonny's is always close by, in case the press demands it. He swears eternal loyalty to Chicago, then one day wanders off to Columbus, Ohio, where he dons their patch. Things get boring there, so he borrows gas money to go to Milwaukee. There, with a meeting of 200 Outlaws going on, Sonny gives a TV interview in his Angel colors and terrifies the town. Rumors of hordes of Hell's Angels (Sonny) puts the heat on the club, so Funny Sonny returns to Chicago and begs to be re-admitted, which he is. Then "The Wild Angels" movie opens in Chicago, and for $10 a day Sonny dons Angel colors and sits menacingly outside the theater on his CH. That's too much for everyone, for the patch is taken seriously, and Sonny is thrown out again. I don't know right now if Funny Sonny is back in or back out.

The first night I went to an Outlaw meeting, Kathy was there. What I didn't realize then was that the club was new for her too. The girl's world in the club is really separate, open to my swinger, but not to me. When the club meets in a back room of a bar, the wives, swingers, and camp followers wait out front, doing far-out things like dancing together or fixing their hair. Kathy and other women in the club had a way of knowing or talking more honestly about things than the men. I guess there was not as much pressure to put on a front as with the guys.

Kathy is 26, with three kids from another marriage, when she fell in love with the 19-year-old outlaw Benny. She lives further west on the west side of Chicago than most people realize is possible, in the neighborhood she lived in as a child.




Johnny has been president of the Chicago Outlaws for the past eight years. He is a transit truck driver and lives in a comfortable home on the west side of Chicago with his wife Gloria and their two daughters. The problem of funerals that he speaks of here is very real. During the last season I spent around bike riders, I knew, or knew of, five young people who were killed. One was a suicide, two died in cars, one died on his bike (actually he fell off his bike at a slow speed and was run over by a car) and one died drag racing.

Inevitably, motorcycle funerals (motorcycles follow the hearse and sometimes the deceased is buried in the club colors) shows a great deal of tension. Often the parents and family of the deceased hated motorcycles, and now blame their loss on the bike riders. I have seen a mourning grandmother walk past mourning bike riders and call them "filthy pigs." The scene brings memories of Romeo and Juliet, with the family in civilian clothes and bike riders in leather staring hate at each other over a loved one's coffin.

Cal, or Cal from So. Cal as he is properly called, is 29 and was a Hell's Angel for six years. I first met him at the Outlaws New Year's Eve party in Milwaukee (the party was considered somewhat of an occasion because 100 Outlaws from different clubs in five states managed to get through the night without anyone being seriously injured), shortly after he joined the Chicago club which, Cal says, is the only one he'd consider joining after being an Angel for so long. Cal feels a real sense of change in the membership of outlaw clubs and in the H.A.'s, differentiating between the "old people" (his brother is an active H.A. in the Berdo chapter) and the new punks.



A great change in the motorcycle world began in the early sixties with the introduction of the Honda to the American market. What Honda did was create an entirely new market, and with it came a new motorcycle world, larger and quite different from the old world of the bike rider.

Hondas were good to ride around the campus and down Madison Avenue. They had push-button starters. It made motorcycling almost respectable, and now suburbanites wanted a 90cc Japanese bike to keep in the garage between their two cars. (Engine size of the HarleyDavidson CH, the most popular bike with outlaws is 900cc, or ten times as large.) Motorcycle sales doubled, and by 1966, there were 1,250,000 registered in the country.

Outlaws don't have much use for the small Japanese bikes or for the people that ride them, but still the current motorcycle boom has greatly affected their world. A much broader base now existed for public interest in motorcycles, and the communications media, which has never been unaware that bike gang stories sell papers, eagerly reported anything outlaw clubs did.

A Saturday Evening Post cover story on the Hell's Angels in 1965 awakened any local newsmen not yet unaware of it, that they too might be able to find a local outlaw club with which to threaten their community. By 1966 it was hard for the Chicago Outlaws to go on a run anywhere without an entourage of TV cameras. The Outlaws themselves are not uncooperative with the news media, often carrying clippings about themselves or their clubs inside their black leather jackets.

Although the Chicago Outlaws and the Hell's Angels originated in the early fifties, most of the new clubs were formed after 1965, and many will tell you they got the idea from a magazine. (The early history of the Chicago club is obscure, although some people believe there was a connection to the old McCook Outlaws, a club that disbanded in 1947 when most of its members became Chicago policemen.)

Not unaffected by all the new attention, the Chicago Outlaws in 1966 became, of all things, an expansionist force. Already the largest club in Chicago with its 50-odd members, under Johnny Davis' direction, the club began to organize new clubs under the Outlaw patch. Thus the Milwaukee Outlaws, the Louisville Outlaws and Dayton, Columbus, So. Indiana and Grand Rapids Outlaws. There was even talk of going into Canada.

The Milwaukee Outlaws, which unlike the Chicago club cooperated eagerly with the press, became so popular that the Governor of Wisconsin went on TV and promised to clean up the state. Zipco and Beast came to Chicago to hide. It was becoming clear that fame was a two-edged sword.


Johnny Goodpaster...

Goodpaster is not an Outlaw motorcyclist, but one of the best scrambles racers in the Midwest.


Yeah, right off the bat as a professional racer, a fella ran into me and broke my leg in seventeen places. And that kinda put an end to it. I was laid up for a year with a bad leg. And when you stop racing, riding, you forget. You forget how to ride, in fact. So most people figure, well, you're all done, you broke a leg. Sell your bike and forget it.

But I didn't quit. I told the other riders, well, it's an occupational disease. You get scratched up a little bit. It happens. You don't want to do it. Most people say, well, it's a psychological block, you want to go out and get maimed and killed. That's why you race motorcycles. I don't see it that way at all. If you want to race motorcycles, that doesn't have anything to do with getting hurt.

People go and take more chances going hunting in the woods with their drunken friends and getting shot than any time you race a motorcycle, I'm sure. In fact, I would venture to say, without no evidence at all, more hunters get killed accidentally than your motorcycle riders.

A golfer can get beaned with a golf ball. Of course, things that the Great Society condones, that's all right to do. But they just never did happen to get around to motorcycles, so, you know that's no good.


A lot of people seem to think bikes, particularly motorcycles, lead to some kind of motivation, that's why guys ride 'em. They think it leads to something obscene. I don't know why, but obscenity and motorcycles travel hand in hand. That's why Honda's done such a great job in leading people away from these beliefs. But many people don't let their daughters ride on big 74s because it looks obscene. They really have, I've heard people say this.

But most people, they don't say anything when an airplane flyer, or a man takes up an airplane hobby and decides to go out and crash his little Piper Cub in the field. They don't say anything about it. But if you happen to miss the light and slide across State Street on your bike, you're a criminal. And there's some pretty shoddy pilots in the world, too!

Same way with cars. People can go down the road reckless, destroying, rampant, drinking, they might get stopped by a cop, might get a ticket. May, maybe not, all depends on the officer in charge, if he drinks too he don't consider drinking a fault.

But if you're on a motorcycle and you weave in and out of traffic a little bit, even though it is safe, you're a menace to the highway. Cause anybody in their right mind knows what a 300-pound motorcycle can do to a 7,000-pound Cadillac.





The family, being strict Catholics, as they were, they decided to have a closed coffin funeral and a private funeral, see. Because of the disgrace of him killing himself. That's the way they look at it. To my own knowledge, I thought it was kind of stupid, but that's the way they wanted it, so we were trying to find out where to send some flowers, because you know, I felt he was a club member and we always do, and I didn't know if they'd accept them or not, because it wasn't in the paper or anything about him getting killed, you know.

So I finally called downtown to the city morgue. And they referred me to a funeral home, the funeral home referred me to somebody else, and I got a big runaround, until finally I found out the cemetery they was burying him in, and I called up a florist and told him to send the flowers up there, and he said they're not accepting flowers, and I said send them anyway. I says, they can eat 'em if they don't want to accept 'em. I says it doesn't make any difference to me. The idea is I want the flowers sent.

So the guys chipped in for a big floral piece — I guess about four foot in diameter, a great huge floral piece like we buy for all the club members that do get killed or die, even if they're not in the club, you know, if they were in good standing when they quit. The club did the same thing for him like we did for Al or Hap's wife. And neither one of those were in the club any longer, see, but we still bought the floral pieces for 'em. And in the same sense if they didn't accept it, they didn't like the club, his family didn't like it at all, you see, because they didn't care nothing for motorcycles. Which was the whole thing. And Paul was kinda crazy about 'em, but they just didn't care nothing for it. And I guess they kinda held it against these people, my people, you might say, that he had killed himself. But actually one had nothing to do with the other. He just met the wrong girl. Fell in love with the wrong girl.

But you take Al that got killed on his motorcycle. Now this was an entirely different story. His family was so nice to the guys that they came up and thanked each individual member — his father did. And I did not even know if the guys were welcome or not. But he was laid out, so I told all the guys, I said, well, hell, we're going anyway. All they can do is tell us we can't come in, you know. I said, if his father said that, we'll turn around and leave, I said, but at least we have enough face to show up there. After all the guy was a member.

So we all went out there and his father and mother were the nicest people you'd want to meet. They said they'd been very sad if we hadn't shown up, if we didn't think no more of Al than that, you know. And he was from a very high-class family, too. They have a beautiful home in Niles, the kid had all kinds of money. It was just an accident. And the irony of that was it was on St. Christopher's Day when they have the motorcycle blessing. He was killed the same day. He went to the motorcycle blessing, came home, and got killed.

But like I said, his mother and dad were — his dad took an interest. The difference in the two dads, the main thing that stands out is two people's fathers, Paul and Al's, were as different as night and day. Where Al's father took an interest in his son's sports and loved the bikes because his son did, Paul's father hated the bikes because his son rode one. And this was the whole thing.


The Cedarsburg Run, one of seven runs the Outlaws made last summer, was a typical example of what has happened now that outlaws are press-worthy. It was held in Wisconsin, and almost 200 bikes came from brother clubs as far off as Columbus, Ohio. The pack had police escorts everywhere it went, the race was canceled, and special radio bulletins announced our movements.

Eventually, we all ended up in a lovely state park which the police, armed with riot guns, sealed off. Hundreds of tourists and college kids lined the highway, and with the police and press stationed at about the orchestra pit, the big bad outlaws — Zipco, Sonny, Maddog, Beast, Pig & Co. — proceeded to give them the show they had come for. Without this SRO audience of public, police and press, it would have been an entirely different scene.

What does it mean when Angels become movie stars and Cal from So. Cal is the hero of a book? It is in the nature of many things in the bike world, and in any world, to perform and expire for the watching eye of the TV camera. What was once a reality lived and discovered becomes a reality created and re-created for the attention it receives.

But if the bike rider is destroyed now in order to bring him into your living room, rest assured that as long as Harley-Davidsons are manufactured there will be others, riding unknown and beautiful through Chicago into the streets of Cicero.

Fitted like sleepers together
In cautious parallels, the leather
Ones barely touch. Remote as aquarium scenes their faces peer
Through the burning blue plastic spheres
Of their helmets as they weave on the skate —
Edge of momentum, sleepers held bolt upright
By a blue dream. Where are they going,
Wordless and shrunk back into a leather sheath like a stallion's
        May love set them face to face,
May shame fragment them into speech.
God send them no more summer but error to break
Their perfection, unsheathed, shake
Them from their dream of blurred spokes
That suddenly stop. And then the long arc
Of their bodies catapulted through the dark
Blue air in sleeper's formation toward a dower
Of earth, blue, always to be blue, but the color of no flower.

""Two on a Motorcycle," by Radcliffe Squires, from The Light Under Islands to be published this fall by The University of Michigan Press.


“The poet, the artist, the sleuth — whoever sharpens our perception tends to be antisocial; rarely ‘well-adjusted,’ he cannot go along with currents and trends. A strange bond often exists among antisocial types in their power to see environments as they really are.”

The Medium is the Massage


Original format: Twenty-two page booklet, 4-5/8 by 10-7/8 inches.



Adapted for the web by Andrew Stafford.
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