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Cutting Our Own Throats
By Fred Rau, MO Featured Columnist March, 2007
Earlier this year I attended the annual Advanstar "International Motorcycle Show" at the Javitts Center in Manhattan. I look forward to attending this show, as I'm sure many of you do. I look forward to these Advanstar events every year, as a chance to see what the major OEMs have planned for the coming riding season, and to rub elbows with virtually everyone involved in the industry -- all in one place at one time. It's worth every penny of the admission fee. But I have to admit that the last couple of shows of theirs I attended got me pretty upset.
The advance PR hype for these events touted a new, "kid-friendly" format, with special event areas and displays just for the youngsters. The ads circulated before the show noted this as part of the "family-friendly features, staffed by Motorcycle Safety Foundation personnel."
What a great concept...to get more youngsters involved in our sport, while at the same time demonstrating that motorcycling can be a mainstream, family activity. I wanted to take my own grandkids to the show, but unfortunately, they were out of town that weekend. Which, in retrospect, turned out to be a good thing.
"Stunt porn...is the new genre of motorcycle videos involving "pirate" films of wild and illegal motorcycle stunts preferably performed on city streets so as to endanger as many innocent people as possible."
Sure, the "kid-friendly" areas existed, and I still think they were a very good idea, but after the family got finished with the kiddy stuff and decided to take a walk around the rest of the show, what did they find prominently displayed in and among the usual displays of jackets, boots and shiny chrome doo-dads? Well, one of the first exhibits I noticed (pretty hard not to) was fronted by a mangled motorcycle, surrounded by a group of young women I could only describe as teeny-bopper porn queens, in their high-heeled black leather boots and mini-skirts, handing out promotional materials for the "Las Vegas Extremes," a motorcycle stunt team. I could only assume that these girls were either meant to represent, or were the actual "LVX Girls" advertised on the team's website as "raw" and "hot." And the videos they were selling in this "family-friendly" atmosphere were clearly marked (by law, I'm sure, but also with a certain sneering kind of pride), as "uncensored, explicit material," requiring "parental advisory." As a grandparent, my personal "advisory" would have been to the show's promoters, in the form of a question: "What the hell are these people doing in my motorcycle show!"
Of course, the Las Vegas Extremes aren't really about sex. That's just a lure for their "legitimate" business: Making and selling "stunt porn" (their description, not mine). Stunt porn, which was also being sold at the show by at least three other vendors by my count, is the new genre of motorcycle videos, involving "pirate" films of wild and illegal motorcycle stunts, preferably performed on city streets, in traffic, so as to endanger as many innocent people as possible.
Most of the groups making and selling this stuff try to hide behind some kind of cloak of respectability, publicly declaring that they only advocate stunting in controlled environments, by experienced professionals wearing proper safety gear. Which is a statement about as valid (and equally as laughable) as the stamp on mega-decibel chrome street pipes exclaiming them to be "for off-road use only." Watch any of the more popular of these videos, and you'll quickly come to realize that they involve very little in the way of "legal" stunting, and a whole lot of the most blatantly-illegal excesses imaginable. Their own advertising gives them away. These are direct quotes from some of their video jackets:
"Streaming porn for motorcyclists!"
"Blatant disregard for innocent people's lives!"
"Negative behavior at its finest!"
"Sickest street stunt videos on the planet!"
Among the best selling titles are "Havoc," "Moving Violations," "A Few Loose Screws" and "Stunts Gone Wild." Probably the best-selling one of all time features a guy who calls himself "Ghost Rider," riding through heavy traffic from Stockholm, Sweden, to Uppsala (a distance of 68 KM), at an average speed of 276.1 KM/H, or 170.1 mph.
Back at the cycle show, the Las Vegas Extremes were kept company by another exhibit, featuring "D-Aces," a team with the production company "Street Extreme," and a video called "Not Guilty," which it advertises as, "raw street stunting that tears up the streets." Also on hand was the MotoVideo Superstore, which, though it doesn't seem to have a hand in actually producing the illegal videos like the two others, is one of the biggest distributors for stunt porn.
Of course, the answer to my question, "What the hell are these people doing in my motorcycle show!" can be given in one simple word: Money. A keyword search on Google for "illegal extreme motorcycle stunts," produced 131,000 results. One of those, a website which sells streaming-video downloads of illegal stunts for $1.99 each, claims it sells over 100,000 videos per week. That's approximately $840,000 per month, if you're wondering, or a little over $10 million per year -- for only one of thousands of sites. And all you need to get into the business is a motorcycle, a video camera, and a person to operate each. Many of these sites advertise that they will pay cash, immediately, for almost anything you can e-mail to them showing something particularly dangerous. Even better if it involves a crash, and actual injuries -- no matter whether the injuries are to the rider, or to some poor soul who just happened to be walking or driving in the vicinity. And just to show you the duplicity of these people, one of the sites that buys and sells such videos in mass quantity has this disclaimer at the bottom of the page: "The creator of these pages do not condone speeding or dangerous driving in any form or manner." Of course, if you don't speed or do something really dangerous and illegal, they won't buy your video, either. It's just legalese to try to put the blame on someone else. It would be like a crack dealer standing outside your local elementary school claiming, "Hey, I don't condone making or using this stuff, but since it's already here, I just distribute it. Nothing wrong with that, is there?"
There is probably nothing we can do to eradicate this cancer on motorcycling, but to my way of thinking, allowing it a public forum within a national motorcycling show, alongside exhibits by the major industry OEMs, gives it a stamp of legitimacy that it has not earned and does not deserve. Should illegal, irresponsible and dangerous motorcycling be advertised and extolled on the same showroom floor with the AMA and the MSF? In fact, at the Long Beach show, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation booth was directly adjacent to one of these stunt porn booths. I might have laughed, if I didn't feel so much like crying, watching the MSF volunteers try to hand out materials on safe riding courses, their voices drowned out by the roaring and crashing of the stunt videos just two feet away, and their booth blocked by the crowd of impressionable young riders staring at the scantily-clad girls handing out "explicit and uncensored" promotional materials.
Now, granted, I have not yet attended this year's version of the show. Perhaps things are better this time. Perhaps someone in charge of the vendors has realized what a mistake it is to promote dangerous and illegal motorcycling. But if not -- if these creeps are once again allowed to promote and extol the very worst in motorcycling, then we -- and by that I mean the AMA, MSF, MIC and every individual rider who really cares about motorcycling -- need to speak up -- loudly, and until someone listens. These opportunistic people do absolutely nothing for the good of motorcycling, and only supply our enemies with tons of ammunition to use against us. If we don't put a stop to them, they will most surely put a stop to us.