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Old 12-18-2008, 11:49 AM   #1
Kenneth_Moore
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Default In Search of History: "The Hell's Angels"

This is a DVD reproduction of an A&E television show presented on The History Channel. The Netflix blurb promises that the: "series explores how the group got its start and the secret to its enduring popularity, relying on interviews with past and present members and Hell's Angels aficionados -- including gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson."

The show does a reasonably good job of explaining how returning WWII veterans, dissatisfied with the mundane and boring civilian life they returned to, were the start of the outlaw motorcyclist culture. But the wheels of historical accuracy start to come off the show when the transition to outlaw status is covered.

There's little disagreement that the national image of the "outlaw motorcyclist" emerged as a result of the events surrounding the Hollister Gypsy Tour in 1947. The Gypsy Tour was an AMA sponsored event that had been run for years, but this time things got a bit rowdy. However, the national media played what was really a few bar fights and some street racing into a scene of rioting,rape, and destruction unmatched since Atilla the Hun destroyed Europe. It was pure hype, and either the producers of the show didn't bother to do some basic homework, or they deliberately chose to ignore the facts in favor of the more exciting fantasy. They even put up the famous photo of the drunken biker, which ran in newspapers around the country, without ever mentioning that it was a total fraud; staged by a reporter.

Having built their historic baseline on seriously flawed information, the show turns to the formation of the Hells Angels and their emergence as the definitive 1%'er, outlaw motorcycle club. The show draws heavily on interviews with Sonny Barger and Hunter S. Thompson, who actually created each other's national images and fame in a symbiotic relationship based on Thompson's book: "Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs." Neither of them look to well; of course Dr. Thompson did himself in within a year or two of the interview.

Another annoyance in this "doctoredmentary" is the use of modern day Harleys in grainly, yellow, processed video shots that try to make them look like period bikes. C'mon A&E, the Evo rocker boxes were obvious enough, but that "Heritage Softail" fender shot during the 1940's period coverage is insulting.

Lastly, the show writers actually seem to think that the Angels represent something valuable simply because it's uniquely American. The references to Billy the Kid, Bonnie and Clyde, and other famous criminals are appropriate, but only when put in the context that overall, the Angels are a criminal organization. The fact that they ride big bad Harley Davidsons in the process doesn't change that a bit. And, BTW: the show logo for TeeVee's "Sons of an Archy?" They stole it from Thompson's book.

Now available in your grocer's freezer section.
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:03 PM   #2
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Let's get to the nitty gritty...What do Wang & Bang think of it??


That was an interesting time though, I read Thompsons book when I was a kid, then the whole Altmont thing...niether portrayed them in very good light. Actually starting to see them up here the last year or two which should be interesting because the Banditos have a pretty strong presense here as well as the Gypsy Jokers..
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:06 PM   #3
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I'd have to say your 'criminal organization' comment is off base. They certainly have criminals, and they are somewhat organized, but they don't feature crime as their main motivation for existance. Since I was involved very closely with outlaw clubs at a very young age and personally knew many in the club, I can assure you that it is not a motorcycle mafia. Their reason for club membership was not to be a criminal, but to do their own thing when they wanted to do it, which surely leads to some criminal activity, but it isn't like the whole club gets together to mastermind criminal plots. It just doesn't happen.

"Having built their historic baseline on seriously flawed information, ..."

I could make a comment on this statement, but I figure you already know what that would be.
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Old 12-18-2008, 12:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
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I'd have to say your 'criminal organization' comment is off base. They certainly have criminals, and they are somewhat organized, but they don't feature crime as their main motivation for existance. Since I was involved very closely with outlaw clubs at a very young age and personally knew many in the club, I can assure you that it is not a motorcycle mafia. Their reason for club membership was not to be a criminal, but to do their own thing when they wanted to do it, which surely leads to some criminal activity, but it isn't like the whole club gets together to mastermind criminal plots. It just doesn't happen.

"Having built their historic baseline on seriously flawed information, ..."

I could make a comment on this statement, but I figure you already know what that would be.
Technically true, but in practice... if it quacks like a duck, it's a duck.
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Old 12-18-2008, 01:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by longride View Post
I'd have to say your 'criminal organization' comment is off base. They certainly have criminals, and they are somewhat organized, but they don't feature crime as their main motivation for existance. Since I was involved very closely with outlaw clubs at a very young age and personally knew many in the club, I can assure you that it is not a motorcycle mafia. Their reason for club membership was not to be a criminal, but to do their own thing when they wanted to do it, which surely leads to some criminal activity, but it isn't like the whole club gets together to mastermind criminal plots. It just doesn't happen.

"Having built their historic baseline on seriously flawed information, ..."

I could make a comment on this statement, but I figure you already know what that would be.
You could be the new GMP. I hear there's an opening.
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Old 12-18-2008, 02:07 PM   #6
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You could be the new GMP. I hear there's an opening.
Why, did you quit?
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Old 12-18-2008, 02:22 PM   #7
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Unless all the ducks plan their criminal activities together, then they are just ducks.
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Old 12-18-2008, 04:30 PM   #8
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Bob Goldman, an Angel who rode a ratty pan and lived off Franklin & Talmadge in the Silverlake district wanted to give me a 500cc Triumph twin when I was about 12 years old. His wife worked with my mom, and she nixed that idea, so instead of the bike, he gave me and a buddy a '51 Pontiac Silver Chief with a straight eight flathead. We were the only 6th graders who drove to school in our own car. He was alright by me.
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Old 12-18-2008, 04:55 PM   #9
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Unless all the ducks plan their criminal activities together, then they are just ducks.
Please don't try to educate me about the Hell's Angels and similar gangs. I used to live a few miles from one of the HA hangouts in Gardena. I've been harassed by them on my little Honda50 when I was a teenager and don't think they are the least bit humorous.

Like lawyers it's 98% of them that give the rest a bad name.
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Old 12-18-2008, 05:19 PM   #10
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No education needed. I just said they aren't, by definition, a criminal enterprise. The Feds went down the RICO road years ago against the HA's and lost. I never said you had to like them.
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