It’s a dangerous game, motorcycling. Cagers think they get it, and that’s why they don’t ride. But no one can really comprehend the risk involved in two-wheel travel until they’ve had to swerve to save their skin. Motorcyclists know the truth better than anyone: There are no mere fender-benders on a bike. Escaping a motorcycle crash without an injury is a rarity.
And accidents happen every day. Here in LA, motorcycle crashes usually don’t make the news unless they’ve caused a traffic jam on the 405. The Rich & Famous go down too, and whenever they do it we hear about it, usually via some tripe-fest quote-unquote news program like “TMZ.” The survivors are often called “heroic,” but usually they’re just lucky.
Presented for your approval: The Top 10 Motorcycle Crashes of the Rich & Famous.
The 1960s sex kitten was thrown off her motorcycle in Brainerd, MN. in August of 2000, suffering three broken ribs and a fractured left shoulder. The next day Ann-Margret, 59 at the time, carried on as Grand Marshal of the Colonel’s Truck Accessories National Hot Rod Association Nationals, riding in a pace car with her left arm in a sling and waving to 140,000 people. The next year on Larry King Live, she talked about the accident.
ANN-MARGRET: I hit some sugar sand and just went off. And I bumped and bumped and bumped. And I thought: ‘Well, this is a beautiful lawn.’ And then I hit something.
KING: And do you still ride motorcycles?
ANN-MARGRET: I have a beautiful, brand-new one waiting for me.
KING: A Harley?
ANN-MARGRET: Hand-painted, lavender, with gorgeous, gorgeous daises.
KING: But why do you ride motorcycles?
ANN-MARGRET: Why do you do this show?
KING: Well, it ain’t going to send me off the cliff.
ANN-MARGRET: No, but don’t you love it?
KING: Yes, I love it. But why do you love motorcycles?
ANN-MARGRET: It is everything.
In 1971, the guitarist for The Allman Brothers Band and Eric Clapton’s project Derek and the Dominos was killed in a crash while riding his Harley-Davidson Sportster in Macon, GA. Allman, 24, reportedly slowed to let a flatbed truck carrying a huge crane boom make a left-hand turn in front of him. He then swerved toward the center of the road, apparently so he could swing around the outside of the truck; but in the middle of its turn the flatbed suddenly rumbled to a stop. Allman ran right into it. The crane’s weight ball knocked him off his Harley, which bounced up in the air and off of Allman’s chest before skidding to a stop along the curb. The guitarist was not killed instantly – in fact, news reports maintain he had no visible injuries except some bumps and scrapes – but died in surgery later that evening.
Eerily, almost exactly one year later, Barry Oakley, the Allman Brothers Band’s bassist, crashed his Triumph into the side of a Macon city bus, just a few blocks away.
An avid motorcyclist who was extremely anti-helmet, Busey nearly succumbed to head injuries he received as a result of a violent crash in 1988 after picking up his bike from Bartels’ Harley-Davidson in Culver City, CA. Legend has it he landed at the feet of a police officer, who used Busey’s own glove to compress his head wound until medical help arrived. Busey suffered a fractured skull and doctors feared permanent brain damage. In 1989, he told People magazine that he was still opposed to helmets; by 2001, Busey had changed his tune, telling USA Today “Riding without a helmet is a gamble everyone is bound to lose.”
According to multiple news reports,, during the second season of Celebrity Rehab in 2008, Busey was reportedly referred by Dr. Drew Pinsky to psychiatrist Dr. Charles Sophy, who diagnosed that Busey’s brain injury has had a greater effect on him than realized. He described it as essentially “weakening Busey’s mental filters” and causing him to speak and act impulsively. Ya think?
Captain America has had his share of motorcycle mishaps. In 1964, Fonda, wearing nothing but a bathing suit and loafers, rode his Triumph over a Tinsel Town speed bump and through a corner where a car was making a turn. The result: a torn-up back and a hipbone poking through his skin. Then, Fonda lost a half-inch of his height due to surgeries required after breaking his back and neck in a 1985 wreck. In 1993, he collided head-on with a deer – a wreck, he says, that cured him of riding after dark or without full gear.
And he’s feisty as ever. Earlier this month, Fonda filed a $3M lawsuit against Nordstrom and Dolce & Gabbana, claiming the retailer and fashion designer didn’t have his permission to sell – for $295, no less – a T-shirt with his likeness featuring the slogan “Easy Rider.”
In a 2007 article promoting the biker movie Ghost Rider, Fonda gave the LA Times a list of the bikes he’s owned: a BMW R 27, multiple Triumphs, a Bultaco, a Montesa, a Ducati, two BMW R1200RSs, two Harley-Davidson Fatboys, a Road King and now rides an MV Agusta F4-1000.
In 1990, motorcycle enthusiast William Michael Albert Broad (a.k.a. Billy Idol) ran a stop sign in Los Angeles and crashed into a car. His leg was mangled and nearly had to be amputated, and he was bedridden for six months. This was right around the time of the release of his ironically-titled album Charmed Life, which featured the hit single “Cradle of Love.” Because of his injuries, the video for the song showed him only from the waist up – this was fine, because most MTV viewers were likely busy ogling 18-year-old video vixen Betsy Lynn George.
Idol tweeted in 2011 that he’d crashed again, not so seriously. He apparently clipped a discarded tire while riding and had surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot.
Much conjecture surrounds the nature and severity of Bob Dylan’s infamous 1966 motorcycle accident. Some say the wreck broke several vertebrae and nearly killed him; other sources claim Dylan’s injuries were minor and his lengthy recuperation was staged to give him some time off to detox from heroin and/or methamphetamine addiction. Nearly 50 years and a small library of biographies later, what really happened near Woodstock, NY on July 29, 1966 remains shrouded in mystery.
One thing all accounts, even Dylan’s own, agree on: the accident was entirely his own fault. Depending on which story you happen to be reading, Bob either skidded on a patch of oil or was blinded by the morning Catskill sun. Regardless, Dylan went down like he often played: solo.
During the height of the show’s popularity in 1980, the breakout star of TVs CHiPs was involved in a serious motorcycle accident while filming. Estrada was following a camera car down an alley in Pacoima, CA, when he lost control of his 1000cc Kawasaki. As 75 horrified cast, crew and onlookers watched, Enrique (his real name) was thrown chest-first onto the hood of the car, and the police bike landed on top of him. Estrada was first thought to have severed his aorta, which would have required immediate open-heart surgery. “Twice doctors told me he wouldn’t make it,” co-star Larry “Jon” Wilcox later said.
Producers incorporated the mishap into the show’s storyline, filming Ponch’s scenes from Estrada’s real-life hospital bed. Legend has it some 500 flower arrangements and gifts poured into the teen heartthrob’s hospital room, including a nude candy-nurse doll.
The former “Baywatch” star and floor-burger-lover lost control of his motorcycle and crashed in Los Angeles in 2003, causing minor injuries to himself and his passenger, then-wife Pamela Bach. The Hoff told investigating officers the two were riding his 2003 Harley-Davidson near a freeway overpass when a wind gust caused him to lose control of the bike. As he was trying to regain control, the motorcycle ran into a curb, throwing the couple. His wife sustained a fractured left ankle and right wrist; the actor fractured his lower back and broke several ribs, but his coif remained intact.
In 2007, Bach blamed the wreck for the breakdown of their 16-year marriage, accusing Hasselhoff of neglecting her after the crash. “I couldn’t walk for a year and was in a wheelchair,” she told reporters. “They told me I’d never walk again. During that whole year, he took me out only twice – once to a Celine Dion concert and once to a basketball game.” Celine Dion? Harsh.
When you’re a two-time Super Bowl champ and the youngest Super Bowl-winning quarterback in NFL history, you can sometimes get away with bending the rules. But this isn’t about Big Ben’s alleged sexual misconduct. In 2006 the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback was said to be near death following a motorcycle accident near downtown Pittsburgh in which he broke his nose and his upper and lower jaw and lost two teeth. He was riding without a helmet and didn’t have a valid license, only his learner’s permit.
Even more reckless riding came in July of 2009, when a Harrah’s Las Vegas hotel attendant accused Roethlisberger of crashing his motorcycle into her vagina. In response, Roethlisberger’s attorney issued the following lawyerly statement: “The fact that there is no criminal investigation speaks volumes…. Also, the part about his motorcycle crashing into her vagina seems very suspect. Very. I have seen Ben’s motorcycle. Unless this woman has an inordinately large vagina – and it would have to be HUGE – it’s just … this story is crap, okay? Ben … would never crash his motorcycle into a woman’s vagina.”
The ’70s supermodel/actress crashed near Las Vegas while riding a motorcycle for a charity ride supporting the Hermitage-Guggenheim Museum in 2001. Luckily, she benefited from the advice of her riding buddies. Dennis Hopper had persuaded her to wear protective leathers instead of the chic one she brought, and Jeremy Irons supplied a full-face helmet in lieu of her open-face one. Hutton says she is not certain how fast she was going at the time of the crash (“they say between 90 and 110, but I would never ride that fast”), but her tires apparently lost grip as she skidded around a curve.
“She lost it on a corner, on a very slow bend,” said Irons, who was riding behind her. “She got onto the gravel at the side of the road and went into a slow skid which is very hard to get out of when you’re traveling at [that] speed. She finally hit the bank and flew through the air.”
When she came down, both legs and arms were broken, and three of her ribs were crushed, puncturing a lung. She was unconscious and a bone was protruding from her leg. Nevertheless, they say she looked gorgeous.