Friday, July 1, 2011

Hell, hell, the gang's all here. Outlaw bikers in the news...

The L.A. Times reports that a judge has struck down a ruling that would have it illegal for anyone to wear the Mongols (outlaw biker gang) colors.

"They're not 'colors', said the judge. The Mongols' logo is black and white."

Actually, I made that up. For more on the ruling, read this.

The Mongols were the subject of the book Under and Alone, by William Queen. The author was an ATF agent who spent over two years undercover as a member of the Mongols. Warner Bros. apparently had a film of Queen's story in development, with Mel Gibson tipped to play the undercover agent. I've heard nothing of this for a few years, and I assume they've given up. Maybe because no audience would believe that Gibson - a drunk, wife-beating holocaust denier - would be accepted as a member.

The last time the Mongols were in the news was during the 2002 'Laughlin River Run'. A pitched gun and knife fight broke out between the Hells Angels and Mongols in the Laughlin Harrah’s casino. Presumably a Mongol was at some Angels’ favorite slot machine.

Three people were killed and dozens were injured. In a related incident, a Hells Angel was shot a few hours later in San Bernardino county. Incredibly, considering the extensive video surveillance in the casino, only one person, a Hells Angel from Arizona, was charged. Those charges were eventually dropped.

There will always be non-motorcyclists, your in-laws for example, who think anyone who rides – even a Vespa scooter or a Honda Gold Wing – is a Hells Angel bent on rape and pillage. If you’re to convince them otherwise, you’ll need a few facts on your side.

So what do you need to know about the Hells Angels? Well for starters, they do exist, and if you back over one of their choppers, you should immediately leave the scene. And the country.

Seriously, the odds of that happening are small because there are a fewer Hells Angels than you think. Here’s a factoid on their estimated worldwide membership and seven other things you’d rather learn from this blog than from personal experience.

1. A Hells Angels census

Recent police intelligence reports suggest that there are about 230 Hells Angels chapters in pretty much every state and dozens of countries around the world. Despite this global presence, the club has only about 3,000 full members. Part of their outsized reputation stems from the fact that most of their dirty work is done by a far larger number of bikers trying to curry favor.

2. Hells Angels, Inc.

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation Inc. was incorporated in the state of California in 1970. The company’s head office is in Oakland. The even have a web site,

3. About the name

The original Hells Angels club was founded in San Bernardino, CA in 1948. It took its name from a WWII B-17 bomber squadron. In the early years, it really was just a motorcycle club – it was even sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association.

4. A subsidiary of Hells Angels, Inc.

Like other global companies, the Angels have subsidiaries. The largest of these is a club called the Nomads, which itself has chapters scattered around the world. Over the years there have been a few legitimate motorcycle clubs with this name, so to avoid confusion the Angels’ subsidiaries have taken to calling themselves “Hells Angels Nomads” or “HAMC Nomads.” The other major Angels subsidiary is group called the Red Demons.

5. Hells Angels™

The club sued the Walt Disney Corporation over misuse of its name and winged death’s head logo. The alleged trademark infringement concerned a Disney film still in development. “Wild Hogs” is the story of a group of middle-aged suburban Harley riders (including Tim Allen) that runs afoul of a biker gang. The Hells Angels fighting with lawyers? What’s this world coming to?

6. Hells Angels(sic)

Yes, there seems to be a missing apostrophe. Hey, they’re outlaw bikers, not grammarians. A Hells Angel once hilariously 'explained' the error by saying, “There’s more than one Hell.”

7. They’re just a club. In the same way the mob exists mainly to play bocce

The Hells Angels and other motorcycle gangs are involved in the manufacture and distribution of drugs (notably methamphetamines,) illegal weapons sales, prostitution, protection rackets, vehicle theft (especially motorcycles,) etcetera.

One reason few full members of the Angels are convicted of such crimes is that, as with the Mafia, the dirty work is done by underlings with few direct connections to the gang.

8. "We're #2, we try harder"

The fastest growing bike gang in the U.S. may well be the Bandidos (aka Bandido Nation.) They were formed in 1966 in Texas and now have over 30 chapters and 500 members in the U.S. and Canada.

The Bandidos logo is a parody of the “Frito Bandito” advertising character. One presumes that Frito-Lay was too preoccupied with its 1965 merger to Pepsico to remember to file a lawsuit. The little bandit with the big sombrero and yard-long machete may be laughable, but the Bandidos are not funny – they’re conspicuously violent, even by the standards of outlaw bikers.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff as always, Mark. But know this; I'm spending this eve watching "One Man's Island", a story about my kind of "biker"

    Steve D.
    Fair Oaks, CA