Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trivia: Motorcycling's sixth decade - 1950-'59 - "What are you rebelling against?" "What have you got?"

After the war, G.I.s came home with ready cash, an appreciation for the motorcycles they’d seen “over there” and – shall we say – a heightened sense of what constituted excitement. In 1947 this led to the so-called “Hollister motorcycle riot”. That event received national prominence when a beefy drunk, slumped on his motorcycle, was pictured in Life magazine.
In 1954, the reputation of motorcyclists was sealed by The Wild One, a film based on Hollister and starring Marlon Brando as a disaffected rebel.
Ironically, in the late ‘40s the Hells Angels were still an AMA-sanctioned club that organized races and rallies. But by the time the ‘50s drew to a close the ‘Angels were outlaws who made Brando’s “Johnny” seem like a schoolboy. It’s not clear if art imitated life, or if life imitated art.
I've written about the real history of the Hollister riot at some length, and I'll eventually compile those essays into a 'Best of Backmarker' entry for this blog. But this oh-so-gay photo of a young Brando reminds me of a jibe that was edited out of a Backmarker entry a few years back. You see, in the summer of 2008, I caught a story in the LA Times about one of those Christian biker 'gangs' tangling with some Hells Angels. That prompted me to write...

I note that today’s LA Times reports “the Anaheim-based Christian motorcycle gang known as the Set Free Soldiers found itself in deeper trouble Wednesday when its leader and half a dozen members were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.” Police charged the Christian bikers with attempted murder after a melée in a Newport Beach bar in which two Hells Angels were stabbed.
     In a way, this news almost makes me feel better about those so-called Christian bikers, who I always felt were just a bunch of posers. It seems at least some of them are genuine badasses. Plus the Times’ coverage goes a long way towards answering a question I’ve often pondered, which is, who would Jesus kill?

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