Friday, January 15, 2016

Dan "Grizzly Adams" Haggerty dies. For real, this time

Actor Dan Haggerty is dead, of cancer. This time. He's got quite a few connections to the motorcycle world, most notably that he coordinated the building of the Harley-Davidson panhead choppers used in Easy Rider.

After Easy Rider, he appeared in a string of low-budget bikesploitation films. Perhaps the most interesting of the bunch was 'Bury Me an Angel', directed by Barbara Peeters ― who was one of the very few women directing trashy B-movies.
Haggerty (on bike) claimed that he'd restored the only surviving original Captain America bike from Easy Rider. Michael Eisenberg (the guy standing behind Haggerty) must've believed him, because he paid $1.35 million for the machine at an auction in 2014.
Haggerty was, it seems, pretty much a genuine biker, although his public persona was reshaped by his starring role in the feature film, "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams" in 1974. A few years later, he reprised that role in the TV series.

His career was nearly derailed when he was busted for cocaine possession ― though a criminal record made those earlier biker roles seem even more authentic in hindsight.

In the early '90s, Haggerty was in a very serious motorcycle accident. A post-operative infection nearly cost him his left leg, and may have put the kibosh on a plan to resurrect the "Grizzly Adams" TV series. After the crash, his wife got a letter of condolences from the  Screen Actors Guild and, so the story goes, Haggerty got a 'get well' letter from the Pope.

To make this even more of a cautionary tale, Haggerty's wife Samantha was killed in another motorcycle accident in 2008. Riding home from a dinner date, without a helmet, she hit a deer.

The last time Haggerty was in the news, it was because the 'Captain America' bike from Easy Rider was back in the news. As the story goes, Haggerty supervised the build of four bikes for the film ― two copies of the Peter Fonda bike, and two of the one ridden by Dennis Hopper. Three of the four were apparently stolen, although a couple of years ago, Haggerty claimed he'd rebuilt the one surviving Captain America bike, which had been wrecked in filming. The catch was, he'd done the very same thing in 1996. I've personally seen the letter he wrote that time, attesting that it was the real McCoy.

In 2014, a collector paid over a million bucks for the second "authenticated" Captain America bike. Which, if any of them, is the real thing is a secret that now seems to have gone to the grave with Grizzly Adams.

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