How do you spell 'Heil Hitler?' Is that right?


A Collection of Articles from the Archives of

Harry G. Pellegrin

Novelist and Musician


Read on, my man!

Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx





"It isn't paranoia if they really are all out to get you..."

-- Ron Feder to a symposium on religious freedom

After over two years of publishing this magazine,  I've learned that that unnameable "they" really does exist.  Over twenty two years of riding experience (give or take a few years lost to the anti-cycle whims etched in stone by the wife of my first marriage) didn't really prepare me for that realization.  No, it was only when I started to peruse the mainstream media (newspapers, magazines, radio and television) for motorcycle-related stories to editorialize here in the Pony that I truly received an education as to what it really means to throw a leg over a bike.

Vespi's told me about the times he's been refused service in restaurants because some uptight manager didn't want "his type" driving away the regular clientele.  I've heard of Eric's 1200 mile night because some butt headed motel desk clerk didn't want to risk giving such an obviously 'outlaw' biker a chance to bust up the place.  But these incidents, while apparently motorcycle-related, could have been brought on by something that either  Eric or Vespi did.  I don't know about what Eric did, but I'd be a little worried about Vespi even if he pulled up in a Dodge Neon.

I must admit that I thought that the diatribe I published last year regarding the AMA and their continued haranguing of the outlaw biker was a bit harsh, I mean, after all, the AMA does defend all our rights, doesn't it?  But, I let all that stuff slide into my semi-conscious (note: that's a different beast than 'subconscious.')  Just today, though, as I read an article in American Motorcyclist, the newsletter of the AMA, [October 1996] I ran across a few lines that brought to mind  everything Vespi, Seagull, and I had written on the AMA prejudice issue.  Wow

The article in question offered a recapitulation of the events in Spartanburg, South Carolina two years ago where an entire Red Cross Charity Run was interrupted by the local Gestapo for a bit of the old pocket toss and paper check.

Listen to this:

"Rumor had it that the group [of motorcyclists] may have included a few motorcycle gang members as well.  [My emphasis]  But whether it did or not, every person in that ride was treated like a criminal."

This reminded me of that old "if A=B and B=C, then A=C" -type algebra statement.  How does it go?  Non-gang member riders must be law-abiding, decent folks.  If non-gang member riders were made to feel like criminals, then gang members must  be criminals, as it didn't seem to matter to the AMA that they might be made to feel that way.  Therefore, gang members, whatever that phrase might mean, must all be criminals  Hmmm, I see the point.

First of all, whether a Bandido, a Pagan, an Outlaw, or a member of the Hells Angels, no club biker has ever referred to himself as a 'gang member.'  Despite whatever actions a very few individuals associated with these clubs may have done over the years, these are motorcycle clubs, not gangs.  As Seagull pointed out in his pejorative, er, I mean editorial, the word 'gang' has a certain seamy, low-life connotation to it that yellow journalists like to use to convey their personal disgust or disdain to a previously undecided reader.  It's easier to convince 'Joe Average' AMA member that every member of a motorcycle club not chartered by the AMA is a criminal if you call those people gangsters rather than club members.

Bias anyone?

From discussions with Vespi and my own observations, I've come to the following conclusions that I'd like to share with you.

1.) The AMA considers any club that is not chartered by them (AMA) to be an 'outlaw' club.  This term is indeed derogatory, but can be marginally justified by the fact that any non-AMA chartered club is actually operating outside of AMA laws governing the deportment of an AMA-sanctioned club.

2.)The term outlaw was first used by the AMA to describe the 'One Percent' of the people involved in the sport of motorcycling not bowing to the AMA's party line.  To loosely paraphrase the AMA's own comments, "Ninety-nine percent of all motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens enjoying the sport of motorcycling.  The outlaws compromise only one percent of the motorcycling public."  Please forgive me if I have misquoted, but I think the gist is correct.

3.)Over the years, the modified motorcycle enthusiasts have taken the term 'outlaw' in regard to motorcycling to mean any machine that has had modifications (for either speed or aesthetic purposes) that puts it at odds with the federal and state motor vehicle codes in force when it was manufactured.  For example, let's say you have a 1975 CB750 from which you've removed both fenders, installed a bikini fairing, eliminated the turn signals, and basically styled to look like a mid-seventies superbike or sixties cafe racer.  Being that turn signals were present at the date of manufacture and, indeed, were specifically required for the Feds to declare the machine a streetbike, your bike is now in violation of motor vehicle law -- an outlaw motorcycle.  And the guy sitting in the saddle would now be considered by most members of the modified motorcycle culture to be, by their own vernacular, an outlaw motorcyclist.  And this, by the AMA's logic would probably make you fair game for a strip search by the Spartanburg Hitler Youth -- more so if you gathered or traveled  with a club comprised of like-minded modified motorcycle owners -- especially if you all refused to be buggered by an AMA charter for your 'gang'.  Heck, some AMA guys would probably hold you physically while the jack boot crew does a body cavity search.

Gee, I guess in Westerville Ohio all Irish are drunks, all Blacks are lazy, all Chinese are inscrutable, all Jews buy wholesale, all Scotts are just plain cheap, all Italians belong to the Mafia etc, etc.  If you are a member of any of these ethnic or religious groups, this is not the opinion of Plastic Pony or of me, but I bet the AMA feels this way, by their condemnation of anyone who wears a club patch not fully authorized, sanitized and legitimized by their Ivory Tower Brigade.

When will this all end?  When the AMA gets over what they think happened at Hollister.  I know by Norm's  home videos that Ed Youngblood must be old enough to have been at Hollister on July 4, 1947, so maybe he still holds a grudge --for what, I donŐt know. [Actually, he's got a very similar physique to the biker in the faked Life Magazine photo.]  Actual eye-witnesses confirm that nothing like 'The Wild Ones' took place.  Just ask Willy Faulkner.  He really was there.

The AMA continually puts little barbs into those they consider below their contempt.  It reminds me of a guy I work with who always likes to insult me in a 'cutesy' manner, as if maybe I'll catch it and maybe I won't.  Well, I really couldn't care less about what his  opinion of me is.  If he had ever given me any reason to have any respect for his opinions, it might concern me, but I have seen nothing in this fellow that would earn my respect at all.  So his little digs and barbs mean nothing to me as I consider the source, but to me they speak volumes about him.  So it is with the AMA and their prejudice against club bikers.  Their opinion shouldn't mean that much either, except for the fact that, to most of the citizens-at-large, the AMA represents motorcycling as a whole.

The actual heinous events of Spartanburg will never, to me, seem to be quite as atrocious as our own internal  bickering about who is a criminal and who isn't -- especially when that judgment is made based on someone's (the AMA's) preconceived notions founded on long-festering desires on their part to control the entire motorcycle culture, and to discredit anyone who doesn't wish to bow down to their edicts.

Harry G. Pellegrin


LOW END is Published by Bedside Books, an imprint of American Book Publishing.

ISBN 1-58982-074-6

LOW ENDCopyright 2003-2007 Harry G. Pellegrin Harry Pellegrin performs weddings and gallery openings in the Capital Area!

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