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