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Posts Tagged ‘biker

“People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it’s safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs”*…

 

The Wild One

Marlon Brando, The Wild One

 

Throughout the 1930s, the sleepy town of Hollister [California], not far from Monterey Bay, had made a pastime of hosting motorcycle rallies. Paused during World War II, an Independence Day rally returned in 1947 with a pent-up energy like never before.

By the end of the holiday weekend, roughly 50 bikers had been arrested for public drunkenness and other forms of debauchery. Then they left, and life in Hollister went back to normal. But the lore of what became dubbed the Hollister Riot grew. Breathless news accounts told of “havoc” and “pandemonium” on the streets of small-town America.

A couple weeks later LIFE magazine published a S.F. Chronicle photo from Hollister, pictured above, showing a drunken fellow teetering atop a Harley, a beer bottle in each fist and a pile of spent bottles at his feet. The headline: “Cyclists’ Holiday: He and friends terrorize a town.”

biker_hollister

Historians have questioned whether this photo from the so-called Hollister Riot was staged. Barney Peterson/S.F. Chronicle

LIFE was read by roughly 10% of the country at a time before widespread adoption of the television. The image of wild men on motorcycles, Hunter S. Thompson observed, was like nothing America had ever seen.

In “Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga,” Thompson wrote: “There was absolutely no precedent, in the years after World War II, for large gangs of hoodlums on motorcycles, reveling in violence, worshiping mobility and thinking nothing of riding five hundreds miles on a weekend … to whoop it up with other gangs of cyclists in some country hamlet entirely unprepared to handle even a dozen peaceful tourists.”

A few years after Hollister, Harper’s Magazine published a fictionalized version of the rally that was in turn crafted into a Hollywood depiction. “The Wild One” premiered in 1953 starring heartthrob Marlon Brando as the iconic biker outlaw Johnny Strabler.

At one point in the movie, a little girl asks Strabler what he’s rebelling against.

“Whaddya got?” he replies.

Over the years, mainstream motorcycle groups sought to dispel their reputation as hell-raising ruffians. But other clubs wore it proudly. They called themselves one-percenters, a response to the claim that 99% of motorcyclists are model citizens. The most notorious, the Hell’s Angels, was founded in Fontana not long after Hollister. Their motto: “When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets.”…

How the image of the outlaw biker was born. Via the ever-illuminating California Sun.

* Alexi Sayle

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As we hit the road, we might spare a thought for Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus, better known simply as Erasmus; he died on this date in 1536.  A Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, translator, and theologian, probably best remembered for his book In Praise of Folly, he was the greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance, the first editor of the New Testament (“Do unto others…”), and an important figure in patristics and classical literature.  Among fellow scholars and philosophers he was– and is– known as the “Prince of the Humanists.”

Portrait of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1523) by Hans Holbein the Younger

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