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Monday, February 6, 2017

ASKED TO REPRINT THIS - Fuck-Off, he's Sonny Barger

The Original Article Appeared in the 4th Edition of the Busted Knuckle Chronicles 2012

Like the man or not, he is one of a kind.
Sonny Barger is 73. A laryngectomy following throat cancer means he now talks like Marlon Brando in the Godfather. Certainly, over the years, he has been accused, and sometimes convicted, of causing as much mayhem as the Mafia. His scorecard of arrests - 21 in all, from drunk driving, assaults with deadly weapons, kidnapping, drug-dealing and racketeering - is printed at the end of his new autobiography much in the way that a retired cricketer would run his bowling and batting averages.

In my meeting Sonny Barger for the first time, I told him that in my former life, I was part of an investigation that lead to one of his troubles. He smiled and said with a smile, “No worries, we all make mistakes.
Many have written about Sonny...myself included:
There are other biker gangs - the Bandits in Texas, the Outlaws in the southern states and the Pagans on the east coast. Although none have ever quite had the same death’s head aura, some still hit the headlines.
Sonny Barger is not a religious man. But riding motorcycles is “as good a religion as any and probably better than most, says the Hells Angels icon. Meditative and transcendent, motorcycling focuses the mind, he says, and requires devotion.
At 73, Barger has spent six decades riding bikes and almost 55 years as a member of the world’s best-known motorcycle club. He spreads the gospel of two wheels where ever he goes.
Having logged more than a million miles and suffered only one serious accident, Barger can write books with authority - “Let’s Ride is just the latest example of how he has used a marginalized form of transportation to elevate himself from troublemaker to an author who has sold hundreds of thousands of books.
“I’m making a better living today than I ever have, says Barger, who was running a motorcycle shop when, a decade ago, he decided to trade on his checkered past in the bestselling memoir “Hell’s Angel.
In the years since, he says, he’s paid half a million dollars in taxes “all off of books. He complains that “the government will take my money, but I can’t vote or own a gun because he was a felon.

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While it may seem ironic for an ex-con to brag about paying The Man, it’s just the latest in a long list of dichotomies for Barger, who helped form the Oakland, Calif., chapter of the Hells Angels in 1957.
He is simply a legend, riding made-in-the-USA bikes and endorsing a live-and-let-live mentality that when violated can provoke an eye-for-an-eye sense of justice.
Barger’s heavily tattooed body is a testament to his storied life. There’s a dagger on his chest, a cross on his arm, a “death head skull on his back and a right-shoulder inscription that reads “Hell’s Angels Oakland.
While the tats have faded, the body is still fit, the result of 3 hour daily workouts and protein shakes that give him strength to keep doing what he likes to do best: ride.
Say what you will about the Angels, but one thing is not in dispute: their skill and devotion to motorcycling and each other.
That message was clear one day attending a prison run.
As I dragged myself out of bed near 10, Barger woke at 4:30, fed his animals and worked out. By 8 he was ready to roll.
After half a century riding Harley-Davidsons, Barger an Army veteran who was raised during World War II and taught to buy American now straddles a bike from a different U.S. manufacturer: a 2008 Victory Vision he purchased for $1 from legendary custom builder Arlen Ness.
He’s swapped out the Victory badges for Hells Angels medallions that glow when the ignition switch is flipped and otherwise modified the bike. Barger’s status as the baddest man on two wheels translates into a lot of free stuff, including the extra-thick blue jeans and sleeveless denim “cuts he received for participating in a San Francisco clothing company’s photo shoot.
Despite his age, Barger still logs almost 25,000 miles annually half as much as he used to ride but far more than many riders put on their bikes in a lifetime. His secret for keeping the shiny side up is luck. “No matter how good you are, says Barger, “you can be sitting at a stoplight when a truck comes up behind you and runs you over. It’s all luck.

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Luck, though, has a lot to do with preparation, which is why Barger felt compelled to write a rider’s guide. “Everybody wants to be a motorcycle rider today, and they’re getting killed, he says, noting that motorcycle fatalities increased for 11 straight years through 2011.
Barger promotes: not riding when angry, not riding while drunk or on drugs, not believing other drivers’ turn signals, not riding a difficult-to-see black motorcycle, not learning to ride from a friend. Some of this he’s learned the hard way, by doing it himself.
Barger taught himself to ride on a Cushman scooter he bought for $25 when he was 11. Only in the 1980s did he take a rider course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. “I was the only guy that fell down, Barger says. “It was funny because I had more riding time than the whole class put together.
He is unapologetic about wearing a full-face helmet safety gear shunned by many riders of cruiser-style motorcycles. Neither am I because of the metal plate in my head after being hit by a car while attending a multi-vehicle accident in Alberta. Barger wears one because he needs wind protection; 28 years ago, his vocal cords were removed after his three-pack-aday cigarette habit led to cancer of the larynx. His voice is a whisper, despite monthly trips to a Veterans Affairs hospital and semiweekly self-insertions of plastic tubing to widen his esophagus so he can eat.
What more can I say, the man even has a Sauce named after him: “Sonny Barger, famed for his historical relationships with motorcycling, has four new and exciting sauces hotter than a Harley Davidson’s manifold! Four delicious sauces to choose from: HELLFIRE BBQ Sauce, HELLFIRE Salsa, HELLFIRE Jalapeno Hot Sauce, & HELLFIRE Habanero Hot Sauce. TRY ALL FOUR! $7.95 a bottle.
Leading the pack was Barger, who took the upper-left-hand position, often riding on the roadway’s center line, as if to say, “I own this.
He was flanked by Cowboy to his right, and the rest of us followed two by two, down the dirt road in front of Barger’s house to the twisting, single-lane country highway that would lead us to a biscuits-and-gravy breakfast at the Two Wheels Diner.
The Angels ride the way they live. Moving at speeds that frequently exceed the posted limit, they travel tight side by side, with little following distance between them. It’s an appropriate metaphor for the close-knit club that won’t let just anybody in.
They also refuse to follow, as I learned when Barger tired of riding behind a few slow-moving vehicles, led us over the double yellow line into a stream of oncoming traffic. It isn’t often I ride in groups, other than police escort units, so surprised with the Angels’ passing system - very affective. Being in the last row, I had to stare down the grill of a pickup before darting back into my lane. Each time we did this, I felt exhilarated...alive.
They, however, were fearless, which shouldn’t be a surprise.
They’re the Hells Angels.
And Sonny Barger is their spiritual leader. After all these years, he knows what he’s doing:
riding, writing, living free.