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Friday, August 21, 2015

'Outlaw Chronicles': True Stories with the Hells Angels


California -
Sons of Anarchy may have ended, but in its wake comes Outlaw Chronicles: Hells Angels — a new six-part History Channel series that focuses on one man's rise to the top of the notorious motorcycle club. For the first time ever, a real-life Hells Angel will reveal the organization's blood- and gasoline-soaked secrets, a transgression that in the past could get you killed.
George Christie isn't worried. The heavily-inked 68-year–old former club president believes all outlaw bikers, Hells Angels or otherwise, will get a kick out of it. "People have to keep in mind that a show like Sons Of Anarchy is dramatic and entertaining, but it doesn't represent what really goes on in the bike culture," he says. "The History Channel has allowed me to present it through my eyes — an outlaw's perception of what it was really like. This has never happened before. In the past, it's always been through the law enforcement's perspective."
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Born in 1957 in Ventura, California, Christie was drawn to outlaw culture from an early age. After being turned onto motorcycles by a fellow surfer as a teenager, he bought his first bike, a 1957 Panhead for $200, and never looked back. Soon he was rubbing shoulders with local "one–percenter" outlaw outfits (the other 99 percent are law–abiding, according to the American Motorcyclist Association) like The Question Marks, Satan's Slaves, and eventually the largest motorcycle club of them all, the Hells Angels.
Outlaw Chronicles
Credit: Courtesy A&E Networks
In the mid-70's, Christie became a prospective member in the club's L.A. chapter. Before being initiated as a full-patch Hells Angel, one has to serve as a prospect to determine if he has what it takes to join. Being a prospect in a biker club meant being at the disposal of any member at any time. If a Hells Angel wanted a burger from San Francisco at 4 a.m., it was Christie's job to go get it. Other glamorous duties included all-night beer runs and cleaning up the clubhouse. And while outlaw bikers are a notoriously hard-partying crowd, a prospect dare not get inebriated or fall asleep at a party — or he risks a waking nightmare.
"I saw someone get lit on fire once, for sleeping in the middle of a party," Christie recalls. "The best thing to do if you're coming around the club is to have your wits about you. Now if you're a member, all rules are off. You go there to have a good time, and the prospects are actually looking out for you, [to make sure] you don't go over the edge and get yourself into any jams."
It was also during this period when Christie saw one particularly grisly display of "showing class," or the ability to handle oneself and "make a statement" by demonstrating toughness. When asked what one prospective member would do if another Hells Angel cut one of his fingers off, the biker said not to bother — he'd do it himself. Club members then watched in astonishment as the hang-around cut off his own fingers. "He figured that would impress everybody," Christie says, "and it did."
After earning respect as a prospect (and keeping all his fingers), Christie received his patch in 1976, becoming a full-fledged member of the Hells Angels. He would soon go on to become president of the L.A. chapter before founding one in Ventura. Being president of the Hells Angels made Christie a target of law enforcement, who classify the club as one of the "big four" criminal motorcycle gangs — a select group that also includes the Pagans, Outlaws, and Bandidos. Authorities have alleged these gangs oversee violent crimes like drug dealing, extortion, prostitution, and trafficking stolen goods, and always kept an eye on the gangs, often trying to upset the ranks from the inside.
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"Over the 40 years I was around the club, I've been approached by informants from all directions and cultures, whether they be other outlaw bikers, prison gang members, whoever," he says. "[People attempted to] entrap me several times, and sometimes I did okay, sometimes I'd spend a little time in jail. Ultimately though I came out with a pretty good track record of sniffing out rats."
While he has no respect for informants, he doesn't have a problem with cops who went undercover to infiltrate a club. "If an ATF agent or an FBI agent infiltrates an organization, I never saw them as rats," he explains. "That's their job, that's what they get paid to do, and it's expected of them." But punishment for being found out can sometimes mean death. In the series, Christie tells a story about an informant named Clifford Mallory, who returned to California after being pegged as a rat — a decision that cost him his life in a motorcycle "accident." Christie never liked the guy.
During Christie's 30-plus years as a leading voice in the Hells Angels, he attempted to open the lines of communication among clubs in order to protect themselves from law enforcement, whom had successfully infiltrated three different clubs (The Vagos, The Outlaws, The Mongols) all with one agent, Charles Falco (who was featured in his own History series, Gangland Undercover). Christie's thinking was, instead of feuding with each other, they should join together against a common enemy.
"I never took the posture that we should fight the cops," Christie says. Cops are typically considered outlaw motorcycle club's greatest enemy. Yet the club's stance, and Christie's, has always been that while there are criminals in the Hells Angels, they are not a criminal organization. "That's never been the intent or the purpose. We like to ride our motorcycles, we like to enjoy the freedom of this country."
In the 1980s, Christie did time for a murder that he maintains never happened, and of which he was eventually cleared of all charges. In 2001, he spent a year in solitary confinement for a state racketeering case that later collapsed. In 2011, shortly after he retired from the Hells Angels, he found himself in hot water again over a 2007 incident where two rival tattoo shops of the parlor Christie owned were firebombed by Hells Angels members perhaps trying to make a statement.
The indictment alleged that Christie threatened the two rival shop owners to shut down, and then firebombed their businesses after they failed to do so. In the FBI report, one of the men responsible stated that Christie had told them to stay away from the rival shops. However, he got indicted and was going to go to prison, so he changed his statement. Christie made a plea bargain and was sentenced to a year in federal prison.
"I've seen some terrible accidents," he says. "I've seen some acts of violence that were unnecessary — hand grenades, bombings, fights in public with other bike clubs over misunderstandings. I've been through a lot."
Though he doesn't take responsibility for directing anybody to commit a crime, he does take responsibility for poor leadership, which is what he told the Federal Court.
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"When I started my exit from the Hells Angels, a lot of people were vying for my position," he says, "and what happened was, a power vacuum was created. I think if I would've had a stronger hand in controlling the members, they wouldn't have been allowed to make these aggressive moves toward these tattoo shops, and I never would've wound up in court."
In 2013, after two years of house arrest following a double hip replacement, Christie was sent to a Federal Prison in Texas for twelve months. Since he was no longer a Hells Angel, he was dubious of how he would be received once inside.
"When I got there, The Bandidos, whom I've known for about 40 years and gotten along with even at times when we were at odds with each other, were waiting for me at the gate," he recalls. "They had a cell for me, and clothes, so it was kind of like old home week. I've had pretty good luck within the walls of prison."
Now free to raise a young son with a wife half his age, Christie currently keeps busy as a consultant for defense attorneys ("I sometimes analyze police reports and tell them what I think's really going on.") and occasional cable news guest. But he still looks back on his time as Hells Angels president with pride. When asked what he misses most about being in the gang, he says, "I miss the rides and the camaraderie. And I have to correct you, the guys in the club don't call it a gang — it's a club."
Outlaw Chronicles: Hells Angels premieres August 18 at 10 p.m. on History.