“Before Michael Jordan, Jackie Robinson, or Jesse Owens, there was Marshall “Major” Taylor. The greatest athlete the world ever forgot.”
In 1896, 18-year-old “Major” Taylor dominated the competitive cycling scene as “the most formidable racer in America,” earning up to $15,000 per race. In 1898, at age 20, he set seven world records. In 1899, at age 21, he was the first black World Champion in Montreal, and the American Sprint Champion that year and the next year, 1900.
Major Taylor was undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of his time, but cycling soon declined thanks to the new found fascination with the automobile. The Great Depression, personal trials, and health woes took their toll on Taylor and he soon slipped away into the fog of forgotten memories. Sadly, in 1932 he died a lonely pauper in a Chicago YMCA. In 1948, Taylor was re-buried in Glenview Cemetery, Chicago thanks to the rallying support of Frank Schwinn of the Schwinn Bicycle Company. via Check out that amazing Fearnhead bevel-wheel gear shaft-drive bicycle he’s on!
“After losing his wife (and mother of their 3 boys) in 1958, John Penton went on an absolute tear on the enduro circuit trying to outrun his grief. Family members cared for his boys while Penton dismissed the winter cold and rode off for Daytona on his 175cc NSU motorcycle. Stopping in Atlanta, Penton won the Stone Mountain Enduro, then rode the NSU to Florida winning the Alligator Enduro, and racked up a few more wins across the Midwest– including his first victory at the Jack Pine.
Penton closed out 1958 with a road trip to Mexico. Upon hitting California on the way up the Pacific Coast, he decided it was time to return home to Ohio and did so non-stop– inspiring his brother Ted to challenge him to break the New York to Los Angeles transcontinental record.”
“On June 8th, 1959 John Penton recorded his time and location with Western Union in New York City and set off for California on a BMW R69S outfitted with an oversized gas tank. On June 10th, just Fifty-two hours and eleven minutes later, Penton rolled into Los Angeles. His record was heavily advertised by BMW, and newspapers all over the world covered the record run. Penton was now a legend in motorcycling.” via
But the story of John Penton’s awe-inspiring career does not end there. Find a screening of “Penton: The John Penton Story” near you by going to http://pentonmovie.com/see-the-film/ and reserving your tickets. I’m also proud to announce that the film will be entered in the 2nd Annual Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY held Sept. 24th – 27th.
TSY photography of Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire NYC Launch by Chris Logsdon & Ashley Smalley
After four-plus years of R&D, and a lot of toil, Harley-Davidson kicked-off #ProjectLiveWire with a tour of 30 dealerships across the country that launched 6/23 in NYC. Lucky motorcycle enthusiasts will have the opportunity to test ride the new electric bike and give Harley-Davidson their feedback that will help gauge consumer appetite, and the viability of their LiveWire platform. It’s been a long road for Harley-Davidson, who produced 33 pre-production prototypes at a cost of over 200K per bike, optimistically assuming back then that advances in battery efficiency would be much more robust than they are now. No such luck, it remains the technology’s achilles heel. Harley-Davidson is well aware that 53 miles per charge will not light the world on fire, but strides will surely be made. It’s definitely a well-made and ambitious bike for a new generation not beholden to Harley-Davidson’s V-Twin heritage. The big questions are– to what degree and how soon can ride range improve, and what will the production LiveWire sticker price look like?
TSY contributor, Chris Logsdon, on his firsthand experience riding Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire electric motorcycle–
Betty Brosmer was the highest paid supermodel of the 1950s – winning more than 50 beauty contests before the age of 20 yrs old, posing for more than 300 magazine covers, and stunning men and women alike with her insane hourglass figure (38″-18″-36″)! You litereally could not go anywhere without seeing her image in a magazine, on a record album, or store window display. She married the fitness icon Joe Weider in 1961, and joined his fitness lifestyle empire. Together they co-authored several books on bodybuilding, and founded the International Federation of BodyBuilders. Check out this trove of photos of Betty Brosmer in her stunning prime.
My love for Harley-Davidson goes all the way back to when I was a kid growing up with a ’79 Low Rider that was literally a member of the family. I’m sure it got more baths than I did back then, many of them by me, as I was schooled in the art of wheel washing and chrome polishing. It was all worth it if I could get a ride around the neighborhood while the other kids looked on slack-jawed. I remember my step-dad’s pony tail slapping me in the head as I held on for dear life with an ear-to-ear grin. There’s an emotional connection with Harley-Davidson for me that I will take to the grave.
I am very excited to announce that this is a Harley-Davidson sponsored post to share the next chapter in the proud history of their innovation. Something big is coming that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Harley-Davidson in the past, chronicling their legacy of freedom and ingenuity richly preserved in their incredible Museum and archives. One thing that struck me was that Harley-Davidson was due for the next big thing. What would it be, and when? I can say with confidence that what they will announce on June 19th will live alongside, and go beyond, anything they have done to date. Please check back right here on 6/19/2014 to see what the buzz is all about. Until then, check out the video below–
“The Catalina Grand Prix was one of the biggest races In the country at the time. It was a 100-mile event held on Santa Catalina Island of the coast of Los Angeles. The 10-mile course was a mixture of road, dirt fire trails, singletrack, and even went through a golf course. Cycle Magazine noted that many of the big AMA national riders skipped Catalina so as not to suffer embarrassment at the hands of Southern California scrambles riders who dominated the event.” –AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame
It was a time and energy completely unrivaled in all of motorcycle racing history. Many of the AMA’s best motorcycle racers, local SoCal riders, shop owners, and colorful MC’s (The Checkers, Shamrocks, Rough Riders, Dirt Diggers, and more) mixing with Hollywood actors, stunt riders, and thrill-seekers– all converging on the tiny vacation island from 1951 – 1958 for an event like no other. Actors Keenan Wynn avidly raced, Steve McQueen famously attended, and Lee Marvin infamously raised holy hell. In fact, Dave Ekins went so far as crediting Lee Marvin for being partially responible for the Catalina GP’s demise in 1958–
In case you missed it (like me, drats!) — “Split’n Lanes and Dodgin’ Gutters” featured 50 hand-picked classic motorcycles ranging from the 1910s era through the early ’70s. These bikes were displayed throughout the spacious interior of Brooklyn Bowl’s music venue space, basking in the glow of the state-of-the-art concert lighting. Check out the video, it was a hoot! Corinna Mantlo from the Motorcycle Film Festival had her beauty of a BSA in the show.
Irish McCalla, the towering beauty who posed for Vargas, and then found fame as “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” was tough to measure-up against. She grew up humbly, forever the athletic tomboy, and even did her own vine-swinging and tree-climbing with her pet chimp, Chim, on “Sheena” until the day she misjudged a vine swing and crashed into it tree, smashing her knee. After that, the producers did the only thing they could do (due to her size), they hired male stunt men, and dressed them in leopard skins and blond wigs.
5’10” beauty, Irish McCalla, posing for famed Peruvian pinup artist Alberto Vargas. Since she was born on Christmas Day, McCalla posed nude for the December page in a Vargas calendar. McCalla’s attention-getting measurements were reported as 39-24-38 in her heyday.
A young Patti Waggin presenting 1950 AMA Grand National Champion, Larry Headrick, with a trophy. His career prematurely ended in 1950 when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle on the street. The accident shattered Headrick’s left leg, making it impossible for him to race again on the dirt ovals. The rider from San Jose, California, was tragically forced into retirement just has his career was taking off. via
“If there’s one word to describe shapely Patti Brownell, it’s excitement. The young lass lives by it–and for it. Into her existence, Patti packs a triple life: During the day, she’s a student at California’s Chico State College: at night she draws tremendous crowds into the cafe where she presents her whiz bang strip act: and on her off moments, Patti is a death-defying motorcyclist. As far as our luscious blue-eyed blonde is concerned, there’s nothing unusual about her life. Patti’s been winning trophies for motorcycle riding since she was 14. She loves the sport.
Show business is also old hat for Patti. Her mother and father were adagio dancers in vaudeville, and it was only natural that they should teach their little girl the art. Patti wanted a college education, and she was able to pay her way with her show business savvy. As for the future, Patti wants a home in the country, four kids–and lots of motorcycles.”
“Bumps are nothing new to luscious Patti–either on a motorcycle or in the strip tease profession.” Born Patricia Hardwick in 1926, she also used the stage name Patti Waggin. Her 2nd marriage was to Chico, CA local legend, Bill Brownell, a well-loved motorcycle racer. Not sure who her 1st husband was…
In 1952, LIFE magazine assigned photographer Philippe Halsman to shoot Marilyn Monroe in her tiny Hollywood studio apartment. The resulting cover photo (at the end of this post) pushed her over the top, giving her immediate superstar status, and 20th Century Fox jumped to sweeten her existing multi-year contract to keep their starlet happy.
“I drove to the outskirts of Los Angeles where Marilyn lived in a cheap two-room apartment. What impressed me in its shabby living room was the obvious striving for self-improvement. I saw a photograph of Eleanora Duse and a multitude of books that I did not expect to find there, like the works of Dostoyevsky, of Freud, the History of Fabian Socialism, etc. On the floor were two dumbbells.
I took hundreds of pictures. Finally I asked her to stand in the corner of the room. I was facing her with my camera, the LIFE reporter and my assistant at my sides. Marilyn was cornered and she flirted with all three of us. And such was her talent that each one of us felt that if only the other two would leave, something incredible would happen. Her sex-appeal was not a put-on– it was her weapon and her defense.” –Philippe Halsman